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WGU Master's Commencement Address from Sekou Andrews, February 2018
WGU Master's Commencement Address from Sekou Andrews, February 2018
Western Governors University
<p>Poetic Voice, and the CEO/Founder of Sekou World, Inc., Sekou Andrews addressed graduates at the February 2018 WGU Master's Commencement Ceremony. This regional commencement was held in Lake Buena Vista, Florida.</p> <p>Transcription of video:</p> <p>Sekou Andrews: All right. Apparently this is the official spot right here. It's where I feel very official. Let's get official. Parents, families, friends, faculty, staff, and of course, the graduating class of 2018 -- [Applause] -- oh, they make noise! They make noise. That's good, because they gonna need that for this speech.</p> <p>Listen, if you came here looking for a... "your whole life is ahead of you" speech, if you were getting ready to hear a "the world is your oyster, the world is yours for the taking, the world is waiting for you to begin" speech, you done come to the wrong place.</p> <p>Yeah, you probably should just go ahead and check your Facebook or something, you know? Maybe hit the bathroom because this speech is not for you. No, this is not a "your whole life is ahead of you" speech. This is a "some of you got about like two-thirds of your life on the windshield, you know? Half of you got half your life in the rearview." The 77-year-old, that person's like, I don't know what you talking about, but my whole life is ahead of me. </p> <p>But all of you have all of your life in the driver's seat, so this is a "I'm changing the tires while driving" speech, okay? [Applause] Ya'll getting ready for it? Ya'll getting ready for it? This is not a "the world is your oyster" speech. This is a "Mmm! I killed those oysters, and they were delicious, so what is next on the menu" speech.</p> <p>This is not a, "the world is yours for the taking" speech. This is a "you learned the world was yours for the taking years ago," speech. You sometimes just didn't know how to take it, right? You always didn't have the time, or the skills or the resources to seize your day and shape it. But now, you do. Now, you've not only taken the world, you have purchased the deed, put a mortgage on it, raised a couple kids in it, and paid taxes in it! Please! Please! [Applause]</p> <p>You have already taken the world by storm, so this here degree is simply your proof of purpose, call it your "bachelor's receipt."</p> <p>This, this here is not a "you are young, talented, and facing your truth" speech. This is a, "you are grown, and grinding, and got stuff to do" speech. This is a "already in hot pursuit" speech. This is a "finally got no excuse speech" speech. Because we all full of excuses until we find something that works don't we? Right? We just, we got excuses for days. </p> <p>You know, we will keep saying, "Oh, I would totally lose like 20 pounds if I could just workout from home," you know? Until we meet a trainer who says, "I will meet your at your place 6 a.m., be dressed." Right? We love repeating, "I would totally save more money if I wasn't so in debt," you know, until we meet a credit counselor who helps us live off less like a game of rock-credit card-scissors, right? </p> <p>Eventually, something comes along that removes all of our excuses like "I would totally get my degree, you know, if I could like set my own hours, you guys." Boom, here's Task Stream. Log in. "I would totally finish high school if there was a way to do it from home." Boom, here is a project you can do in your pajamas. Just log in. "And I need to be able to take classes at night." Coffee it up, and log in. "And, if I could finish it in like 18 months." Start your clock now, and log in. </p> <p>"And, if I got competency units for my job." Look, you work it, we count it. Now log in and start the run! And don't stop until the goal is won! [Applause] Huh? ! This here, this is not "Let's get it started..." no, this is "let's git 'er done!" See, this school is not a starting school.</p> <p>No, this is a finishing school, huh? And not to be confused with a charm school, you know, where you learn how to fold a napkin. No, this is a finishing school where you learn how to hold (makes clicking sound) a degree. Huh? This is a finishing school that has adults finishing school at high-speed download rates. </p> <p>This is the finishing school of thought that teaches how to finish what you start, made up of not academic advisors and professors and graders, but text support, student mentors and evaluators who see students to the end, and play their ongoing part, helping these tenacious hearts overcome their troubled start like first time fail. </p> <p>Second time, win. First time, fail. Second time, fail. Third time, win. Okay. First, third, seventh... ninth time, fail. But