Last night, I had the pleasure of joining 47 other classmates at our commencement ceremony for Leadership Spokane. Also joining us were graduates from the 2014 Youth Leadership Spokane, award winners, alumni, incoming classmates, friends, family, coworkers, and our keynote speaker, Marty Dickinson of Umpqua Bank. We also celebrated the retirement of Leadership Spokane’s executive director, Linda Finney, and honored her outgoing staff, Beth Budke and Lorna Walsh.
I had the privilege of serving as this year’s class speaker. After learning about this honor, I spent days writing, re-writing, texting myself notes as I thought of little tidbits here and there–aiming to do my class justice and share almost a year’s worth of experience in less than 10 minutes. It is my hope that these words will inspire not just my fellow classmates, alumni and future participants, but members of our community as well–all of us can be agents of change and be truly amazing.
First of all, there is something important I must address. The question as to whether or not I would include puns in my speech. Although classmates supported my attempts at wit and humor, I ultimately decided I wouldn’t include puns and subject you to pun-ishment.
Gathered before you today are our community’s voice, our community’s movers and shakers, our community’s leaders…our community’s future. Over the past year, this group of dedicated people learned, laughed and even cried together—through courageous conversations, moving experiences, and transformative learning—all of us were left changed.
And that is the one thing that remains constant: change.
All of us here tonight have the opportunity to become change agents—within our organizations, our neighborhoods, and our communities. Tonight, the Class of 2014 joins a force for change, with badges forged from the rigorous program that is Leadership Spokane. I am honored to be among a group of such talented, gifted, inspirational, and humble individuals. I have the utmost respect for what they have done—and what they will do. You have all encouraged and inspired me, and given me a new outlook on the future. Together, and all of us in our own ways, we will do amazing things.
Over the past year, we gained insight on new perspectives, walked in the shoes of others, and examined underlying causes and issues. We learned that as change agents we are all part of the solution.
So what exactly did we learn?
That you can take persons from all walks of life and forge ever-lasting bonds.
That our regional economy is a complex machine that requires continual growth and development to ensure we live in a vibrant and prosperous community.
That governance is the responsibility of not just elected officials, but informed citizens who are willing to engage others in civil discourse.
That while we rely upon communication to get things done, we must adapt to emerging paradigms.
That it in our individuality, we find commonality. Diversity should not only be embraced, it should be celebrated.
That investing in our future generations through rigorous education, flexible curriculum, and adaptive pedagogy today, ensures we will have a skilled workforce tomorrow.
That we are all human… humans with basic needs. Some in a position to help others. Yet others in a position that none of us would ever dream or care to be in. And yet we can make a difference—no one is a lost cause.
That art is all around us. We can appreciate what inspires us every day—that which is tangible or intangible, can be seen or is unseen, heard or silent—those moments that capture our senses, spark our imaginations, provoke thought, and bring joy to our lives, is the fuel that drives creative thinking.
That our community is comprised of citizens of varying ages, income levels, and life experiences. And that how they make the choices that affect their health and wellness are part of a systemic approach towards holistic well-being.
And lastly, that all of us have committed, on some level, to be that agent of change. That we will step up to our challenges, meet them with courage, and inspire others to join us in serving the great community of Spokane.
Remember how I said we are the future? I’d argue that we are actually not the future. They are the future (gesture to Youth Leadership Spokane)—the youth who join us here today as graduates of Youth Leadership Spokane. I say to my fellow classmates, let’s be their trailblazers. As change agents, we can light the way for their success towards creating a bright future for generations to come.
And yet we cannot move forward without taking a moment to thank those who provided the generous support that made this opportunity possible for us all. To our friends, family, loved ones and mentors: Thank you for the countless hours of “being there” as we studiously prepared for our classes and projects. Thank you to the sponsors, donors and alumni who made generous gifts, ensuring access and affordability for those who would not have been able to join us otherwise. Thank you to our supervisors and the leadership at our businesses and organizations who committed funding and provided staff time, enabling each of us to participate at the highest level and garner the most out of this program.
For some of you, there is no question on what the return on investment is for your organization. But I’ll do my best to answer that question anyway. I firmly believe that the capacity of the persons standing before you today to make an impact on our community, is not one that can be quantifiably measured, but is exponential in its effect.
Some will rise to meet the needs of civil service. Others will foster economic growth through entrepreneurship. Some will champion causes. Others will inspire our community to contribute. But all of us, in some fashion or another, will be agents of change—committed to making a difference utilizing our talents, skills and knowledge, strengthened by our experience in Leadership Spokane.
So in closing, I challenge each of you to take the next step, past the issues of the “haves” and “have nots,” and dare to ask “so what,” “what if,” and “why not?” Only then can we step up—no, rise up—to meet the challenges ahead of us, and truly be agents of change.