Well, it’s a privilege to be here with all of you.
Let me thank President Price, for the opportunity to address the 2019 Graduates. It’s certainly a privilege and my great pleasure.
To my fellow trustees, the Faculty of the University, the Administrative teams, the parents, the guardians, significant others and friends, thank you for not only enabling this occasion, but also joining us to celebrate the fruits of your labor.
And to our Honorary Degree Recipients, thank you for your incredible contributions and achievements. There’s a reason you now hold ‘Laudable Blue Devil’ status. Give them some love, ya’ll.
Now, I’m from the South, so we’re going to offer a whole lot of gratitude today. And when I call you to respond to what I’m saying, do you have me, graduates?
I love it. I love it.
And most importantly, let me start with gratitude for the graduates, thank you for the work you’ve put in and the contributions that you’ve made to Duke. We are absolutely thrilled that you had...and I quote… “the courage to start, the strength to endure, and the resolve to finish.”
Somebody say amen.
And because of that, you are about to be awarded all the rights and privileges of minted Blue Devils. So, congratulations to you! I’m going to give you some love.
Now I know this feels really good to you to be here today and feels even better to me. And let me tell you why. May I tell you why? Because I got the mic. You know I’m going to do it anyway. It’s not only your graduation day, it’s Sunday.
And Sundays have always been special in my family. Sundays are for speaking up – and for bringing people together. My grandfather, the late William Holmes Borders Sr., was the pastor at Wheat Street Baptist Church in Atlanta. Martin Luther King, Jr. attended many of his sermons – the very same sermons I loved as a girl, and the same sermons that encouraged me to be the person that I am today.
And it’s not just any Sunday for me. It’s been forty years since I graduated from Duke. Can you believe – do I look like it’s been 40 years?
So because it’s such a really special day, what I thought I would do is commemorate this day. Will you indulge me with a selfie? Come on now. Will you indulge me? Okay, here we go. You ready? Let me start with section one over here. You ready, section 1? Oh, wait. Okay. Love it! Section 2. Thank you! All right, let me get over here and get section 3. You’re ready? Let’s do this. Let’s do this. And then section 4, last but certainly not least. Perfect. Perfect. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!
Now I seriously want to thank you for that. I had to take that picture. My mother always took photos of me at every progress point growing up. She’d show off those photos to everyone who came to our house, and she would be so proud that I am here at my old stomping ground with all of you.
So, now graduates, it’s certainly your day, but President Price already reminded us it’s Mother’s Day – but you know women never get enough love, never. So the one day we have here to offer a deserved salute to those who bore us biologically and those who stood in as surrogates for many of our needs and wants – deserve some more love. I want all the graduates to stand up and give their mothers and their surrogate mothers some love. Thank you.
Now this is my first Mother’s Day without my own mother, who I lost last August.
And while she’s not here physically, I can still hear her voice when I reach a significant milestone or face what appears to be an insurmountable obstacle.
And if she were here today, I know exactly what she would say to you.
In response to your achievement, it would, no doubt, be crisp and compelling a show of support: “You did it!” And she would offer you a huge smile and an even bigger hug.
But she would also keep it real with you like she always did with me. She would tell you that your future, like any of ours, is going to be hard work. I can hear her say: “Lisa, listen to me and hear me clearly. Adversity is like the agitator in the washing machine. It beats the heck out of the clothes, but they’re clean when they come out”.
My mother was right – because you will encounter difficult times in your life, requiring tough decisions and tough time-sensitive responses.
My first taste of adversity came in 1969, when I helped to integrate a private school in my home city of Atlanta. I was a handful of…I was one of a handful of African-American students – student of color #8 – who passed the entrance exam and was admitted to attend. Now while passing the exam was the technical requirement for admission and acceptance, it was not the path to acceptance from my peers. In fact, from 7th grade to 12th grade, I endured being called the N-word at least once a day.
It was tough to get through a single day, let alone come back and repeat the entire process all over again. I can recall that I told my mother I didn’t want to go to school there anymore; the challenges were just too much. And she would repeat the washing machine adage to me more times than I can count.