I'm gonna finish on the ten because I got a program mentor who was at my side until the end. Huh? [Applause] Ha! Okay. And even when -- even when she calls and I'm not ready, so to voicemail, I send -- [Laughter] she calls again to help me create my version of the word "win," which is why this speech is not "you have spent the past four years dutifully striving through each semester toward your degree" speech. </p> <p>No. This is a "I don't even really know what a semester is," speech. "I earned this degree in half the time, with double the course load, and twice the GPA, at half the cost" speech. [Applause] Somebody out there feels me. This is not a "as you prepare to enter into adulthood" speech. </p> <p>This is a "You are sitting alongside your adult kids... [Laughter] both of you doing college-level homework -- "get off me, get off me, what you get for number 42?" Right? And playing "who's gonna be first in the family to get a degree" speech. This, right here, this is not a "the world is waiting for you speech," this is a "the world didn't wait up for you, so you put on your hustle shoes and caught up with the world "speech.</p> <p>This is "the world had the nerve to try to tell you what it knows you cannot do, and you look back at the world all confused because all that came out was psshh, who?" And that, ladies and gentlemen, is the legend of how you sages came to be known as night owls. At least my version. That's just my version. That's my version. Because in my version it's not just because you nocturnal creatures were known to start class after kissing your family goodnight.</p> <p>It's not just because for you, getting dressed for school usually went running out for a triple-shot caramel macchiato, or because of how often you woke up at your laptop to find drool on your keyboard, and the letter "D" pressed 687 times across your screen, right? Somebody out there did that, handed in that one, right? "Needs revision." [Laughter]</p> <p>It is also because of your version of the classic owl sound. See, we all know the sound that most species of owl make, right? Whoo! Whoo! But the sound that WGU owls make is "Psshh... who!" As in, when you stand facing constant adversity, and intimidating odds and the world says, "You will never overcome this," the night owl says, "Psshh, who? You must be talking about somebody else." </p> <p>Because even on the hard days, I can't get over it, I just go through it till it's behind me. On the days I can't levy the waves, man, I just learn to surf tsunamis. So adversity ain't nothing but a Thursday night, and I am a walking TGIF. Who! [Applause]</p> <p>As in, when you stand, face pressed against the dark of night, and the world says, "You know, it is statistically unlikely with your maturity, and your responsibilities, that you will ever find your way through this darkness to a degree." The night owl says, "Psshh... who? I know you ain't talking about me, because the fire in me has burned bright enough to light my path through raising four kids, surviving three hurricanes, serving two tours and enjoying one heaven of a life. </p> <p>So as far as I'm concerned, I am the light at the end of the tunnel." [Applause] See, you all... you all are not your average students, which is why this is not your average commencement day celebration. These are not your average commencement day gowns that you're wearing all pristine, unblemished. No, that's not how we do it. </p> <p>No, your gown, your gown has dish soap and sauce stains on it from all the nights that you came home after work to find a raggedy pot of hamburger helper on the stove, and a mostly clean kitchen, courtesy of your loving husband and son, who were stepping up their chore game so that you can get right to your coursework and get that business degree. Huh? </p> <p>And your gown -- [Applause] -- oh, well your gown has camouflage fatigues stitched into lining for the many nights you spent faithfully serving our country that sometimes felt like a cakewalk compared to the battlefield of passing clinical microbiology and being 400 in the queue. Really? How long is this going to take? [Laughter]</p> <p>We are each robed in gowns that tell our story today. Even me. Even me. Because in case you hadn't noticed, this here is not your average commencement day speaker. [Laughter] This is poetic voice. Most of you don't even know what that means, right? And I understand that. I understand it. You're like, "poetic voice? What, you're a poet?" When I introduce myself as a full-time poet, "Hi, my name is Sekou, I'm a full-time poet." </p> <p>People look at me like I said, "Hi, my name's Sekou, I'm a full-time mermaid. Nice to meet you." [Laughter] And poetic voice was my answer to the world, trying to figure out how to put me into the box. Are you a speaker or an entertainer. Yup! Is it business content, or