I'm not sure I can capture, exactly, everything I want to say for the two of you today or all I hope to share with your family, your friends, and the world you've created for yourself in the United States. We've been collaborating and thinking together now for almost eight years and I recognize you both as VIP in my Syracuse life, my Connecticut life, and with the history of the world as I've lived it.
You are family and I love you both.
You are miraculous and should be proud.
You are personalities and I'm in awe with the ease in which you move a crowd.
You are achievers who buckled down and set your eyes on a prize.
When I talked with Mustafa this morning about this graduation accomplishment I began rattling off numbers and statistics:
- only 30% of the United States earns a college education,
- only 1% of 60 million refugees worldwide are given asylum in the United States,
- only 50% of youth attending urban school districts like Syracuse graduate high school,
- only 1% of the world has opportunity to partake in higher education,
And, despite all these percentages working against you, you hunkered down and became outliers. You, with the guidance of the Great Whatever, Allah, God, and your own internal drive, beat the odds to say that you are Liberian youth who overcame history, civil war, the challenges of city streets, and naysayers to achieve the impossible. Your tassels were once again flipped because you believed in three things: (1) education, (2) education, and (3) education.
When I sent you the collage I put together to commemorate the last 8 years I couldn't help but get tearful. The photos with you and Casey's kids, especially, made me realize how much you have fused yourselves into the Crandall world.
- Honor Society inductions,
- Soccer games (both for Varsity and club-play),
- Programs at Syracuse University,
- Basketball (and lacrosse) games at Syracuse University,
- Learning to fish,
- Learning to drive,
- Walks with Baby,
- High school graduation,
- My own graduation (playa hater degree)
- College acceptance at Brockport,
- Say Yes summer employment,
- Writing Our Lives,
- The Hamptons,
- Trips to NYC,
- Meeting Kwame Alexander, Ishmael Beah and Nikki Giovanni,
- Finding love and joy with Attallah Sheppard,
- CWP-Fairfield employment,
- Ubuntu Academy,
- Volleyball matches,
- Holidays with the Crandalls, Isgars, and Barnwells.
- Pam adventures with Patrick, Kaitlyn, and Derrick,
- Glue sticks and water fountains (nothing about feet),
- Brotherhood with Chitunga,
- Introduction of Glamis,
- Introduction of the Crandall special,
- Ramadan 2015,
- The fact that aliens continue to invade (in Amazing Races),
- Loans, um loans, okay, then there's the loan thing, $$$$ and
- Great conversations....so many memorable and irreplaceable conversations between the three of us.
Yet, above everything else, it is your laughter, humor, and willingness to explore the world with me that I cherish the most. We've shared books, ideas, and opportunities. We've offered each other trust, respect, and integrity. It is amazing what these years have revealed.
So, when I think about everything, I realize how much I am the man I am today because of who we've become together. Seeing you in your robes triggered a fountain of memories, especially those of my youth in 1994 when I first stepped into the unknown with a diploma. I took a chance and leapt to another world (Louisville) and started everything anew. Standing on my own required faith that the net would appear - which it did. When I left teaching in 2007, too, I had to believe there was a reason - now, I realize that two of those reasons graduated yesterday with a college diploma. The two of you are the reward for the biggest risk I ever took - leaving the Brown School and returning to Syracuse. I am so thankful I did.
Your souls are surrounded by love, culture, tradition, and a one-of-a-kind history that few could ever imagine. You continue to be two of the greatest things that have ever happened to me and my pride for you both cannot be captured in words (not even this speech written over and over and over again for your graduation can say what I want it to say). It's hard to put into words, simply because I know what I have to say is something that is actually felt - a truth that arrives beyond words: seeing one another eye to eye, greeting each other hand to hand (yes, Crandall's handshake is whack), and appreciating one another hug to hug.
I offer you a round of applause, a standing ovation, finger snaps, and the sounding of the horns.
YOU DID IT! YOU REALLY DID IT!
And I never doubted either of you for a second. I believe in you and always will.