Student Response, Shavonne Ward '09
August 29, 2007

On Behalf of the William Smith students, We Welcome you to today’s ceremonies. And especially you, Congressman John Lewis.

Often times I wonder to myself, is there a day where an article will not read that a child died because of  unclean water or children who pass the third grade even though they lack the ability to spell their names. Everyday as I turn the pages of these glossy articles I am deeply saddened by the words that fill these endless pages. Who is to blame for these injustices that engulf our nation on the local, national, and global scale? Is it my responsibility? Is it your responsibility? The more I dwell on these issues it becomes clear, it is OUR responsibility. Congressman John Lewis, Dr. Martin Luther King, and many more did not blame others, instead they made it their responsibility to speak out and march. They followed their passion and vision to make a difference. That difference is present at the colleges today.

Because today we can learn and grow together in an integrated space. If following a passion can lead to making a difference, what is yours? My passion is to see the day that every child will get ahead, so I joined a movement: America Reads. Many of you also found your passions. You have joined movements like campus greens, Making Connections, and Student Activists for Darfur. We the students can embody the spirit of Congressman Lewis. He saw the injustices of our nation and spoke with passion and acted with others who inspired him, that we would be judged by the content of our character and not by the color of our skin. With every vision comes progress and the continuation of it. So today, I ask all of us to find our passions, to speak up, and to act upon our words, following in the footsteps of Congressman John Lewis. Together, let us advance for a changed world locally, nationally, and globally and set new milestones for the future.