Today the School of Business and Leadership (SBL) at Nyack College held its virtual Hooding and Commencement Ceremony. It was an event that epitomized how the option of a cohort model of education fosters a unique brand of camaraderie and peer support.
Without question, the absence of an in-person ceremony was a disappointment for many. Graduates missed the handshake or the hug from President Scales as he would normally hand them a diploma. They missed the sound of cheering family and friends. No photos were taken on the steps of the County Center, which is now closed to large gatherings like commencement events.
What 2021 SBL graduates did receive was a powerful exhortation from MSOL alumnus Eldin Elezovic. His speech was a declaration and appreciation for the opportunity to be more than conquerors. Eldin expressed what it means to be educated, equipped and empowered at Nyack College and Alliance Theological Seminary.
Hello, Class of 2021!
Across the world, Covid-19 has forced more than one billion students out of school, with almost 600 thousand deaths only in America, and 3 million around the world. Despite the challenges that the deadliest pandemic has brought upon us, we won’t be defined by what we lost to this horrible virus but by how we responded to it.
We can and we will show to the world not only how to put the pieces back together again, but how to create a new and more evolved normal, a world more just, kind, beautiful, tender, luminous, creative whole. We have to do this because the Covid-19 pandemic has illuminated the vast systemic inequities that have defined life for too many and for too long.
We have the power to stand for and fight for the healthier conditions that will create a more just and healthier society. This moment is our invitation to use our education, our leadership skills to begin to heal our afflictions, to apply the best of what we have learned, placed in our heads and felt in our hearts along the way.
If the world is going to get better it’s going to be up to us. With everything feeling like it’s in chaos, this is our time to seize the initiative. Nobody can tell us anymore that we should be waiting for our turn. Nobody can tell us anymore that this is how it’s always been done. More than ever this is our moment, our world to shape. No one has been better positioned to be warriors for justice, equality and to remake and save the world we live in.
We’re separated in ways we’ve never experienced before and facing a world that will never be the same. So, let’s not ask to come together, let’s get together to demand and create better future. Let’s be doers.
Let’s make sure that, as leaders, we put emphasis on social justice and service to others. And now is the time, if ever there was one, for us to care selflessly about one another.
So, as scary and uncertain as these times may be, they are also a wake-up call, and they are an incredible opportunity for us. Because we don’t have to accept what was considered normal before. We don’t have to accept the world as it is. We can make it into the world as it should be and could be and will be. We can create a new normal, one that is fairer, and gives everyone opportunity, and treats everyone equally, and builds bridges between people instead of dividing them.
Just as America overcame slavery and civil war, recessions and depression, Pearl Harbor and 9/11 and all kinds of social disturbance, attacks on our democracy, we can emerge from our current circumstances stronger than ever before. Better than before and I know we will, because no one is better than us, no one is equipped better than us. The world is ours now and I can’t wait to see what we make out of it.
As we have seen throughout our education at this great institution, who is leading really matters. I have no words to express my gratitude to the amazing leadership of Dr. Underwood and her team. Despite all the challenges we have faced, Dr. Underwood has always found a way to inspire us, to motivate us and to equip us with the knowledge to create the world we dreamed of, and for that my classmates and I will be always grateful.
And let me finish with what John F. Kennedy once said: “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country!”