Today, I would like to offer my personal experience with a dedication of another kind; dedication to community service and benefiting others.
Before my first day as a Girl Scouts troop volunteer in East Austin's Booker T. Washington public housing project, my supervisor gave me cautionary tales of the girls’ violence and misbehavior. Part of me began to worry, but then I remembered that my friends in my hometown of Inglewood and I were often given the same "at-risk" label growing up. On my first day, I met Shaye, the oldest of five siblings and aspiring pediatrician. When I told Shaye where I was from and where I attended school, she looked bewildered, not believing that anyone who shared her background could be successful in college. Shaye and the other Girl Scouts looked at the University of Texas's tower as a symbol of the unobtainable, and viewed many of its students as privileged, particularly those who volunteered once and never returned. The thought that my troop did not believe in their potential disappointed me, and filled me with purpose. In hearing their self-doubt, I committed not only to volunteering, but also to building personal relationships with the girls. Every time I returned, the girls’ trust grew, and soon I was no longer an outsider, but someone whom Shaye called a friend and role model.
We know, all too intimately, that what starts here changes the world. In addition to this powerful phrase, I am captured and by the words that rest near the university tower steps – the core purpose of the university. It reads, “To transform lives for the betterment of society.”
In order to complete this task, we must have dedication to our dreams, no matter how unachievable or temporal they may seem. I challenge you all today to find and dedicate yourself to a cause that not only leaves you richer for the experience but the world better for your efforts.
I have complete assurance that this group before me has transformed and will continue to transform lives for the betterment of the world."