is it a... performance? Absolutely, you got it, correct. Right? </p> <p>And the world didn't have a label for that, so what did I have to do? I had to create it. I had to create the model for the world to follow. And that model was poetic voice, a seamless blend of inspirational speaking and spoken word poetry so that you can't tell when the business content ends and the performance begins, the theater ends, the story-telling ends, it just becomes one, seamless experience that creates a new model for public speaking. </p> <p>And I understand what each and every single one of you were born through in this age, in this industry, where we have all benefited from someone saying there is a different model we can follow. I get it. I know what all of ya'll, no matter what demographic or age, ya'll are in, I got you, right? </p> <p>Those of you who were getting your degrees right out of high school, I know you! I got my degree right out of high school, went straight to college, got my bachelor's degree. I was actually the student commencement speaker at my college, which is kind of interesting, full turn, to be up on this stage right now, right? And those of you who were changing your careers in your 30s? I know you. Listen, if you are trying to get your IT degree, your teaching degree. </p> <p>I was a full-time fifth grade teacher, and I can tell you this: If you think it's hard changing careers in your 30s to get a teaching degree, and become a teacher, try changing careers in your 30s to quit being a teacher to become a full-time poet. [Laughter] You want to talk about hard, we can go toe to toe with hard, okay? Everybody looking at you like, "What are you going to do though, what are you going to do do? But what are you going to do, do, do? What are you going to do, do, do, do, do?" I know you.</p> <p>And for those of you in your 40s and 50s and beyond, I know you. Those of you who are actually sitting here right now, getting your bachelor's degree at this age, in spite of a world that was constantly telling you, "Uh, really, like now? You're gonna go for that? In the 40s and the 50s, you're gonna go get a bachelor's degree? You didn't want to do that earlier, like when everybody was -- when we was all getting ours, you didn't feel like that's what you wanted to do then?</p> <p>It's gonna be harder now, you know? I don't think you're gonna make it, and that's probably not gonna happen right now, you should just give up right now." I know you. I know the voices you hear. I know the voices you struggle through. I know the voices that you had outside of you, and the voices you heard inside of you, that you were not enough, and it will not happen, that you should give up, that it's too late. I know that. </p> <p>I mean, shoot, I'm looking at myself right now with my wife, at my age, trying to start a family. Start a family! Start... a family! I'm talking about with all these years on my driver's license, all this pain in my back, all this slowness in metabolism, and I'm trying to start. That means that when I am going to the high school graduation of my godson, I will also be stopping to pick up diapers for my son. Are you understanding what I'm saying, the pain? I'm talking about this ahead, and everybody telling me, "Really, you're gonna do that now? You didn't want to do it earlier when we was all raising ours and starting a family?</p> <p>You know it's gonna be harder for you, right? You know it's probably not gonna happen for you, right? You know you're probably too old, right?" I know you. And I'm here 'cause, shoot, I got a little night owl in me too. World tells me, you can't do it, and I tell the world, psshh! Who? I will achieve my dreams, even with obstacles. Even with setbacks. Even with heartache, and pain, and disappointment, and loss after loss after loss and having to go and explain to others why it is that I am doing this, why it is that I've taken so long, why it is that I'm going through all this trouble.</p> <p>Listen, I know it will happen and what I also know is that it may not be the same path as you. It may not look like the same path everyone else took. It may not be the traditional version of it, and maybe -- maybe it will be first time, fail. Second time, win. First, second time, fail. </p> <p>Third time, win. First, second, third, fourth, fifth time, fail. But it will be finished with a win. It will be finished when I finish because I don't know about you, the previous version, that's just the version that passes. But sometimes, our version, it might need revisions, it might need to have a different way of approaching it. </p> <p>And if it sounds to you like I got something to prove, please understand I do. Just like I did when I created poetic voice in the face of the world saying, "Poetry doesn't belong here." And I had to create new model and show the world what