FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Dr. Graves challenges MUW graduates to make a difference
May 5, 2012
Contact: Anika Mitchell Perkins
COLUMBUS, Miss. – Mississippi University for Women graduates were urged to use the education they have received wisely and pass it on to others they may influence.
The message was delivered Saturday by alumna Dr. Shirley Graves, a pioneer in pediatric anesthesiology and pediatric critical care in America and trailblazer for women in medical leadership.
“I must say I don’t remember who gave my commencement speech or what was said and many of my friends say `neither do I,’” she said. “So, if you don’t remember my name or what I say today remember this—education gives you the power to make a difference.”
Graves took students on a journey, explaining she was born in 1936, a home bound delivery because there was no hospital nearby, in the little town of Ackerman.
“The woman who gave me life was a strong, intelligent woman only 19-years-old. This woman, my mother, was in her youth denied the opportunity to attend school consistently and never received a high school diploma—not uncommon in those days among families struggling to survive the daily living and when there was no mandatory law that said as a parent you must send your child to school or provide comparable home schooling.”
Graves’ mother taught herself to sew clothing and became a sewing teacher at the local Singer Sewing Machine store in Columbus and later taught herself sufficient accounting skills to be the bookkeeper at that same store.
“Why do I tell you this very personal story? Why, because she made me understand that education is a gift that can never be taken away from you. A woman with little formal education fervently believed that education was a goal that would not be denied her child—this person standing before you today.”
She added that MUW has offered them many paths to broaden their horizons including friendships, new adventures, mentors and greatest of all an education.
“Some of you will leave here, get a job, some may go on to graduate school, some may take some time off for family, but hopefully all of you will build on the foundation of your education received here at MUW,” Graves said, noting that life is more complex than in the 50s when she graduated from The W.
Graves pointed to the positive and negative sides of technology.
“With technology you are never out of touch, life’s blessings or life’s problems are just a magic touch away. Does this make us more aware of the world in which we live and as such enrich our lives? Yes, I believe it does. But, it also has its down side—teens texting, tweeting and organizing a spontaneous gang meeting at a mall and creating havoc such as occurred last year at the Mall of America in Minneapolis—an unfortunate consequence of immediate communication--a new definition of mall madness.
“Why can’t we recognize the good we can create? We need only to look around and see the need for good works, good communication—social networking that promotes good actions.”
Graves reminded students how fortunate they are. “One in four children under age 18 in the United States goes to bed hungry every night and that is a small number compared to those in the international community.”
“You say, `I am just one person. I can’t affect world hunger, homelessness, countries at war and other social problems. Few of us as one person standing along can solve big problems, but we can clearly be a part of solutions. One person to another person and then another communicating, social networking, coming together and then we become a team that makes a difference. We find solutions for those who may have no voice.”
Graves said obtaining an education is perhaps one of the most important life choices a person makes.
“Use this education you have received at MUW wisely and pass it on to others you may influence. Pass it on,” she said recalling the story of a turtle. “When you see a turtle on top of a fence post, remember it did not get there by itself. Someone gave that turtle a boost.”
Pointing to the successes of her students who have gone on to become medical school department chairs, deans and national experts in the fields of pediatric anesthesiology and critical care medicine, she said, “education--a gift that has no expiration date and never stops giving.”
She also told students that life is about choices, including some mistakes.
“We will occasionally be afraid to make that next bold step, but just remember that mistakes or failures give us an opportunity to grow and build on those failures so that in the end we realize we didn’t just sit and let life pass us by. We made a difference.”
In closing, Graves wished the students success and happiness as they continue their journey. “Remember it’s the journey that enriches your life.”
“Today, your graduation is testimony to your accomplishments,” she said leaving the students with one last quote. “Abraham Lincoln once said, `Whatever you are, be a good one.’”