Monday, May 10, 2010

My Speech!

Putting on my cap & gown in the Rockettes' dressing room at Radio City Music Hall!
I was honored to be chosen as the alternate student speaker for the Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development’s Valedictory Celebration. Meaning: if the student speaker was unable to deliver her remarks on behalf of the graduating class, I would be asked to stand in her place. On stage. At Radio City Music Hall. Dream come true!!!!!

So… as promised, I am posting my speech that went unused that afternoon. (And a special "thank you" goes out to my Educational Theatre Facebook Friends--- for the inspiration...and memories!)

Valedictory Celebration 2010
Alt. Student Speaker Speech
To paint the most vivid picture of the daily life of my fellow Steinhardt graduate students, I would like to begin by reading a few Facebook ‘status updates’ that I have collected from my classmates over the 2009-2010 school year:

“I spend more time with William Shakespeare than I spend with my boyfriend. Houston, we have a problem.”

“My bed is multi-functional. It is simultaneously acting as a study hall, a library, an Internet cafĂ©, a Trash Receptacle, and a late-night diner. The one thing it’s not functioning as? A place to sleep. ”

“Does anyone have a skeleton of a cat, a feather boa, an 18th century globe, or a CD with ‘sounds of the subway’ that I can use in a scene for class tomorrow?”

And finally, my favorite:

“200 pages read, 200 to go, 5 hours til class… Why am I on Facebook right now?”

In all seriousness, I stand before a dynamic group of hardworking, ambitious, inspiring graduates who have devoted their lives and made many sacrifices to be where they stand today! I am humbled to be chosen as the student representative of the Steinhardt class of 2010 and I would like to offer my heartfelt congratulations to my colleagues and peers. We did it!

Did you know the United Nations proclaimed 2010 as the “International Year of Youth”? This is an effort to harness the energy, imagination and initiative of the world’s youth in overcoming the challenges facing humankind. I’m just glad that I didn’t have to give the graduation speech last year. 2009 was declared the International Year of the Gorilla! This year, with the “International Year of Youth” the UN aims to encourage dialogue and understanding across generations and to promote the ideals of peace, respect for human rights and freedoms, and solidarity. What an appropriate year for this year’s class of Steinhardt Students to graduate! Those goals of the UN are the very same ones many of today’s graduates have dedicated their lives to, via their studies here at NYU. As Dean Brabeck wrote in her open Letter to the Secretary of Education, “The Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development embraces the vision of educating the whole child. The faculty and staff prepare professionals to work collaboratively across the fields of education, psychology, health, media and the arts.”

In all of the classes I have taken at NYU, one lesson stands out amongst the rest. In the educational theatre department we had a passionate discussion about a famous speech by New York Times best selling author, Sir Ken Robinson. He is an internationally recognized leader in the development of creativity. He is quoted as saying, “Creativity now is as important in education as literacy, and we should treat it with the same status.” He spoke of how the value of the creative arts is greatly underestimated when educating our youth. Whether you are a graduating student in the department of education, psychology, health, media or the arts; I’m sure you would agree with his sentiments. In preparing our youth for their future roles in society, I can not think of one profession where creativity does not play an essential part. Consider professional careers such as: business management, architecture, advertising, marketing, media, public relations, science, psychology, engineering, and teaching. Creativity cultivates problem solving techniques used in all of these occupations; it is an essential part of innovation and invention. Personally, I believe the most influential benefit of encouraging creative self expression in our youth is its unique ability to cultivate personality growth while promoting self confidence. With that self-confidence, our youth will be empowered when they are encouraged to dedicate themselves to fostering progress towards the United Nation’s goals of freedom, peace, and solidarity for all of humankind.

Being a student in Steinhardt’s award-winning Educational Theatre program, as theatre arts educators, we aim to support the growth of imagination in our youth by using creative drama to foster a learning environment where creativity can blossom. Every single week, I watch in awe as my classmates work with the youth of New York City. The passion and dedication that they pour into their work is truly life changing. You don’t need to look any further than on the faces of the children, faces that light up at the chance to creatively express themselves. Children who tell us—they feel as though they are genuinely being heard--- for the very first time. Life changing, one child at a time.

All Steinhardt graduates, in every department, know the value of creativity in inspiring youth. The creative solutions of prior generations – from a musician’s improvisation to our professors’ sometimes eccentric solutions to pedagogical problems – have inspired us thus far. Now we have the opportunity to go out into the world and are well equipped to inspire future generations with our own creative solutions in the arts, in education, in psychology, and in the media, just as the United Nations suggested.

Today, the 2010 graduates of the Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development leave NYU eager and ready to fulfill our roles as leaders in this exciting field of human development. We live during difficult times in an ever changing world and we are ready to make a difference. I am confident that the Steinhardt School has given us tools, inspiration and motivation to tackle the goals of the “2010 International Year of Youth”, not only in 2010 but for the rest of our lives. Yes we can!

Now, I have one final Facebook status update* for you today. This is from my own account and was posted this morning. It says, “Farwell, NYU… and Thank You. From the bottom of my heart.”

* Alternate Ending:
Take out my cell phone and actually update my facebook status at the end of the speech. While I read the last line…
Copyright © 2010 Andrea Bertola
All Rights Reserved

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