Thursday, October 7, 2010

A Commencement Speech We Can All Learn From

I am posting this in its entirety. I was using Stumbled Upon and this came up. What wonderful words of wisdom we can all learn from. This is University Medalist Josh Biddle's commencement address from May of 2010. Thank you Josh Biddle.


BERKELEY — This speech is for Bill Sell who changed my life by teaching me that it's more fruitful to lean into my emotions than to retreat into my fear.

A call for 'moxie' and compassion marks CommencementGood afternoon. I'd like to begin by thanking Chancellor Birgeneau, the distinguished faculty, my fellow graduates, and their families I'd like to thank my friends at the Biology Scholars Program for helping me realize my dream of going to medical school. Thank you to the lab of Dr. Darlene Francis for teaching me how to do science. I'd like to give a special welcome to my friends and family. Mom, Dad….if it weren't for you I wouldn't be here today…so thank you for getting it on all those years ago. My good friends and community college colleagues Matt and Martha. My best friend Jeremy. My grandfather Tom Erhard who served this country in World War II and my grandmother Peg who serves the best almond butter crunch you've ever tasted. I'd like to thank my great Aunt Velma who will turn 101 on August 8th. You know when Velma heard that I might be speaking today she said she would explode. So if an old lady blows up in the next few minutes, I apologize, but I think she washes out. You don't stain do you Velma? And finally I'd like to thank my younger brother Justin who shows me everyday what it means to be diligent, honest, and full of integrity. Thank you.

Ralph Waldo Emerson said that "the way to write is to throw your body at the mark when your arrows are spent." So I ask that you forgive me in advance if I hurl my words at you with too much desperation, but this is my last day on campus and I'm going to do my best to leave it all on this stage. I've spent a lot of my life hiding. I hope that this is not one of those times. But even if I fail, don't worry, the truth is that this speech isn't for you….it's to remind me of the person I want to be.

I enrolled at City College of San Francisco in the spring of 2005 and transferred to UC Berkeley in the fall of 2008. During that time, I volunteered at San Francisco General, studied drug-resistant cancer at UCSF, and was a medical assistant at the Glide Health Clinic. At Berkeley, I've been a member of the Biology Scholars Program, investigated how experience becomes biologically embedded, and spent two semesters as part of the Teach in Prison program at San Quentin. I'm starting UCSF medical school in the fall and now I've won the University Medal.

But I assure you it hasn't always been this good. It certainly wasn't like this at San Rafael High where I spent three years using all my energy to keep the world at arms length. It wasn't like this when I went to the University of Wisconsin thinking I could run away from my confusion, and then dropping out after only one semester. It wasn't like this when I came home and enrolled at the College of Marin only to find my old habits waiting for me. And it certainly wasn't like this when 9 years ago I enrolled in a therapeutic boarding program in Boulder, Colorado.

I spent a total of two years at AIM House. I learned that few things are ever solved, but that a commitment to working through my struggles allowed me to address entrenched, cyclical challenges like addiction and depression. As a mentor, I tried to help other young men bring meaning to their own hardships. I learned that recovery isn't easy, that failures are inevitable, but that understanding and healing come from being patient and gentle. In the end, I learned that compassion is perhaps the highest human virtue.

But look, if I really knew what I was doing I wouldn't be a 28 year-old undergrad. I wouldn't go to therapy every week to find out why I can't make a relationship last more than 8 months and I wouldn't break nearly as many promises as I do. I'm wrong more often than I'm right and I've got about a billion more questions than answers. I spend most of my time making my life harder than it needs to be and I forget to do a lot of important things. About the only thing I do know is that I don't know much. I'll tell you some of the things I think about before I go to sleep but most of the time I just make it up as I go along.

I know that the real University Medalists are the students who have to sleep on couches because they can't afford rent, or the ones taking a full course load while they raise their children and work a half or even full time job. I know that before I save the world I should probably learn the name of the man who drives my bus. I know that it's easy to love poor people in Africa, but I also know that there are poor people in my backyard who need help and that the hardest person to love is myself. I know that I'm not supposed to be afraid of my pain, that it's the clearest window I have into the experience of others, but most of the time I run away from that too. I know that the moments when I'm most sure of myself are the ones of which I should be most leery. I try to treat the self-doubt that greets me every morning as motivation to do better. I honor the homeless men and woman trapped in the dungeons of their addictions who explore the truly dark places of this world so I don't have to. I remind myself to think of this diploma not as a symbol of my accomplishment but as a reminder to return to the communities who don't have Berkeley graduates to fight on their behalf. I know that the things I used to be most ashamed of are the ones that have brought me the most insight, and I'm starting to understand that forgiveness means giving up all hope that the past could have been any better than it was. But the most important thing I know is this, just tell your story. Share yourself with those around you, the good parts and bad. I know it isn't easy, but it helps. I promise. And anyway, you're too beautiful to keep it to yourself.

