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Speakers Inspire at the HGSE Convocation Ceremony

At yesterday's Harvard Graduate School of Education convocation ceremony in Radcliffe Yard, speakers from the HGSE community challenged the graduating class of 2008 to change education and to find people to make a difference in teaching and learning across cities around the world.  In addition to the speakers, the convocation featured the presentation of honors, including the Morningstar Family Teaching Award, Alumni Council Award, Intellectual Contribution/Faculty Tribute Awards, and Class Gift.

"For the last 33 years, I've done everything in my power to change education in this country for poor children," said Geoffrey Canada, Ed.M.'75, recipient of the 2008 Alumni Council Award. "I am not ashamed to say that I have done everything that I know how to do...I'm more determined today then I was when I left this place. The answer to keeping this country great is equal education for all in this nation."

As president and CEO of the Harlem Children's Zone (HCZ), a nonprofit geared toward helping low income children and families in New York City, Canada has improved the lives of thousands of children in urban settings through education and services. Canada shared his personal experience coming to HGSE with a wife, two children, no place to live, and no money and described taking a position as a superintendent -- not of a school -- but of a building. Although Canada admitted he knew nothing about being a superintendent, he got the job by emphasizing that he was a good learner. Part of Canada's belief is that education is the key to solving problems.

While working nights, Canada put himself through the Ed School and, by the time he graduated, he was convinced that he could educate any child. However, during an interview for a teaching position at the Robert White School in Boston, he was met the question, "If you're so good, why don't you change education in this country?" Canada -- taken aback by the question -- insisted that he was "good." Still, the question was something that never left his mind, especially since, five or six years later, he bumped into that same man who cautioned, "You ain't done it yet."

The question of how to change education is one that resonated not only to Canada, but to all of the educators under the Radcliffe Yard tent yesterday.

Antonio "TJ" Martinez, who was selected by a committee of faculty and staff from 20 applicants in the Student Speaker Competition, expressed how the graduates owed their education to the world. "We, enriched by our professors and colleagues, are challenged today to move beyond the lecture halls of Longfellow and the classrooms of Gutman to venture out, to find, to invite, and to empower those who have yet to contribute to the process of teaching and learning, reaching out to our own cities and to our own countries," Martinez said.

The student-selected faculty speaker, Professor Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot urged students to search for education's goodness and not only focus on the failures, to use insight not just ideology, and truly believe in education as having a broader inclusiveness. She warned the students that it would never be easy emphasizing that there would be "conflict" and "dissent" as they all moved forward but that it was pivotal to "get busy."

Lightfoot shared a poem by Jean Toomer in which she said she learned as a fifth grader "the power and meaning of metaphor."

The Mississippi, sister of the Ganges, Main artery of earth in the western world Is waiting to become In the spirit of America, a sacred river Whoever lifts up the Mississippi Lifts himself and all of America Whoever lifts himself Makes the great brown river smile

"On this wonderful penultimate day filled with sweet anticipation we celebrate the graduates in all their glory and urge you to get busy," Lightfoot said. "Together, let's make the great brown river smile."

The complete list of honorees:

Student Speaker: Antonio "T.J." Martinez, Ed.M.'08 Morningstar Family Teacher Award: Lecturer Barbara Alexander Pan Alumni Council Award: Geoffrey Canada, Ed.M.'75 Faculty Speaker: Professor Sara Lawrence Lightfoot  Intellectual Contribution/Faculty Tribute Award:

  • Lizzie Adelman, IEP'08
  • Armida Lizárraga, L&L'08
  • Tim O'Brien, L&T'08
  • Alice Anderson, HDP'08
  • Robin Basu Roy, SS'08
  • Mark Robertson, HEP'08
  • Steffie van der Steen, MBE'08
  • Myosha McAfee, EPM'08
  • Antonio "TJ" Martinez, SLP'08
  • Arzu Mistry, AIE'08
  • Emmett Cartwright, TEP'08
  • Mariana Zamboni, R&P'08
  • Chris Spence, TIE'08


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