Today is one of those red-letter days. It's my first opportunity to participate in UMMC Commencement as Vice Chancellor for Health Affairs.
As if that isn't reason enough to get a big circle on my calendar, today is the LAST commencement that will be presided over by my friend, mentor and boss, Chancellor Dan Jones.
Yes, it will be a special, bittersweet day.
As some of you know, we do not have outside speakers for our commencement. Let's face it, when you are trying to individually recognize upwards of 600 graduates, there's not a lot of time for extended oratory.
So I will use VC Notes as my opportunity to pass along a few words of encouragement and, I hope, wisdom.
My advice can be summed up in three words - proceed with courage.
When I started thinking about the subject of graduation, what came immediately to mind was our family's recent experience with high school. High school graduation is typically a time for pure celebration. Last year, my oldest daughter graduated from high school, and like many others around the state and country, she was filled with excitement and joy - near giddiness - as she looked forward to the next phase of life. Next year I will have two high school seniors, and in 2018, my last child will graduate from high school. Parents experience a bittersweet joy during these landmark moments on life's journey.
In contrast, the Medical Center's commencement, for me, lacks the giddiness that graduation can bring when you are 18; instead, it occurs with much solemnity. Once an individual reaches the point of graduation from a health professional school, the future is in much sharper focus. Excitement and joy and eagerness for the next phase of life are still a major part of the moment, but along with that comes a deeper understanding of the work yet to be done. From the stage, as I look out onto that sea of robed students (they always clean up so nicely!) who are on the brink of becoming nurses, dentists, physicians, therapists, scientists, etc., I see the future.
The future health of Mississippi is in the hands of these young people. The state has invested in them. We have invested in them. The graduates have worked hard, have accomplished much, have grown as individuals, and are ready for the next challenge. They have an awareness of and an appreciation for the demands that await them. In Mississippi, the needs are great.
As I look out at our students, I hope that we (the collective we - all of us at the Medical Center) have taught them the knowledge required for their fields, the skills their hands will be required to perform, and the art of compassion and caring for others above self. And I hope that we have nurtured them and taught them to have courage.
Courage is what will empower them to defend the best interests of their patients. Courage is what will buoy them, at the end of the worst day of their professional lives, to show up and try another day. Courage is what will drive them to ask the unanswerable questions and strive for answers not yet known.
So to our graduates, as you begin this journey, and to all of us as we strive every day to achieve a healthier Mississippi, I ask that you remember these words from noted author Mary Anne Radmacher: "Courage does not always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, 'I will try again tomorrow.'"
I congratulate all of our graduates and wish you Godspeed and courage as you go and serve the world.