I appreciate this award. I really do. I'm honored to be the first community college transfer to be awarded the University Medal and I take that responsibility seriously. I want to accept this award on behalf of the late bloomers and the second-chancers. I want to champion the nontraditional path and represent the wisdom of following one's own internal directives no matter how foolish they initially appear. And if my winning helps inspire other young people who struggle to bring meaning to their lives not to be embarrassed by their confusion then I'm happy. But for me, the true reward is being able to share space with my parents without precipitating a fight, to know that when I smile it's genuine, and to be comfortable with where I've been, confident in who I am, and excited about the doctor I'm going to be. I get more love and support than one person deserves and it feels good to finally be able to accept it.

I'm going to end with the only piece of advice I'd like to give my fellow graduates. It's something I wrote for my friends at Glide after a man told me to stop being an observer and start being a participant. Magnolia, Angela, Charles, and Greg, this poem is for you.

Speak out
Because words are the foundation of family

Speak out

Because words are the foundation of family

Speak out
Because you never speak only for yourself

Speak out
For the watchers, the doers, the dreamers, the hurt, the addicted, the ignorant, the fighters, the angry, the meek, and the chained

Speak out
For us

Speak out
Because there is more value in one true statement spoken from the heart than there is in all the wealth Wall Street can lose

Speak out
Because every word you speak plants a seed of bravery in the belly of a person trying to decide if their time has come to stand up

Speak out
Because abuse is never earned

Speak out
Because justice for all is more important than the peace of a few

Speak out
Because we learn as children that you can't fit a square peg in a round hole, and then think as adults that we can somehow put a round soul in a square cage

Speak out
Because poverty is a systemic failure, not an individual fault

Speak Out
Because the education of our children is more important that the taxes on our property

Speak out
Because you don't have to suffer alone

Speak out
Because heterosexuals do not have a monopoly on love

Speak out
Because there are more important things in this world than your fear

Speak out
For love over loneliness, the strength to know when it's time to leave one for the other and the wisdom to recognize when we found the one we need

Speak out
Because we sing as individuals but we make music as community

Speak out
Like the fate of the world depends on what you say because it does

Speak out
So that the wisdom of your struggle is not lost to the graveyard of silence

Speak out
So that the youth can use your story like a blueprint to stay out of trouble

Speak out
And share the symphony of yourself with a room full of tone-deaf friends who don't care much what you sound like and who value the effort over the achievement

Speak out
To tell those you love that you do and to tell those you don't that you're working on it

Speak out
Because your voice is the sound of God's breadth pressed through the bellows of your being

Speak out for any of those reasons
But really

Speak out for me
Because I'm selfish
And I just want to hear what you have to say.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

All About Pink Support & Survival Network

Delaware Friends and Family: 
Please consider attending a wonderful event to benefit a new non-profit - All About Pink - started by a friend and breast cancer survivor. She is hosting a retreat at a lavendar farm in Milton, Delaware this Saturday. 
Please email me if you are interested and I will have her forward you the details. Thanks!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Urgently Important

We all do it.


Distract ourselves.

Piddle around getting other things done rather than doing what we NEED to get down.

For me, it's not always that I don't want to DO what I need to get done, I would just rather do other things. Years ago, I learned Stephen Covey's method of using a quadrant to help move people along when blocked by an overwhelming To-Do list or life in general. It helps to prioritize things quite easily.

There are four blocks in the quadrant. You can make four lists or list the appropriate "Q" beside each item on your list.

Q1 - Important and Urgent
Q2 - Important but NOT Urgent
Q3 - Not Important but Urgent
Q4 - Not Important and Not Urgent

This isn't new stuff, folks. You've seen similar ways to prioritize. But the success comes in actually DOING IT.
You don't necessarily have to do this everyday, maybe as you're planning your week or weekend. Maybe as you're checking emails. So, stop right now and start prioritizing. You'll be surprised how many things aren't really as urgent and important as you've made them to be.

