Friday, June 15, 2012

MSW Graduation Speech, 2012

I was asked to give a short speech at the CSULA MSW Pre-Graduation Banquet.  I prayed to God for some inspiration.

One of my students, Claudia Lira, introduced me:
Hello again, as a graduate of the Children, Youth, Women and Families concentration, I had the pleasure of experiencing the sharp mind, the radiant spirit and the delightful laughter of our next speaker.

Although the past two years have tested our patience, our courage, and our beliefs, the many stories she shared (some longer than others, let's be honest) have reminded us that we started this journey with a raw desire and a fiery heart for change.

Thanks to her, we make our way out of Salazar Hall with full hearts and new-found energy to practice with intention, passion, and love.

Without further delay, Professor Alejandra Acuña.
Me & Claudia

I brought my daughter on stage for moral support.  Here is what I said:

You got me, Claudia!  First, I'd like to apologize for not wearing academic regalia tonight but I bought this dress for this formidable occasion and I hope you like it.  Okay, I'm going to stick to the script because as you've just heard my stories can go long...
Good evening, my dearest, dearest MSW graduates 2012, family members, friends and faculty. I have been asked to say a few words on behalf of the Children, Youth, Women and Families Concentration. I don’t trust myself with my own words (due to time limits and my penchant for colorful language) so I will borrow the words of Father Greg Boyle who reminds us of “…our common call to delight in one another.”

In his book, Tattoos on the Heart, Father Boyle includes a poem called,

With That Moon Language 

Admit something:
Everyone you see, you say to them, “Love me.”
Of course you do not do this out loud;
Someone would call the cops.
Still though, think about this,
This great pull in us to connect.
Why not become the one
Who lives with a full moon in each eye
That is always saying
With that sweet moon
What every other eye in this world is dying to Hear.

Anthony De Mello writes, “Behold the One beholding you, and smiling.”

Graduates, I’m going to ask you to close your eyes for a few seconds and imagine me saying this only to you while looking deep into your big, beautiful eyeballs:  
 “Behold the One beholding you, and smiling.” 

And so this voice breaks through the clouds and comes straight at us.
 “You are my Beloved, in whom I am wonderfully pleased.” 

Hear the words of the Universe saying to you…
“You, dear MSW graduate, are my Beloved, in whom I am wonderfully pleased.” 

Your family and friends here to celebrate with you today, they don’t just love you – it’s their joy to love you. 

Family and friends, here to celebrate your beloved graduates, I want to ask you to turn to them now – take their hand, look them in the eyes and repeat after me:
It is my joy to love you. 

One more time: It is my joy to love you.

Graduates, I hope that you feel yourself beloved.

Author and psychiatrist James Gilligan writes that the self cannot survive without love, and the self, starved of love, dies. The absence of self-love is shame, “just as cold is the absence of warmth.”

Mother Teresa told a roomful of people with leprosy once how loved by God they were and a “gift to the rest of us.” Interrupting her, an old man raises his hand, and she calls on him. “Could you repeat that again? It did me good. So, would you mind…just saying it again.”

Family and friends, please turn to your graduate again, take their hand and look deeply into their big, beautiful eyeballs and repeat after me:
You are loved and you are a gift to the rest of us.

And because it bears repeating, let's say that one more time:
You are loved and you are a gift to the rest of us.

There is no force in the world better able to alter anything from its course than love.

What the American poet William Carlos Williams said of poetry could well be applied to the living of our lives:
“If it ain’t a pleasure, it ain’t a poem.”

Father Boyle writes:  My director of novices, Leo Rock, used to say, “God created us – because he thought we’d enjoy it.”

And that’s why I ask, “Who says Social Work can’t be fun?” 

Enjoy, my dearest, dearest MSW graduates and colleagues.

You are effing amazing, I love you and it has been my joy to love you!!

Almost every word came from the book, Tattoos on the Heart by Father Greg Boyle and of course the source of all things, God.

I have been harping for years about family engagement in children's mental health treatment.  No matter how old we are, our families (of our own choosing) matter to us.  In five minutes at a graduation for nearly 100 MSW candidates and their families - I managed to engage the graduates AND their families.  It is Fucking Possible, Dammit! When I hear people whine, "It's impossible to engage families at the secondary level" - I want to say, "Fuck that $hit!" with not one but two middle fingers pumping in the air.

Claudia emailed me the next day and wrote:
I'm ordering 'Tattoos on the Heart' TODAY! <3 My Dad said how beautiful that moment was. Thank you for facilitating such beautiful, loving, and healing spaces. 

Me, Hannah & her Awesome Dad
Me & the Incomparable Claudia
Me & Katrina's Beautiful Family
Me & mi chola, Yesenia - don't mess with me because she has my back (from day one and minute one)
Me & Hannah - I want Paolina to grow up to be just like you
Me & Melanie - In class one day, she asked me what my diagnosis was.  I am a Chingona who swears and cries and loves with all my heart.


  1. claudia and the rest of us MSWs 2012Saturday, June 16, 2012

    It a joy to love YOU!

    1. Love fest, forever!!! Miss you all already :(


Notes on the Trauma and Resilience of the Mind, Body, & Spirit

First up in my summer reading is "The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, mind and body in the healing of trauma" by Bessel Van Der Kolk....