Tech commencement speaker encourages graduates to persevere

Aug 21, 2014 | General News

Find inner strength and embrace the search for meaning.
This was the message Dr. Pauline Leonard, professor and department chair in Louisiana Tech’s College of Education, delivered during the summer commencement address.
“It has been said that it’s the unanticipated transitions, even the negative ones that can provide the greatest opportunity for change and growth,” Leonard said to the 290 Louisiana Tech graduates. “You have great minds—after all, you are Tech graduates—and I wish you continued intellectual growth; however, I have become fervent in the belief that we must holistically tend to all aspects of our humanness—mind, body, spirit—not just in our personal lives but in our professional lives as well.”
Kaamilya Salaam, who received her bachelor’s in fashion merchandising and retail studies Thursday, accepted the challenge and persevered through her degree program, despite the deaths of her mother and brother while she was in school.
“My driving force was my mom,” Salaam said. “Her strength throughout her battle — she had sarcoma cancer — ignited my willpower to succeed. My brother’s untimely death was added fuel to boost my determination because I knew they both would want to see me make my goals into accomplishments.”
Salaam will move to Las Vegas to begin her career as a visual lead at Charming Charlie’s and plans to launch her own design label, Amelia Pierrot.
“Ordinary people often demonstrate extraordinary courage and strength in the face of the unknown,” Leonard said. “We are the authors of that reason by how we respond to experiences, be they negative or positive. I think that is what Viktor Frankl, the renown psychiatrist and Holocaust survivor, meant when he said that life is a search for meaning. Life is purposeful when we discover reason and meaning, but we have to embrace the search.”
Transitions in any form, positive or negative, Leonard added, can be bittersweet.
“That is what I hope for you as you transition into your next stage—discovery, renewal and growth,” she said. “Yes, transitions such as graduation and retirement, while planned and typically positive experiences, may also be bittersweet. For those of us who are moving on and leaving our Tech family, at least in a physical sense, we probably share feelings of excitement, anticipation, and optimism to travel that ‘open road.’ However, your hearts, like ours, are undoubtedly filled with gratitude for having had the privilege of being a member of the Tech family.”
Salaam said for the newest Tech Bulldogs coming in the fall, she hopes that they will enjoy their college experience and not be too hard on themselves during the first year.
“No matter how many obstacles you face, don’t give up because those are just your tests to see how bad you want it,” Salaam said. “Live life to the fullest, enjoy every moment, set goals and pursue them, for it’s better to say you tried than to give up without trying.”