I've got to go now. I have more urgent and important things to do!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

BlogHer '11 in San Diego

I just signed up for next year's BlogHer Conference. I can't wait to go! If you looking for an event geared towards bloggers, usually women, this is THE EVENT you should be going to. 

It is very reasonably priced. And in 2011, the event will be held in San Diego.

Go to http://www.blogher.com/blogher-11 to check it out!

Friday, August 13, 2010

Four Things

I'm still overwhelmed by all the wonderful information and friendships I brought back with me from the BlogHer Conference (www.blogher.com) last week.

Here are four things I learned at that event that will stay with me:

1. Social media is just ONE part of a marketing plan.

2. Big brands (companies) want to hear what little ol' me has to say.

3. People can blog about the most inane and insane things and people will read it.

4. I have a voice. Use it.

What has stuck with you from a recent event you attended?

Friday, August 6, 2010

BlogHer '10

I am so impressed with the quality of information at this conference. Most of the stuff I've learned has been from talking to other attendees. For most of us, blogging is a part-time or extra-curricularactivity. And I've heard how challenging it has been for some attendees to get here.
For the rest of the conference, I'm going to ask everyone I meet what they do when life gets in their way.
Meantime, I'm going to go through my registration bag and see what goodies are hidden there! (For some reason I can't upload the photo.) There's tons of stuff in the bag and I haven't even hit the exhibit hall yet!

I Am Not Alone

I'm attending BlogHer '10 in NYC. What an incredible energy! What incredible insight and ideas! In my circle of friends, only a handful blog. It was so refreshing to be with a group of people that
"get it" and "get me".
Admittedly, it is a little overwhelming. I'm already planning how I will approach next year's event.
In the past, I've almost always been working events. As an attendee, it's really nice to relax and learn and just listen.
Unfortunately, my hotel's Internet access has not been working. So, this is the first time I've had a chance to get online.
I'm going home with plenty of ideas to share.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Catching My Breath

In my late twenties I ended my "perfect" marriage after seven years of "blissful" union. It was bound to happen. We had our first date within days of meeting each other. He proposed ten days later. And we married less than two months later. We were together for seven years. Had I known him for six months, I would have never even been friends with him, much less married him. But it was what it was and appeared to be "perfectly" normal.

I hadn't told my family about my decision to leave Louisiana and move across the country to start all over again. And I certainly had not told them I was leaving my "perfect" husband. So, I went to work like everything was fine.

I had a relatively new boss at the time. His name was Jack Ferko. Nice enough, I just hadn't really had any time to get to know him yet. And now I was in the position of having to give him two weeks notice.

Having typed my resignation letter I asked to meet with him. He shut the door to his office and said, "You look serious. Is everything okay?"

I said, "Well, it's going to be. I'm giving my two weeks notice. But I can stay a little longer if you need me to."

"Why are you leaving?" he asked. "I haven't had time to get to know everyone here yet."

"I'm moving to DC," I said.

Jack replied, "You know, you don't seem like the impulsive type. You seem to be a planner. You know, the type that always seems to plan everything out."

"I am. Usually."

"Can I talk you into staying?"

"No, I don't think so. I really need to leave the area, you know, get a new start."

"Oh, I see. Sounds like you're going alone."

I really wasn't prepared to tell this stranger, my boss of all people, what my plans were.

But I did.

And I started crying. And couldn't stop. Soon, I could even catch my breath.

Handing me tissue, Jack started talking about other things, his recent move to Louisiana to take this job, his family, his wife. He turned and picked up a photo of his wife.

"I was where you are now," he said. "I had to leave everything I knew. I had to get away, to get back to myself."

He told me about a day during his first marriage, he knew, he just knew, that he couldn't live that way anymore. That it was all a lie. That it wasn't a perfect marriage. That he wasn't happy. And that he couldn't even catch his breath enough to leave.

Or so he thought.

Someone had helped him at that turning point. Not really a friend, just someone he knew. An acquaintence.

That gesture was enough to help him catch his breath and leave.

That conversation with Jack helped me catch my breath. And I did leave.