they couldn't see. Just like Western Governors did when they looked around and said, "You know, I think this Internet thing might catch on. We should use that to prove that we can be a new model for education that's even more accessible, and even more affordable." </p> <p>Just like all of you did when your boss said, "Oh, you think that you are promotion material? Prove it." Oh, and when your kids said, "Oh, you think that a degree is achievable for me? Prove it." And when the statistics said, "You think that you can be the exceptions to our rule?" Well, I'll tell you what, the proof is in the pudding. Which is why, when each and every single one of you hears your name echo through these loudspeakers today, I want you to step into these aisles like they are pudding fashion runways. Huh? [Laughter] [Applause]</p> <p>You better strut across this stage looking like homemade, fresh-out-the pot tapioca. Huh? If you're in this room, you'd better guide past us like grandma's banana pudding, huh? I'm talking about with vanilla wafers, okay? And none of the brown bananas. You know what I'm talking about. Banana pudding. If you're at home, or if you're online, I want you to get up and walk around in your living room like your shoes are made of Tia's homemade flan. </p> <p>I want all 6,000 of you, whether you are here, or at home to talk into your next chapter looking like Louisiana bread pudding with Mexican chocolate, topped with caramelized bananas and vanilla bourbon sauce. [Applause] And if you feel like this speech is starting to make you kind of hungry... you're wrong. </p> <p>That hunger has been in you long before I ever showed up. That hunger, that's what got you through constantly hearing the voices of family and friends and bosses. "You know, you never come out with us anymore." "Daddy, how come you're always so tired?" "You're late to work again. Let me guess, you have to study. You can't pass that course, you're not that smart, you can't do this, it's too late for you. Why don't you just go back -- stick with what you -- why don't you just --." "Dear God, please let Mommy hurry up and get her nursing degree that she can come be our mommy again."</p> <p>And that's all right. That's just the sound of the stomach growling. But today, today is no longer about the hunger. Today is finally about the feast. Feasting on the fruits of your labor today as you celebrate finally getting to be mommy again, but even better version. And be husband again, the new and improved version. And be employee again, the newly promoted version. </p> <p>Today is not about the thirst, it's about the toast, about raising your glasses with the parents and the sisters, and the cousins, and the family members, and the grandmothers, and the second and third cousins, and the bosses, and the kids, and listening to them tell you how incredibly proud of you they are because they are, right? ! (Crowd says yeah) Yeah, are you listening? </p> <p>Are you listening to that? [Applause] See today is about celebrating the harvest of your hard work at this college of IT that was built to work hard for the working. This college of health professions that grows students who are grown. This teaching college that grinds out degrees for those on the grind. This college of business that lives to help those who have lived. </p> <p>This finishing school that works to no end to help students reach the end. Where graduates don't finish like stop, they finish like win. They don't stop or say when, they only stop at the end long enough to toss that cap, have a party and then begin the next chapter of their journey, this time stronger within, with the skills to know how to fall, and get back up again, to hold your head high because you stay lifting your chin. </p> <p>Because you've proven that even your best version can better itself again. So this is not a speech to help you celebrate the first version of you. Nah, nah, nah, this is a speech to celebrate you-point-2. I'm talking update and repeat like you-point-3 upgrade to even more like you-point-4, up-leveled and multiplied.</p> <p>This is you-point-5 surrounded by faculty and staff, kids, dads, moms, who remind you to never stop short, always go long and help you to finish strong like bachelor's degree made of Teflon. A night owl telling the world never, to bring it on. This is the day that you showed us there is no storm you cannot weather. </p> <p>This is the place where you proved there's no expiration date for chasing forever. And this is the moment the world finally learns the futility of telling you never. Because today is when you put the world on notice that your best... just... better. Thank you. Thank you all so much. </p> <p>[Hip-hop music] </p> <p>Congratulation graduates. Go out there and get 'em. Thank you so much.</p>
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