2010 ADCP Commencement
Dr. Celia Smith Rudolph '80, assistant superintendent for Muscle Shoals City Schools, delivered the Commencement Address for the 2010 Adult Degree Completion Program Commencement Exercises, Saturday, May 8, at 6:00 p.m. on The Green. Following are President West's introduction of Dr. Rudolph and her remarks:
President West's Introduction: Dr. Celia Smith Rudolph '80
Our commencement speaker is Dr. Celia Smith Rudolph, Huntingdon College Class of 1980 and a member of the Board of Trustees. Dr. Rudolph is a 27-year public education veteran currently serving as assistant superintendent for Muscle Shoals City Schools. After graduating from Huntingdon with a bachelor's degree in psychology and special education, she earned her master's degree in school psychology at Auburn University, an education specialist degree at the University of North Alabama, and a doctorate in educational leadership at Samford University. She has worked in a variety of roles in public education, including as a teacher in special education and gifted education, a school psychologist, and an assistant principal. As if her connections as an alumna and a member of the board weren’t enough, Dr. Rudolph is also the mother of an alumnus: her son, Glenn, graduated in the traditional day program Class of 2009 and is now a student at the University of Alabama-Birmingham School of Dentistry. Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome Dr. Celia Rudolph.
2010 ADCP Commencement Address
Thank you, Dr. West, and congratulations Class of 2010! You are an extraordinary group! Today is your day, and I hope you can savor every moment! Thank you for allowing me to share this time and a few thoughts with you this afternoon.
Have you heard of or seen “Did You Know?” If you have, then you know that “Did You Know?” is the title of a popular video series that gives surprising facts about our world. The videos are only about 4–5 minutes long, and while upbeat and catchy music plays in the background, brief facts fade in and out on the screen, with clever animation dancing around the edges. The newest version of “Did You Know?” (November 2009) focuses on facts related to information and communication technologies. Here are just a few of those facts:
- Did you know …that Americans have access to over 200 cable television networks; almost 6,000 magazines; about 11,000 radio stations, 65,000 IPhone applications, and over 1,000,000,000,000 Web pages?
- Did you know …that a week’s worth of New York Times daily newspapers contains more information than an individual was likely to come across during a lifetime in the 18th century?
- Did you know …that if Facebook were a country, it would be the fourth most populated country in the world?
- Did you know …that more videos were uploaded to YouTube in the last two months than if ABC, NBC, and CBS had been airing 24/7/365 since 1948?
- Did you know …that Nokia manufactures 13 cell phones every second? (That’s 780 per minute, almost 4,000 in 5 minutes, and by the time this ceremony today is over, I’ve calculated that almost 50,000 cell phones will be manufactured!)
- Did you know … that the computer in your cell phone is a million times cheaper, 1,000 times more powerful, and about a hundred times smaller than the one computer at MIT in 1965? …So what used to fit in a building now fits in your pocket; what fits in your pocket now will fit into something the size of a blood cell in 25 years!
The world is changing; ever transforming. This, we know, but it still makes us raise an eyebrow when we hear such statistics!
Actually these statistics remind me of my own personal experiences:
For example, 6 years ago, my husband and I required our two older sons, who were then a junior/senior in high school, to do the unthinkable by today’s parenting standards—we made them share a cell phone! Now, just six years later, their little brother who is ten years old and in the 5th grade—guess what? You’re right! He has his own cell phone!
Another personal experience of mine is with an online communication tool, called Skype. Skype is a means by which you use your computer and a webcam to talk to and see practically anyone, anywhere in the world at any time, as long as they, too, have a computer, a webcam, and a Skype account! And the best part about using Skype: it’s absolutely free!
With Skype, my husband and I now talk to and see our oldest son who lives in Germany, more often than we did without Skype when he was here living in Alabama—only a few hours from our home! And on top of this, his little brother—the 10-year-old with the cell phone—is so accustomed to this technological breakthrough that he thinks absolutely nothing of going to the computer and dialing-up his brother who is half-way across the world, just to ask him a frivolous question. I remember a time from my childhood when having a pen pal with a person in another country—where you actually used a pen, paper, a stamp, and an envelope and mailed letters back and forth—was something really special. Now people communicate with each other with the click of a mouse through email, Skype, Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
In his national best-selling book, The World is Flat, Thomas Friedman says that technology is one of ten forces or “flatteners” in our world today. In other words, rather than a planet with hard-to-get-to places, the world is flat and easily accessible. I’ll bet that since you are business majors, you know a thing or two about the other flatteners that Friedman describes. Besides technology, he names outsourcing, in-sourcing, off-shoring, chain supplying, work-flow software, and the like. These things have impacted how we view the world, how we do business, how we socialize, how we communicate, how we service others, and how we gain knowledge. Ultimately, Friedman says, “the global playing field is being leveled.”
So, we’re living in a world of globalization, technological advances, information overload, and a leveled playing field. These observations can make one think: with all of this going on, in a world where nothing stays the same for long, where and how do I fit? What difference can one person make? Do my contributions really matter? And finally, how do I even get started making a difference in my organization, in my neighborhood, in my city, in my state, in my country, and in my world?
To me, the ‘getting started’ part is the key. Someone once gave me this advice: “If you don’t know how to start something—just get started!” I have found this advice to be particularly helpful, whether I’m about to clean out a closet or plan a project at work. If I don’t know how to start, I just get started.
But Chris Gardner—entrepreneur, author, and speaker—gives some better advice, I think. It’s simple but relevant advice. He says, you’ve got to “start with what you’ve got in your hand.” You may know of Chris Gardner. His life was portrayed by actor Will Smith in the movie, “The Pursuit of Happyness.” Mr. Gardner’s story is inspirational because he achieved at a high level in his field against many odds. He is currently the CEO of Gardner Rich LLC, a very successful investment firm that competes globally. But he also travels, writes, and speaks, sharing his story of faith and his journey; his journey, literally, from nothing to very comfortable financial stability.
