Valedictory Speech 2016

Jeweleen Dillon-Valedictorian

The Reverend Donold Webley, President of the Missionary Church Association in Jamaica and, Chairman of this afternoon’s function, Dr Garnett Roper, President of the Jamaica Theological Seminary, Dr Asburn Pinnock, Guest Speaker and President of the MICO University College, Members of the Board of Governors of the Jamaica Theological Seminary, Heads of Institutions and Colleges, Members of Faculty and Staff, specially invited guests, Members of the Class of 2016, parents, spouses, friends and well-wishers, ladies and gentlemen, brothers and sisters…

This afternoon, I would like to pay homage to some very special people who have made invaluable contributions throughout our academic programme here at the Jamaica Theological Seminary: to the academic and administrative staff, who endured our brutal comments, harsh criticisms and remarks- this afternoon we want to offer you our high commendations. To the ancillary and maintenance staff, who ensured that we had a comfortable environment in which we could learn -you are mainly responsible for the comfort in which we all sit this afternoon…We say Thank you!

To our families, who have pushed us every step of the way and encouraged us, who loved us when we lacked and constantly reminded us that there is a light at the end of the tunnel-; and to our friends in the audience and those who are absent who supported us; there were times when our friendship had to withstand the test of time. To you, we say, “Thank you!”

I invite you to stand and pause with me for a moment of silence as we mark the passing of friends and loved ones of the JTS family who died while we were on this academic journey… Please stand and let us observe a moment of silence. May their soul rest in peace and light perpetual shine upon them.

I am honoured to stand and represent the graduating class of 2016 and the many accomplished graduands here today. I pay special tribute to Miss Claudia Higgins, a member of this graduating class who has had to overcome serious medical challenges and who has excelled academically to finish her programme with us. Her presence with us is a testament of a fighting spirit, determination and will. Claudia is an example of what faith can do in all circumstances. We thank God for her.

There is a little saying that my mother taught me when I was in basic school …It goes like this, “Do all the good you can, in all the ways you can, to all the people you can, just as long as you can.” This saying has acted as my guiding principle-; it is my personal philosophy. I believe that John Wesley, the co-founder of Methodism and who, during his lifetime, preached about 40,000 sermons, in writing this little saying, was inspired by Acts 10:38 which gives the account of Jesus going about doing good. What is the good that Jesus did? He performed ministries of healing, which empowered, liberated and transformed men and women. He included the excluded and made space for the outcast and created a pathway of hope for all. He proclaimed the Kingdom of God and brought God’s grace and God’s power to bear upon the life of people who were alienated and discouraged. He gave himself for all of us and taught how to give ourselves in the service of our fellow men and women. Wesley believed that the example of Jesus was enough to live by and charged us to follow that path - doing good for goodness sake and for the sake of others.

I believe that doing good expresses the character of an individual’s thoughtfulness, inclusiveness, and sincerity. When we do good for goodness sake, it comes from the heart, - we do not need ulterior motives to do good so we will not expect anything in return. We will not look for praise or commendations and we will not put out an extra effort because our good deeds will be measured by others and then be rewarded. Instead, the good that we do will form a part of our nature and character and represent our moral fibre by which God can be identified in our lives. Whatever our vocation, let it represent how we conduct ourselves in a world that is filled with complexities; in dealing with the truant children, the problems in schools and in the children’s homes, in churches, in our communities and the society.

Imagine with me, the strangers whom we often ignore-, those who we pass lying on the street, those who knock at our car windows, and those who stretch their hands expecting something from us-, how do we respond to them? We must find a way to connect the Samaritan to us, because, doing good includes the excluded; those who are unlike us, those who make us uncomfortable and those who we do not like, for as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. suggested, our lives begin to end the day we become silent about the truly important things, like the other person who shares no commonality with us.

