There is a story, maybe apocryphal, of a commencement at another University. A couple of graduates still in their capand gown went out of graduation ceremony, jumped into a taxi and the taxi driver looked back at them and the saw
them in their regalia and said oh, congratulations, and they beamed and said, “Class of 2013!”
And the taxi driver beamed back and said, “Class of 2003.”
In journalism we call those kind of stories “too good to check.”
Well, in a larger perspective though, whatever the challenges of this job market, the truth is that, frankly, we're sodamn lucky to be in this time and place and enjoying this public good of a University education. Let me tell you abouta friend of mine, a Zimbabwean woman named Tererai Trent. She grew up in rural Zimbabwe. She was not allowedto go to school because she was a girl. So she herded the family cattle in the fields. But Tererai was truly brilliant andso she learned on her own, she learned math and reading by doing her brother's homework.And actually after a few years of this he got in trouble because the teacher didn't understand how her brother, whowas mediocre in class, kept turning in this brilliant homework, so he beat the brother until he confessed it was hissupposedly illiterate sister who had been doing his homework.That could have been an opportunity for her, but instead everybody just got mad at Tererai.So Tererai was married off at the age of 11. Married off at the age of 11 to a man who beat her and was jealous ofher intelligence. But Tererai is also a reminder of the human capacity for resilience. And I hope that when you findyour own dreams blocked that you will think of her and how she pursued her goals.What she did was she wrote down three goals on a piece of paper, the first goal was that she would go to the United
States to study. The second goal was that she would earn a B.A. and a master’s and the third g
oal was that shewould earn a Ph.D.These are completely absurd goals for a married girl who has had no formal education and who is a cattle herder inrural Zimbabwe.But she took that piece of paper with those three goals, put it inside a piece of plastic, put that inside an old tin canand buried it in a field under a rock near where she was herding her cattle.Then she began to study on her own and took correspondence courses and did brilliantly.And after some years of this she was accepted to Oklahoma State University.She then dug up that tin can, took out that piece of paper and checked off goal number one.She then earned her B.A. and master's. She went back to Zimbabwe, dug up that tin can and pulled out that piece ofpaper and checked off goal number two.Finally, just a couple of years ago, she earned her doctorate.