Samantha Power Commencement Address

July 7, 2008

I have a confession to make. I have a total crush on Samantha Power. I have both a professional/academic crush on her and a regular old, she makes me weak-in-the-knees crush. Sigh. She is smart, she is funny, she likes sports, she has her own style, and has that gravelly voice. She is absolutely brilliant (minus a recent little political misstep) and I feel like I always have so much to learn from her.

She was the commencement speaker at Pitzer College recently and thanks to the wonders of technology, it is online. So of course, I watched it, expecting some political stuff about human rights violations and when to intervene, and about her most recent book about Sergio Vieira de Mello, the former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights who was killed in Iraq and all the good stuff he did. But I was pleasantly surprised that there was more – more day-to-day living stuff.

You should really watch it yourself, it is not that long, but her 5 points to the graduates were to :

  1. “As you figure out your path in life, try to follow your nose” and essentially said, that we don’t usually do things we planned on doing at 22, but rather we stumble into what we are meant to do
  2. “Be sure to create quiet time so you maximize the chances you will be able to hear your gut when it speaks to you” which was essentially, don’t lose your own voice in all of the distractions (technology) that we have at our disposal.
  3. “By far the most important quality one needs in life is not in fact talent; is it resiliency” which I don’t think social workers need explained, just reminded.
  4. “Find friends who have your back” and she used an example of thinking about who you would want to be a refugee with – who would have your back (and mutual trust) in that situation – and that is who you should surround yourself with because friends are one of the most important choices we have in life.
  5. “Be a good ancestor” – again not necessary to really explain.

So the taking the time to hear your gut was something that really spoke to me and something that I really started thinking about while going on a bike ride this weekend. For me, that (and the shower) are my thinking times and I really need to make sure that it is part of my life. Which can be tough, because it usually sounds more appealing to watch tv and eat ice cream then climb a hill on my bike. But oh, how I enjoy the time on the bike once I get on it. But if Samantha Power is telling me to do it, well….