When I got the paper last weekend, I pulled out Parade Magazine like I usually do. On the cover, President Obama had a message for the Class of 2010. In it, he said something that really hit home: “You are graduating today in part because those who came before you had the courage to look past their differences, face down their common difficulties, and perfect their union.”
It was nine years ago that I first attended an SDSU commencement ceremony – my own when I received my bachelor’s degree in journalism. Since then, I’ve attended more than a dozen in my role as media relations manager alongside smiling grads, tearful parents and cheering friends. Even though each ceremony seems pretty much the same to an outsider, every graduate has a different story. The glimmer in their eyes represents something different to each of them. They all sparkle as they cross the stage to accept that diploma they’ve worked so hard to obtain. Each have overcome obstacles, juggled multiple responsibilities and had a unique experience all their own that culminates with this incredible achievement.
This year will be a little different for me though. I’ll still be running around with local reporters introducing them to some of our amazing graduates. As the SDSU spokesperson, I might even do a couple of interviews during one of the local television live shots. But instead of just being a bystander to the pomp and circumstance, I get to participate again when I receive my master’s degree in mass communication and media studies on Saturday.
So much has changed since I got my first degree in 2001. For one, the degree will be given to Gina Jacobs – my married name. Second, I get to receive it on stage with not just classmates but colleagues who have been there supporting me every step of the way; people who inspired me to get my master’s to begin with…people like Reggie Blaylock who will be getting his third degree from SDSU this weekend!
But this time around I will appreciate it so much more because of all the graduates who have come before me. The student veterans, the hardworking single-mothers, students with disabilities, the list goes on. Because of them, this is an achievement that I can be proud.
As the President said, it is because of those who came before me that I had the determination to work as hard as I did, so that I could try to be an example for the next generation of students.
Getting a degree isn’t easy and it’s not a given. As of 2008, less than 28 percent of Americans had obtained a bachelor’s degree; only 10 percent had an advanced degree. So to be among the 10,000 graduates who will be calling themselves SDSU alumni this weekend, I count myself lucky. I had the support and generosity of others to make it happen. Thanks to my husband for making me dinner all those nights when I got home from class at 10 p.m. and for telling me “You can do it” when I wanted to throw in the towel and watch American Idol. Thanks to my friends and family for being patient when I told them “sorry, can’t make it” to just about everything. And finally, thanks to all of those who came before me so that I could have the opportunity to pursue my education and become an Aztec twice over.
No matter what you choose to do, know that you have the ability—each one of you—to write the next chapter in America’s story. – President Barack Obama