But more importantly, Gardner shares his journey from not knowing where he fit in the world to understanding his strengths and his limitations … knowing his talents and his lack of talent. In his book, “Start Where You Are, Life Lessons in Getting from Where You Are— To Where You Want To Be,” Mr. Gardner tells real stories from his life; times when he didn’t have a dime, times when he wasn’t sure from where or when his next meal would come, when he didn’t even know where he and his young son would spend the night. The world around him seemed uncertain, unfamiliar, unfriendly, and unfair. At times, he didn’t even know where to start in order to improve his situation or to just move forward.
But he remembered what his mother had taught him as a child: that whenever any resource appeared to be lacking, “start with what you’ve got! Start with what you’ve got in your hand!” Through trial and error, using his gifts, his talents, and his skills, Gardner realized his mother was right; that he needed to just start right where he was, with what he had in his hand. What he had in his hand was determination, drive, grit, life lessons from his mother, a propensity to understand financial and business concepts easily, and an eagerness to learn. He started with what he had in his hand.
Now there’s another person you know; one who had to start right where he was, with what he had in his hand. His name is Moses, and his story can be found in the Old Testament book of Exodus. God called Moses to do a few mighty things. God had work for him to do, and in God’s eyes, only Moses could do it! But Moses didn’t feel qualified; he only saw himself as ordinary. At the time, Moses was 80 years old and living as a shepherd. He wasn't perfect; he had some shortcomings. He had made some mistakes in his life; he wasn't a natural born leader. In fact, Moses argued with God that he was not equipped to do such things as lead a nation! He made excuses; said he was “slow of speech and tongue.” How could he save the Israelites when he couldn’t even speak correctly? But God wasn’t letting Moses off the hook that easily. God insisted that Moses start with what he had in his hand.
You know the story. Literally, God put into his hand the rod that turned into a snake when Moses threw it onto the ground, and the snake turned back again into a rod when Moses picked it up. Moses started with what he had in his hand.
Moses had other things in his hand, too; things that he didn’t even realize he had at first, but they fit perfectly into the plan that God had in mind for him, and some of these things developed along the way: things like leadership skills, fortitude, bravery, organizational skills, foresight, and planning skills. God also gave Moses a brother to help him speak!
The story of Moses reminds me of the familiar saying, “God doesn’t call the equipped; rather, He equips the called.” You see, there was work for Moses to do, and God intended for him to do it! God gave Moses the equipment. Moses had to start with what he had been given; with what he had in his hand.
Lots of times in my life, I’ve had to stop and conduct a self-assessment, and ask myself, “Okay, what is it that I have in my hand?” “With what am I equipped?” “What am I made to do?” “What is my charge in the world?” In this crazy world of fast-paced technology and information overload, these questions are difficult!
I argue with God, too, just like Moses. I say to him, “Now, God, I just don’t think I’m equipped!” Then I try to tell God what he should’ve given me in my hand! I say, “If you had just given me some other things in my hand, then I could figure this thing out. If only you had given me a voice like Celine Dion, or the ability to write poetry like Maya Angelou, then I could really do something for you!” But, no. A silky singing voice, and the talent for arranging words into a beautiful rhythm—these things are not in my hand! But there are other things in my hand; things designed just for me. Things that equip me to do exactly what I was made to do!
And there are things in your hand, too, Class of 2010.
In Ephesians 2:10, we are told that there is work prepared for us, planned for us in advance: work that is suited just for each one of us, work that no one else can do. No matter how threatened we may feel by the “flattening” forces in our world, there is work out there that fits perfectly with what we each have in our hand!
It’s not by chance that you are at this point in your life, right now, in this place. For such a time as this you are graduating. There is work planned in advance for you to do; no one but you can complete it. You are the only one who can fill the need. Only you can respond appropriately; only you can resolve the problem, only you can invent the solution, only you can scratch the itch; only you can figure it out; only you can plant the seed, only you can build the needed foundation, only you can make it work.
There’s plenty you already have in your hand, even before this day. You have determination; I like to call it “stick-to-it-tiveness.” You have intellect, creative thinking, perseverance, a curiosity, an imagination, a desire to learn, organizational skills, budgeting and time management skills, the ability to overcome great challenges, and a drive to accomplish great things. How do I know? I’m looking at you now, and you’re here, about to receive your diploma!
Added to your hands, too, are the loving families and friends that are here to support you, and the teachers who taught you, and the friends sitting beside you that pulled you through classes and projects and final exams. I also know there are spiritual gifts in your hand; things like teaching, shepherding, wisdom, knowledge, discernment, administration, mercy, and, most certainly, faith.
Once you start recognizing what’s in your hand, it’s your charge to be a good steward and to start making use of these things. You may not think these things are anything extraordinary; but with these things, you can do extraordinary things. You have work to do, and you have been equipped, and you can start with what’s in your hand!
For some of you, this diploma will certainly be the catalyst for a new line of work—a major pivotal point in your life. For some of you, this diploma is about making doors wider, improving your station in a current career. For some of you, it may not mean a change at all in what you do for a living, or what you do on a daily basis, but it’s simply realizing a dream; a coming to close on one phase in your life and a wonderful beginning of a new one.
Believe in yourself; believe that you already have God-given gifts, skills, talents and experiences. Now you have this day, this accomplishment, in your hand. As you go forth from this place today, I challenge you, Class of 2010, to start with what you have in your hand!