But what that experience taught me wasn’t just that she was right – that adversity is a certainty – but the only person’s behavior that you can govern is your own. And just as importantly, what doesn’t kill you really does make you stronger.
I’m still standing. Somebody say amen.
With my parents’ advice, I decided to be better...to work harder to overcome the preconceived notions and to prove I could not just perform at that school – but I could excel – at that school. And while my efforts may have been lost on my classmates, they were not lost on the Admissions Office here at Duke University.
Duke accepted me as an ‘early decision’ candidate and, for the first time, I felt seen, and heard and valued. One of the finest universities in the nation was willing to bet on me. I was, and I remain, eternally grateful for the opportunity to attend and graduate in the Trinity Class of 1979. My Duke degree and our Blue Devil family have opened more doors than I could have imagined and stood in support when I needed it the most.
Graduates, today, we still find ourselves in the same morass of exclusion and intolerance I experienced all those years ago. The high degree of acrimony is unyielding and discouraging, but I want to make sure you hear this: Discouragement doesn’t have to be debilitating. If anything, discouragement should drive you to open your own doors and design your own future.
And just remember when you open those doors, there will be people on the other side. Some of them will be cheerleaders, and some of them will be critics. The challenges you face on your uphill climb will often come with an audience, because the reality is this: Adversity doesn’t happen always in private.
I know this all too well.
As I said, my grandfather was a pastor for 50 plus years, leading the civil rights movement and marches, desegregating the public transit system and helping the first African-American policemen secure steady jobs. My father was a physician, one of only 100 black doctors in Atlanta when he started his practice, and my mother was a civic leader who co-founded a coalition of neighborhoods across segregated communities.
Following in the tradition of my elders, I pursued a role in public service as President of the City Council and you heard that I served for six years. As the leader of the Legislative Branch of municipal government, I learned all the mechanics and the operations of the City. And when it was time for my next step, I threw my hat in the ring and ran for Mayor.
I entered as the front runner with the highest name recognition. I raised a ton of money, I knocked on tens of thousands of doors. That said, there were issues along the way; my parents became ill – my father with the ravages of diabetes and two amputated legs and my mother diagnosed with the early onset of dementia – and I decided I needed to withdraw from the race to look after them.
But my father, he wasn’t having it. He told me I need to step up! That I should return to the race and try to get elected and give back to the city that had given us so much. But by then, my campaign’s momentum was gone. I lost the race and I was absolutely devastated. Every question you can possibly image went through my head. Had the people of Atlanta forgotten me? Had they forgotten all the work that I had done? Did they lose faith in me? Were they disappointing [disappointed]?
After three days of self-pity, my perspective changed. I realized there were more ways to serve my fellow citizens and my city than just being in elective office.
But the lesson became crystal clear several roles into the future. And graduates, here’s the lesson:
Failure’s not fatal. It’s feedback.
Did you hear me? Put that in your phones. Failure is not fatal. It’s feedback.
I wasn’t supposed to be the Mayor. Had I been the Mayor, I would not have been available to work as a senior officer at the Coca-Cola company where my maternal grandparents had worked for a combined 45 years – jobs that enabled my mother and her sister to be ‘first generation college graduates’.
Nor would I perhaps have been on the radar to become a trustee here at Duke, alongside my good friend and fellow Dukie, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver. Ya’ll know who that is? That’s a bad boy.
And had I not met Adam, I may never have been a candidate for the President of the WNBA, the Women’s National Basketball Association, somebody say amen, one of the most rewarding roles that I have ever undertaken.
So, I’m not just asking you, I’m advising you to anticipate defeat, strongly advising it. Don’t be surprised when it comes your way. Acknowledge it. Engage with inquisitive abandon and leave indelible fingerprints wherever you may go. Search for environments that may give you grief but they may also help you to grow.
Now, no one taught me the importance of that existential exploration better than my parents. And it was my father who showed me that in fact, it is in discomfort that we find our most defining moments.
My dad became a doctor because he knew the circumstances were not the same for everybody, that some people were not as fortunate as our family was. And as he put it, he wanted to eliminate “dis-ease.” Are you with me, graduates? “Dis-ease.” That’s exactly how he said it to me.
