This is not a speech about service, learning, or the importance of a liberal arts education...Oh wait. Maybe it is.
Before I begin my address, I'd like to first thank the members of the Faculty Personnel Committee for honoring me with the Thompson Distinguished Teaching Award. I'd also like to acknowledge George Edwin Thompson, whose generous gift made the prize possible, and to thank my students who made it easy for me to earn it. I'd also like to thank my colleagues in Africana Studies, particularly Scott Hancock. Without his unwavering support over the past ten years, I'm not sure I would have stayed at Gettysburg, and I certainly wouldn't have been able to be as successful as I have. As I said when I received this award in the spring, every one of my colleagues in my tenure cohort is an exceptional teacher, so any one of us could have been up here today.
I had an incredibly difficult time trying to figure out what to say to you all because I've never given a speech for an occasion like this before-- I've written a valedictory for a retiring colleague and I've delivered the first year convocation address, and of course, I've lectured ad nauseam about fascinating linguistic concepts to just about anyone who has been trapped long enough to listen, but this occasion is clearly different. I asked previous Thompson award winners for advice, and they had great ideas about service, learning, and the value of a liberal arts education...but it seems like you must have heard all of that plenty of times by now. You're College award winners for god's sake. You've already demonstrated that you get it when it comes to what we try to do at a liberal arts college. In fact, your accomplishments are the very culmination of what we try to do at a liberal arts college-you're our success stories. What more do you need to hear in a speech? I'm not welcoming you to the college for your first year, and I'm not sending you off after your last, but it's still a huge honor for me to talk to you about how you inspire and how you should be inspired so I wanted to take this opportunity to talk about something different-kind of.
In the middle of this speech-writing struggle, my son Jack who's nine years old, came bursting into my office and announced "mom, I want to do something AMAZING!" I had to stop for a minute because he was so full of conviction, so absolutely sure that amazing was within his grasp, and so committed to whatever amazing act he might have accomplished, that the very air around his little body was crackling with energy. He had no idea that in that moment he already was one of the most amazing creatures that I had ever seen.
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