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Hughes encourages classmates to be global citizens

May 27, 2008

Hughes encourages classmates to be global citizens

President Anderson, Faculty and Staff, Representative from the Ministry of Community Development, Culture and Gender Affairs, Family and Friends, invited guests, and fellow graduates, Good Afternoon. It gives me great pleasure to stand before you today as a representative of the graduating class of 2008. I am overwhelmed and overjoyed.

College…the adventure into a dark tunnel. A space filled with papers, deadlines, challenges, trials, tears, laughter, experiences, lifelong friends, dorms, and turning point decisions. You know who you are when you enter, but who are you going to be when you leave? You wait and see, you wait and experience and you wait and allow yourself to take this mysterious journey called college.

Six years ago I lost my mother to cancer. She was thus unable to experience my PLU journey with me. I have always wondered if given the opportunity to tell her about my quest what I would say. So this message today is addressed to her.

Dear Mom,

When you departed from this earth, I thought I would never go to college. Two years later I was given the privilege to attend, not just a college, but a prestigious university in Tacoma Washington, not Washington D.C., Washington State, as in Seattle. Mummy let me tell you, it rains a lot, almost everyday. Don’t get me wrong, the scenery is beautiful, always lush and green and there is a majestic ice capped volcano in my backyard.

Going to college is always life changing, whether you come from Oregon, Montana or New Jersey, you leave behind family and friends to dive into the world of the unknown. More so being International, dealing with a new culture, food and in my case loss of warmth. Mom, if you could have seen me, early October students still in tank tops, capris, playing Frisbee on the lawns and I, bundled from head to toe––freezing.

So you may ask: so what’s new? All students experience an adjustment to college, wherever you are from; wherever you go. PLU provided an environment that allowed me to acknowledge and embrace the challenges of college. The school is small and its foundation lies in the Lutheran tradition––thus there is a culture of care for the individuals and the community.

If you were only here you would have surely come to visit. The classes are not overcrowded, so you get one-on-one attention with your professors. Everyone knows you by name and truly shows concern for your progress. The number of things I have been able to get involved in at PLU, I don’t think I would have been able to do that anywhere else. From my first year involvement in theatre and Dance Ensemble, to later International Senator of ASPLU and Diversity Advocate in the Diversity Center. I was allowed and encouraged to share my culture as I received tremendous support while spearheading PLU’s annual campus carnival. The Diversity Center has been my second home, as being a student leader has given me the great experience working with others, team building and strategic planning. These skills I have transferred to the many internships and volunteer opportunities I have been fortunate to be involved in.

I have made friends from across the globe; China, Namibia and Korea to say the least and have been adopted off campus whole-heartedly by the magnificent Bronner family. Mom, I missed you so much, but the love and support I have received both inside and outside of the classroom walls is indescribable. The Lute Dome has become my home, fostering my growth and development. One way growth is promoted at PLU is via study abroad. This semester I also added to the statistics as I journeyed off to explore Botswana, Africa. Yes Mom, Africa. I have seen the face of poverty and heard the cries of AIDS. I have looked into hungry eyes and better understand the dynamics of food distribution. I have been enlightened about a different way of life and an interestingly new diet. I have learned the click language of the San people and moved to the steps of the ostrich dance. I have touched elephants and run along the savanna grasslands with springboks. I have witnessed the clash between tradition and religion and the appeal to disassociate with the past. I have been to Botswana. You see Mom, PLU is not only just about academics and career paths but is also concerned with creating global citizens.

As we graduate, the class of 2008, I ask, “What should we take from this place? As alumni, what should we give back?” We now have the responsibility to pass on the legacy. To give PLU the support it needs to carry on these traditions of service and care. To spread the name of this great University and represent our Alma Mater well. As for me, I will take the notion of vocation. From day one I have heard words like ‘vocation’, ‘passion’ and Big Enough Questions. They have inspired me to explore my dreams and life decisions.

I leave you today with a word from Botswana. Kuru, it means to do, to make, to create. I urge you my fellow graduates as you leave this celebration today to take your bag of PLU experiences and put them on your back. Do with it what you can, make with it what you like and create a masterpiece that is worthy of a global citizen.

So Mom, now you know what I’ve been up to. What I have seen and experienced, the hurdles I’ve faced and the support I have received. You now know what I have brought to PLU and what I am leaving with. I hope that I have made you proud. I entered the tunnel of college as trinigyal and I am leaving as a world citizen.

Candice Hughes
Senior Class Speaker
Spring Commencement 2008

A native of Trinidad and Tobago, Candice Hughes came to PLU as a freshman in 2004. She is the first graduate of the university’s recent exchange program with the University of the West Indies. She graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Geosciences.

Hughes spent over a year as an environmental intern for the Port of Tacoma, and studied away in Botswana during spring semester 2008. At PLU, she’s been active in numerous student organizations, spearheaded PLU’s first Caribbean Carnival celebration in February 2006, and received the Leaders of Distinction and Inspirational Woman awards.