When I was a little girl, I would go on house calls with him. The patients all knew and loved him and I saw how much he prided himself on being a caretaker, someone who did his very best to reverse their compromised positions of his patients – to put their mind and bodies at ease.
But there was one house call I remember in particular. It’s seared in the back of my brain as if it happened yesterday. His diabetic patient was having a hypoglycemic attack. He told me to get the orange juice. I did, and I watched him save a woman’s life that day.
I’ve never been able to shake the haunting feeling of this specific house call because of the significance it would take on later in my own life – and it reminds me, of course, that even doctors can meet the same inevitable fate of becoming patients.
When I tried to tend to the diabetes my father developed later in life, I thought of that woman’s shaking, pale face.
And when I looked at his limbs – a double amputee, and recognized he was in renal failure, I thought of how he fought for a life, when she could not fight for her own.
And I thought of how in his twilight years, he was experiencing the same discomfort and dis-ease he had so seamlessly kept at bay for everyone else.
But even so, I knew we were lucky, my family. We could afford my father’s insulin. We could afford to do what it took to take care of him.
And as a student here, I was blessed to have the extraordinary Duke Health System looking after me – somebody say Amen for the Duke Health System. But this isn’t accessible to everyone. What we have here is an anomaly, when it should be what we’re all accustomed to.
As the President of a Level 1…yeah, come on now. Give it up. As the President of a Level 1 Trauma Center’s Foundation, I saw firsthand the physical and financial devastation which can overwhelm an individual and their family when basic healthcare is not available or accessible. Chronic conditions run rampant. Genetic disorders go undiagnosed and contagious conditions, like the measles’ outbreak we’re currently experiencing, stop being the exception and instead become an epidemic.
But it is through deliberate exposure that we develop empathy for those who appear different than us, that we see that adversity is all-encompassing. Those house calls were not accidental from my father. They weren’t because he couldn’t find a sitter or because he thought I was bored. They were there to prepare me and to open my eyes to the simple fact: But there, but for the grace of the universe, anyone of us could be adversely affected.
That’s why it is incumbent upon each of us – each of you – to not only get out of your comfort zones, but find the power in discomfort itself. And sustain your own health so that you can not only help assuage the discomfort of others, but so that you can lead an informed and compassionate life.
In sports, we call for “fresh legs” when our health is on the decline, when our bodies are met with dis-ease, or when veteran players get sick or tired. I would submit that my generation, most of your parents’ cohort, is the veterans and frankly, we are winded. We’ve been in the game since the clock started. Now, don’t get it twisted. W still got it. Thank you for that. But we still need your enthusiasm, your emotional intelligence and your energy to impact the field of play in this game we call life.
So let’s wrap this thing up – you ready? I asked you: were you ready? Because it’s time to move on to the really exciting stuff...the conferring of degrees! Somebody say amen.
So let me leave you with this.
Duke is a very special place. To get in is no small feat, but to get out is a real accomplishment.
Every one of you graduates is to be commended for your hard work and effort to this point. From our youngest grad at 20 years old to our most seasoned grad at 72, somebody say amen, you are all awesome and we are truly proud to welcome you into the Duke Family!
You have earned the endorsement of those who have come before you and we expect that you will honor the legacy of improving the world by your contributions in [the] years to come.
And while it may not be easy to determine your passion or decipher your purpose, we will always be here to support you as you navigate this experience we call ‘life’.
We will always be here not just to tell you, but to show you that the only way around adversity isn not around it at all; it is straight through it.
So, expect adversity – expect adversity, excuse me. Invite it. And embrace it. Because it will be your greatest asset. It will help you be a better human being. It will teach you the same thing my mother taught me…that no morth and prosper!”
atter how bad you feel, that even at your lowest point, you got this.
Because Dukies…Dukies hear clearly, graduates, Dukies are like titanium. We might be dented on every side, but we are never crushed. And in the final analysis, we are “forever Duke”.
So, many would say now, ‘go forth and conquer’. I’ll offer a parenthetical as coined by a fellow Dukie in the Class of 1980, “Devil F内容来源：网络资源，仅供学习，侵权即删