Now, when I see someone, even a stranger, trying to catch their breath. I stop. And listen. And sometimes share a bit of me.

For in some small ways, I'm still catching my breath.

Thursday, July 29, 2010


How does it feel to be 92 I asked my grandmother last week.

"Oh," she says, "it feels like it does to be 22."

"Really?" I ask.

"No, but it helps to think that way, " she replies wisely.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Heschel Quote

The opposite of love is not hate. It is indifference. 
~ Abraham Joshua Heschel

Monday, May 10, 2010


Great opportunity for writers. This program is designed to strengthen the field and ensure that critical writing remains a valued mode of engaging the visual arts. (Categories include articles, blogs, books, new media, etc.)

Ishita Gupta quote

“Every day is a new chance to choose.” - Ishita Gupta

Monday, May 3, 2010

Losing a Good Guy

On Friday I attended the funeral of our Executive Director, Chris White. He was killed while walking down the sidewalk in front of his church in Wilmington, Delaware. The driver of the car that hit him never stopped.

I was so lucky to have known Chris. Besides heading our organization, he was a prankster, a father, a husband and a friend. He was one of the most decent people I know. He always saw the good in people. He would go out of his way to help people.

This photo shows Chris pushing one of our staff on a dolly. He was helping us move into our new offices which he worked so hard to get for our organization.
The world has lost one of the few good guys. Chris leaves behind a loving wife and two wonderful children. And a world of people saying "Thank You".

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Maria Picazo, Executive Director, Abriendo Puertas

Two losses in less than a week. Another friend of mine died this morning. Maria Picazo was Executive Director of Abriendo Puertas, a local immigrant women's shelter. I served on the Board of the shelter and was lucky to get to know Maria. She died early this morning after a brave battle with cancer. She was such a fighter and such a gift. She will be so missed. Please pray for her and her family.

Monday, April 26, 2010


Hi folks, I need your help for a project I'm working on. 
By noon tomorrow, if possible, can you please go to this link and complete my survey on Charitable Contributions and Email Newsletters?http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/28QQRMC
Thanks so much for your help. I'll post the results in a few days........Lisa

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Chris White

Please pray for the family, friends and co-workers of Chris White. He is the executive director of the organization I work for. As he was walking down the sidewalk from a meeting yesterday afternoon in Wilmington, Delaware, he was struck and killed by a car. The three men in the car fled the scene and have not been found. They didn't even stop to see if Chris was okay. The car was involved in four separate hit-and-run accidents in minutes leading up to hitting Chris. Chris White was one of those good guys you don't often hear about. He was scheduled to take his daughter on a field trip with her school tomorrow. And was always talking about the treehouse he had built with his son. We have lost a good man.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010


Currently I have three loans through Kiva.org to small business owners all over the world. Gular Huseynova (Azerbaijan) owns a General Store. Vista Al Mar Grupo 2 (Dominican Republic) owns a Grocery Store. And Las Provincianas Group (Bolivia) has a Retail Store. It is great to see their progress. And it's amazing how such a small amount ($25 or so) can make a HUGE difference. Check out kiva.org to make a difference!

Friday, February 5, 2010

Andrea Gibson poet and activist

I like what Patti Digh had to say about Andrea Gibson: "Her words are searing, passionate, fully formed out of desire and need and understanding. As her website says, Andrea Gibson is not gentle with her truths. They take prisoners, those words. They shock and thrill and surprise and embed themselves in you. This is what poetry is. This is what poetry can be." Andrea will be in DC soon. I hope you'll go.

I sold more than $200 worth of stuff just sitting around my house, unused, unopened in one week. eBay. It's a beautiful thing!

Maya Angelou quote

Let choice whisper in your ear and love murmur in your heart. Be ready. Here comes life. - Maya Angelou

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Social Network Quote

I like this quote: "Think of LinkedIn as a business conference, Twitter as a cocktail party and Facebook as a high school reunion. That's how you've got to behave." Laurie Baggett, Founder of the It Factor Job Club I think a lot of companies are successfully using Facebook as a business tool. So, I'm not quite sure of her take on Facebook. But at least Facebook isn't MySpace.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Donate for Haiti

If you do nothing else today, stop for a moment and think of the horrible tragedy in Haiti. What if that were YOUR family? Then donate something - any amount - to the American Red Cross for Haiti.