Joybel Kakaire’s 2016 Clemente Graduation Speech: Hope in the Midst of Turmoil

The Experience of Clemente:
Hope in the Midst of Turmoil

The dignitaries present, the funders of Clemente, the Coordinator, the distinguished educators, our guests, the graduates, our children, ladies and gentlemen each of you in your capacity it is an honor to speak in your presence this afternoon and thank you for your attendance.

I want to thank my classmates who gave me a vote of confidence to share my experience of Clemente. I hope that I will mirror yours too because I believe it is our story told together. We cannot Thank God enough for having given us the grace to make it through and for the opportunity to network.

Had it not been for Kate McGrath my Education consultant who knew how much I yearned to go back to school or a challenge I would not have been here. Thank you Kate.

With all due respect allow me to quote a proverb that is priceless Proverbs 3:13- 15; Blessed are those who find wisdom, blessed are those who gain understanding for she is more profitable than silver and yields better than gold. She is more precious than rubies; nothing you desire can compare with her. Long life is in her right hand and in her left are riches and honor.

The experience of The Clemente Course in Humanities (CCIH) is an entry into hidden wisdom, a gateway into understanding in short, an eye opener.

You get to revise what you know from the perspective of humanity and in a whole new depth. It is provocative because it touches the very foundations of humanity with the harsh reminders of what we are capable of and if you do not have the strength of faith in tomorrow, or the humility to take the lessons and allow them to transform you if possible you may walk away in the first semester.

Indeed it calls for soul searching, knocks at the door of purpose in an individual but it is also a turning point in our hope for humanity.

A distinction is then made for me in CCIH in Worcester. This course is sponsored by the Worcester Interfaith, their friends and the larger community.

It certainly is divine orchestrated not just for the benefit for those of us who would not necessarily have had the opportunity to have access to it, but also in the long run, it will soon be a focal point in the identification of our City as not just any City but the destination where an experience of transformation is possible, a beacon of communal strength, a place to raise family and a source of inspiration, because we are going to take our lessons and use them to better our community.It will take time, hard work and commitment but those are the gifts one walks away with in this study in WORCESTER.

Why do I say things that may to a listener seem flowery and in the distant future because we had the privilege to first of all have a Coordinator like no other. Elizabeth is precious, she embodies love given to all equally and pure concern. I would have dropped out of the course in the first week due to transport challenges even though bus tickets were available because I was new to Worcester and could not make head and tail of which bus took me where. I remember my first gamble to take a bus to school ended up in a joy ride round the city and nothing was better than the fact that it was a day’s pass or I would have been stuck out there with a child in the cold. But Elizabeth noticed I was missing from class called me and picked me up at 7 to get me to a class that started at 6.

Not only that but I remember the time Elizabeth lost her mother, she went away for the weekend and burial was on Tuesday. I checked on her because she does the same for each one of us and she said “I will be right back for the class nothing in the world would keep me away from Clemente”. If that ladies and gentlemen is not a lesson in commitment then allow me share with you stories that made this experience one like no other.

My classmates, who ceased to be classmates and became family with each passing class. Each one of these wonderful people that I met became a source of inspiration to trudge on to the end.

Alana I remember meeting her and hitting it off with her the first time. Then she started missing class and when I saw her next my question was is all well and she said I am considering giving up the classes because beside it all my son has to go through surgery and when he is down I cannot make it. That resonated with me because my son too had surgeries during the course of study but for both of us Clemente was hope in the midst of turmoil so I shared my son’s challenges and we resolved to keep pushing each other no matter what came our way.

James, poor James I teased him mercilessly throughout the course but it was all in good faith as he is taking care of his wife who is terminally ill with cancer and there were times he would have to be absent to be by her bed side but he never withered in his commitment to studying or his wife.

Faith, she was battling for her life, working and in the midst of all this her child was very sick across the Atlantic and like all mothers she had to rush over and care for her child and yet she never gave up on the course.

Yvette, one of my great pillars of inspiration, with her Liver, almost non- functional, her immunity totally down she still found ways to bring her beauty into class, cooking snacks for all who would share, calling to inquire about Izzy and whether I keeping up with my assignments when she is the one facing a bleak situation.

Lucy, who cares for anyone who would allow her to. I remember her always looking out for Suzan without thinking about whether her help was required or not, as soon as she got wind that baby Amina was born she wanted to go visit mother and daughter but also to relive the new mother so she could rest. She taught me to appreciate philosophy in a way that I never would have had it not been for her.

My journey to the finish line today would not have been possible without them and all the others even though not mentioned, their presence was enough to pull me through the challenges I too faced during the Clemente course.

At the time I learned about Clemente from Kate McGrath one person so dear to me, my husband had disappeared in February and we had no clue to where or for what reason. We only found out months later that he was kidnapped and being tortured. It was tough. By the time we heard he was released, thank God for one man who took pity of him and decided to help it was November and he had suffered a lot.

But then in February of this year, I answered a knock at my door one Thursday morning that has forever changed my life. It was tough still is but like I said there are precious men and women right here who have to deal with glaring circumstances that may not be readily visible but they hang in there and face each day with the bravery that gave me the strength to pick myself up even when I would have thrown in the towel.

The teaching Staff shared selflessly and tirelessly taking us on the best world tour through the course of teaching the Humanities thereby making this learning experience so remarkable that we too have no better thought than to tell as many people we are able to meet to come experience a life changing course of study.

The child care team from Worcester State University, thank you so much. Without your presence I would not have been able to attend the course because I would not have had anywhere to leave Izy while I go to school and they never once hesitated to keep him even when he was so frail and sick and they know how much they mean to us because I made it a point to always communicate my gratitude to them.

For those reasons ladies and gentlemen, with folk who are not daunted by life’s situations I have the strong belief that if given the opportunities, the teams past, present and future that come through this course in WORCESTER will turn this city into an admiration model for others.

I will close by trying to put in words my gratitude and that of the 2015/2016 Clemente family to all who made this possible for us.

We are indebted to you, to Mary O’Connor, thank you for blessing me even though we have never met. These are the reasons this has been one memorable experience, one that held hope for each of us irrespective of what we have to go through. Borrowing from and editing the words of John F Kennedy I wasn’t to say “I can imagine no more rewarding a course of study. And any man who may be asked in this Century what he did to make his life worthwhile, I think can respond with a good deal of pride and satisfaction: “I studied the Clemente Course in Humanities.”

Thank you once more. God bless you all.