As we reflect on our journey here at the JTS, the following three questions are worth our consideration. The first one is; why are there fewer and fewer examples of human goodness around us? I believe that our society has lost a sense of its humanity; that there is a moral decay in our own personal lives that has caused us to become insensitive as a people. That we no longer know what we stand for and why we stand for it. Many have lost their ability to think for themselves and to make decisions based on their own personal ideals and entrenched philosophies that represent who they are. We may even ask ourselves, why is it so hard for us to go out of our way to do good for others, to help others, to be hospitable to others? At the Jamaica Theological Seminary, we as graduands have been challenged many times with these questions in our own reflection and through discussions, and we have garnered the knowledge and skills and have received hands on experience through our practicum exercises on how to connect with our humanness. Our goodness perspective is not all lost. We may live in a society that is no longer shaken by the grief of hurting families, the ruthlessness of criminals and the injustices of the justice system, but we have an opportunity to make a positive impact. We have been fortified with the tools to make up the deficit and reverse the habits of bigotry, hatred and violence.

Secondly, do we believe that doing good is necessary and important to saving mankind from itself? When we do good, we signify that we want a change for the better; we emphasize that goodness matters in the face of adversities and trials; we effect change not just for our own life but also for the lives of others. Doing good is necessary because it helps to adjust our way of thinking about others in the way that encourages us to be truthful, honest, thoughtful and unselfish; to think of others first, to be kind, gentle, and meek. Imagine with me again… if we would invite a street child or a homeless person to sit with us at our table for dinner, what difference that would make in the life of that individual. Again, this is what our training as Pastors, Social Workers, Guidance Counsellors, Musicians has entrenched in us! The years of hard work and sacrifice have managed to mould us in becoming better citizens; to treat everyone with unconditionally positive regard.

Thirdly, are we as graduands of the Jamaica Theological Seminary equipped to go about doing good? YES, I believe we have been! Our training has helped us to understand the importance of doing good to self, the stranger and the family. I have already addressed matters concerning the self and the stranger, so let us talk about the family, if you will. The family is an extension of the self, the first place in which our goodness is tested. But it is becoming less effective in its impact on how young minds are shaped. Instead, family life has become so busy with the everyday doings and happenings and we no longer make enough time for each other. As we have come to the end of our journey at the JTS, before we hurriedly move on to do something else, let us first spend the time to make up for what we lost with our spouses, our children and our parents. Let us do good by them. Let us make the time to restore and re-establish some relationships in our household with the tools that we have gathered.

Our challenge has not yet started. The Jamaica Theological Seminary was our practice run, our lecturers our commandants and our colleagues our sounding boards. The real challenge begins when we have to face ourselves and recognize that all along we have been living just to be an example for someone else, living to make an impact in our society, and effectively to change the world.

As graduands, we raise a toast to the Jamaica Theological Seminary for being a major part of the moulding process in preparing us for this mammoth task ahead. Let us pledge the love and loyalty of our heart, the wisdom and courage of our mind, the strength and vigour of our body in the service of our fellow citizens; let us stand up for Justice, Brotherhood and Peace…

Having gone through five years at the Seminary, and having learnt all that I have, I am more convinced that my education has helped to reinforce my philosophy. “Do all the good you can, in all the ways you can, to all the people you can, just as long as you can.” I encourage you therefore to make a space for including those who are unlike you, and those who you do not like; a place where goodness becomes common ground and you can embrace the goodness in yourself and in others. It is only then that we will create a better Jamaica and a better world. As Dr. King Jr states, “We must come to see that the end we seek is a society at peace with itself, a society that can live with its conscience.”

On February 4, 1968, two months before he was assassinated, Dr. King Jr. gave a sermon called, “The Drum Major Instinct.” In it, he imagined his own funeral and said he wanted to be remembered for serving others, not for his fame or his many accomplishments. He ended the sermon by quoting this song made famous by Mahalia Jackson, but written by Arizona composer, Alma Androzzo:

If I can help somebody as I pass along,

If I can cheer somebody with a word or a song.

If I can show somebody he’s traveling wrong,

Then my living will not be in vain.

As we separate this afternoon I add the words of Nelson Mandella - “Sometimes it falls on a generation to be great. WE can be that great generation. Let our greatness blossom.”

Amen!

 

JamaicaTheological Seminary
Graduation
June 25, 2016
Valedictory Speech
Prepared and read by Jeweleen Dillon

 

 

 


 

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