The program included a keynote address by Dr. Lisa Hanson, associate professor of nursing, remarks from Marquette President Scott R. Pilarz, S.J., and featured student speaker Meghan Bachtel, a December Graduate from the College of Education.
Meghan’s message did not fall on deaf ears — in a time when the nation is struggling to make sense of tragedy, and educators everywhere are working tirelessly to make a difference in the lives of our nation’s children — she spoke to every one of us, urging us to take action.
Faculty and administrators, family and friends, my fellow graduates and I thank you for being here today. Without your help and support, we would not be walking across this stage, and we are thrilled that you are here to celebrate with us the culmination of our college experience.
As a French major, I really connected with the words of famed French philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau, who once said, pardon my French: “L’homme n’est pointfait pour méditer, mais pour agir” or humanity was not only created to ponder, but rather to act.
While at Marquette, we’ve all been encouraged to think critically and challenge our own worldviews. This is particularly poignant considering the unique Marquette experience of studying at a Jesuit university in the middle of such a diverse city as Milwaukee. Instead of trying to shield us from the problems that are inherent within such a large and diverse city, Marquette encourages us to interact with and discover different worldviews in a real and impactful way.
One such example occurred my freshman year. I started out my undergraduate career as a Theatre Arts and French double major, but I found myself gravitating to the One On One Mentoring program through the YMCA. I lived in Straz Tower, and there was a group of middle-schoolers who came to a large meeting room in the basement every Monday afternoon to improve their reading and math skills. It was a fairly straightforward program with lesson plans designed to work on certain skills, but the relationship I developed with my mentee, Ciara, has forever changed both of our lives.
I remember when I first met her and she told me that her life’s ambition was to take care of the children that she would inevitably have before she was ready. She had several family members that were teenaged mothers, so she had already accepted that fate for herself at age 11. Through our three years of working together, I helped her to set the bar a little higher for herself. She also brought out more humility and honesty in me. Our experiences together made me realize how much I wanted and needed to be a teacher so that I could continue reaching out and helping others.
I have remembered those experiences throughout my student teaching, especially if I’ve seen any of my students being put down or silenced. I’d like all of you to take a moment and think about a time in your life where you felt that your voice went unheard. Were you ever bullied, pressured, threatened or somehow otherwise convinced to be silent, even when it hurt more not to speak?
I know I’ve experienced this in my life, and I have found that there is no feeling quite as daunting as the knowledge that you have a voice, but are unable to use that voice.
At Marquette, we have been encouraged to use our strengths to help give voices to those less fortunate than us through programs such as Hunger Clean-Up, Midnight Run, Mardi Gras, MAP, and Sexual Violence Awareness Week, to name a few. As Marquette Alumni, we need to continue using the voices and resources available to us to affect positive change in others’ lives. We are all leaders in our own fields coming from an academic institution such as ours, and it is because of our excellence that we have been called to serve.
A twenty-first century person of action looks a lot different than what an eighteenth-century Rousseau could even dream of. The world is becoming smaller and smaller through the Internet and other technology, which drives home the ever-growing importance of global awareness. The information age in which we live makes it pretty easy to sit back and ponder the implications of the many issues that face today’s society. Rousseau asks us to move beyond that pondering, and as Marquette graduates, I am fully confident in our abilities to act for the betterment of our world.
As a soon-to-be alumna from the College of Education, I will use my working knowledge of the world and our place in it to increase awareness amongst our youth, who, after all, will be America’s future movers and shakers. I will not be able to succeed in this task without the engineers who will have designed and built the computers and buildings necessary for my classes to even take place. They will, in turn, need the help of the future doctors and nurses whenever they become ill. No matter what college from which we graduate, or which career path we ultimately take, we all will rely on and benefit from the gifts and accomplishments of our fellow graduates.
As individuals, our potential to bring about global consciousness and affect change is limited. But together, over these past four years, we have grown to be apart of the Marquette family, which spans from the East Coast to the West Coast, and across the globe. As a part of that Marquette family, we can make a meaningful difference in our world.
Meghan Bachtel is currently student teaching at Catholic Memorial High School in Waukesha, where she will continue to teach in a substitute role for the spring semester. Next fall she will return to the high school she attended in Akron, OH where she will be employed as a full-time French teacher. Of special note, Meghan is the first student with an education major to be chosen as commencement speaker since we became the College of Education in 2008.