May 15, 2017
The following is the Convocation speech delivered by Jared Green ’01 to the bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral class of 2017:
Good morning, faculty, platform guests, parents, graduates. I bring you greetings! Good morning Class of 2017! I am thankful for the opportunity to join with you on this most important of days. I am very proud of you and I want to share a simple story and charge as you enjoy this major milestone.
I must have been about 10 years old and we had come from a special program. My late grandmother had bought my brother and I a small flat piece of artwork. As we unwrapped the tissue paper she told us that she wanted us to do, “this.” “This” was the bust of an African American young man with a cap and gown on. My brother and I hung this in our room. Our grandparents wanted us to accomplish so much more than they did. They believed that education opened doors that no one could close. They did not have a lot of formal education, but they loved us, and they instilled in us the values of hard work, perseverance, quiet dignity, and courage.
Stepping back a few years before that, growing up in Southwest Philadelphia my brother and I were shielded from the guns, drugs, and violence in our neighborhood primarily because our parents didn’t let us go out much. We didn’t think much about the bars on our windows, the roaches or the rats because all the kids on the block had the same exact living conditions. When things went sour with my parents’ marriage, we were moments from being homeless. That is, until my mother’s father–my late Grandfather–my Granddad–drove to pick us up—his daughter and his Green Boys (over 2 hrs to get to us and over 2 hrs to get back home). Granddad was a hard, stern, loving man that was not afraid of hard work. Perhaps that was because he had been a sharecropper at the age of seven in South Carolina. He was good with money and he always managed to save several nickels and dimes whenever he made a dollar. He took me in like a son when I was only 9 years old and taught me how to be a man.
Today, I know that I am here to encourage someone! You see, I am the product of a single parent home, with a number of my family members struggling with mental illness, drug addiction, and poor health but my grandparents and my mom taught me the importance of working hard, dreaming big, and enjoying the ride of life. Although graduating rather high in my high school class, my guidance counselor told me to pick schools from a hat. That was my college advice in the days before Google. In college, at times, I heard that I would never be an engineer. That was the “encouragement” that I did not need. All of that being said, I am thankful to God, my family, my friends and mentors that believed that my life had purpose and that God had a plan for me. I stand before you today as a vice president and shareholder of an international land development engineering consulting firm. I daily use the skills I learned here at SU 20 years ago to lead a team that daily collaborates to solve the complex challenges of land development engineering for a number of the high rise buildings and important structures that you see and enjoy in New York City.
This is my story. From struggle and hardship, determination and grit was bourn a life of substance and great worth. By no means do I brag, I am just sharing my testimony of how good God has been to me. Each of you has a unique story that can be used to inspire and empower others. Embrace your journey today and look towards the future with hope. Dr. Brené Brown says that “owning our story and loving ourselves through the process is the bravest thing that we’ll ever do.” Be brave class of 2017!
Ellen Johnson Sirleaf said, “If your dreams do not scare you, they are not big enough.” What are your dreams? What are your goals? What are your aspirations? Make sure that you don’t cut yourself short by not dreaming big enough.
I may not sleep as much as I should but I dream big and I work hard. I have worked hard to get to where I am now. It has been a serious grind but I make sure to daily enjoy the grind.
You made it. You belong and you are going to do great things. It is going to be a lot of work but you can handle it and don’t forget to enjoy the journey. After completing five marathons, I often joke that the training was great except for all of that running. In all seriousness, no matter where you go from here there will be a process in order to learn and master your craft. You will need to trust the process, be patient with yourself, and make the magic happen. Don’t be ashamed to put in the hard work and struggle through the less enjoyable parts in order to be successful. Learning a craft towards mastery takes work—in some cases, blood, sweat and tears. If you just keep looking forward to the end goal and you don’t live in the moment you can miss the fun of the present ride.
A few closing thoughts that my wife and I often share with our three precious kids. Be nice. Treat others the way you would want to be treated. Share. Forgive. Remember your manners. Remember to wash your hands. Keep your promises and practice what you preach. Try to smile every day. Inspire every day. Help every day. Laugh every day and then you will truly enjoy every day.
And so, in summary, embrace your story, strive for big things, and enjoy the grind. I conclude with a daily mantra that I use with my kids. Feel free to repeat after me—“I can and I will do great things.”
Congrats class of 2017! I am indeed proud of you. You did it! I charge you to continue to succeed. May God continue to richly bless you. Go Orange! Peace!