May 10, 2010
College of Continuing Education Commencement Speech May 8, 2010
Good Morning. Dean Nichols, members of the faculty, fellow graduates, families and friends; I
would like to give a sincere thank you to Dean Nichols and Dr. JoAnn Hanson for inviting me to
speak today. It is certainly an honor. I am also excited as we graduates reach this milestone in
our lives. We join the multitude before us that built the knowledge we gained and for some of
us, add to that knowledge. We have gained much more than what to think, we have learned how
to think critically. None of us are the person who we walked into that first class on the first day
of college. This will show up immediately in small ways. It is these moments that allow us to
say: "While I was at the U", or "after I graduated" and gives us a new line on our resume with a
degree and a year. We've got credentials!
We are ready to set sail and we can take our diploma and let it be our rudder. It can bring us to a
new place, a better life, but it is our education that supplies the muscle to turn the rudder and our
intellect that trims our sails.
The winds of change have been apparent in our lives these past few years. Climate Change, Peak
Oil, Energy Decent and terms such as sustainability have appeared on the horizon as we studied.
Soon they entered our classrooms in discussion and as lectures and now motivate change in our
lives and in our workplace. I have been self-employed for more than 25 years, I have seen these
winds before, I have had to adjust and change direction. However, I believe that this time is
different. It was a little over two years ago that I decided to finish my old degree and discover
new knowledge in areas that are relevant today. I have been fortunate to return to the University
in a program that allowed me to create my own degree plan. The program for individualized
learning has helped me to achieve every educational goal I set. My advisers facilitated my
progress and now I stand before you on a new course. I have gained the knowledge to trim my
sails, face into the wind and use it to accelerate my life and the lives of others in a new direction.
We are the change, when the wind blows, as it will, it is up to us to use it or be tossed about by
the waves it creates.
Our life is the ship and we are the captain, and although it is our education that gives us the skills
to navigate and think clearly through these trouble times, it is our wisdom that points to a place
beyond the horizon that we cannot see. That place waits for us and is of our own making. Much
like our arrival here, a place we had only heard about from others, we graduate to a new
adventure, and the next horizon awaits us.
It is our path, our heading across these times that has brought us to this place. We chose to take a
different option; we built our education around our lives and within the context of our
experience. The College of Continuing Education gave us opportunity that may not have existed
for us in the past, or only recently fit our schedule. We are the marginal, the extreme, the
entrepreneurs, the visionaries, and the explorers. We are the homemaker, the mechanic, the
immigrant, the dreamer, and the artist. We are all of the above.
We are a diverse group. We are a community of multi-lingual, multi-talented graduates with a
new context for our future. We are not isolated by culture, language, or access to knowledge;
unlike years passed we have access. In minutes we can search the Internet and find a multitude of
answers to questions we have, we can research innumerable databases and we can find each
other and compare our views. Most importantly, we are a community of thinking people willing
to listen to the diverse points of view that surround us. We will persevere with the cooperative
willingness to not only consider the views of those different from us, but also encourage them
and support them in exploring those ideas in comparison to our own.
I have enjoyed that community here at the university of Minnesota. It is a little harder to find
outside these halls, but it does exist. I think it is important that we continue to keep our sources
of information diverse. In Permaculture design, the design science of agricultural ecosystems, we
follow twelve principals to keep our designs holistic and ecologically grounded. One of the
compelling principals is to use edges and value the marginal. In a farm field, the best soil can
always be found on the fence line. The soil least disturbed by the forced patterning of a plow. For
years it will sit gathering nutrients, catching the winds best silt and rain. In our permaculture
designs, it is our first stop for starting a new planting area. The snow drifts here, the birds leave
their droppings and the ground is fertile. To some it is marginal land; to us it is the place to start
a new model, and a new beginning with all the plant and organism diversity we need to
transform the farm back to an edible forest garden. The edges and the marginal can also be
applied to our society. Many of us occupy the edges of society; we do not fit the homogeneous,
one size fits all, the monoculture that economic plows of the status quo wish us to be. We are
unique and refuse to be plowed under.
We do not need to be heard by those wishing we were silent, because we hear each other. We are
the community that will solve the issues of the day and we will solve them from our kitchen
tables. We are the change. Today is evidence of this.
In the College of Continuing Education I have been fortunate to meet the next generation of
farmers; they are interning on organic farms in Delano, Minnesota, Orcas Island Washington, or
Guatemala to name just a few. I have met the peacemakers, studying conflict resolution. I have
met the healers, the teachers, researchers, engineers and designers. I know our future is secure
because many of those people sit here today with us. Today our community adventure does not
end or begin; today it starts a new course.
Congratulations 2010 graduates, today we take hold of the wheel, turn the rudder, feel the
spray on our faces and steer into the wind. We look forward to the future and set sail for the
Copyright Daniel Halsey 2010, Prior Lake, MN 612-720-5001