To the members of the University of Notre Dame Class of 2012:
Thank you. It was a privilege to be your commencement speaker; it is now an honor to be your classmate.
I took the honor of being commencement speaker very seriously. One of the first people I contacted after realizing I would be giving the address was former Indiana Governor Joe Kernan. Gov. Kernan gave the commencement address at Notre Dame in 1998. That year, ND’s student body president very publicly voiced her displeasure at his selection as speaker. Who is he? And why is he worthy of this honor?
Well, he was the governor of Indiana, the former Mayor of South Bend; he was a Notre Dame alum, as well as a POW during the Vietnam war. Who is he? He is a man dedicated to service, and a national hero. But nonetheless, some members of the class of 1998 did not feel he was worthy enough to address their class. So I thought he’d be a good person to talk to about my upcoming role as commencement speaker.
Governor Kernan’s advice was this: Just enjoy it. He gave me some logistical advice about writing my speech, but what I mainly took away from our conversation was appreciation, joy and gratitude for the opportunity. It was with this in mind that I set out to write my speech.
I had the good fortune of visiting South Bend in April, and I spent some time walking around campus thinking about what I wanted to say…what is my message? What is my theme? What is the most important thought to convey? Then it hit me: How many graduation speakers actually write their own speech? Not many, I would guess. Because most speakers are what I am not: a big name, a familiar face, a politician or pop culture icon…someone who has a speech writer. With all due respect to President Obama (and for the record, I supported his selection as commencement speaker in 2009), he most likely did not write the speech he gave at graduation.
So this became my theme, my message. Who am I? I am a graduate who writes her own speech, keeping the audience in mind and writing it for you. This was your day; this was your commencement speech.
After that, my task was easy. Writing your commencement speech and delivering it was a privilege. My husband was concerned because he told me graduation speakers need to be funny (I guess he doesn’t find me that funny). But thankfully, some members of your/our class questioned my choice as speaker, which allowed me to add a bit of humor to my speech. (You also laughed at parts that I didn’t intend to be funny. Bonus!)
One last note on the “lack of Wikipedia page” comment: when I shared this with family and friends, the overwhelming response was: that’s easy, I can make you one. And my response to each of them was: No. It is important to listen to your critics, but not give in to them. So you still won’t find a Wikipedia page for Haley Scott DeMaria….Yet. The folks working on my movie claim I will need one soon.
Just one more quick story, that was already told in The Observer. I too had an alumna of Notre Dame as my commencement speaker. Many members of my class of 1995 thought we’d have a “big name” as our speaker, as we were the University’s 150th graduating class. When our speaker was announced, she was noted as the “first female African-American provost at a major research university.” Huh? Who?
Condoleezza Rice. But no one knew her at the time.
No, I am not comparing myself to the former Secretary of State (nor do I have political aspirations). But there have been a few times when I have seen Dr. Rice on campus, and I have often wanted to walk up to her, shake her hand and say, “I was in the class you addressed at commencement.” But I have never felt I could.
I hope you don’t feel that way. I hope when you see me on campus, you will say hello. I was your graduation speaker on Sunday; I am your classmate for life. If I was signing your yearbook, I would write, “Keep in touch.”
God Bless and Go Irish!
Haley Scott DeMaria
ND ‘95 ‘12
Is it Mother’s Day or Mothers’ Day? It should probably be the latter, as today is a day to celebrate ALL mothers and the vocation of motherhood. To limit it to a single mother would not do the holiday justice.
Not only do I celebrate my own (amazing!) mom today, but also my mother-in-law who raised the man I love. I celebrate my children and the gift of being their mother. I celebrate my sister and the bond we share as the mother of two boys; my new sister-in-law as she prepares for first time motherhood; and my other sister-in-law as she navigates the unknown waters as a divorced mother. I am so blessed to have all these amazing mothers in my life, only one of whom I call Mom.
And that is just my family. I have some pretty rock star moms as friends too….the moms who I call when I need help with my “tween” son and the approaching middle school years that terrify me. The mothers who, as teachers, educate my children with great love. The moms whose values mirror my own, and those from whom I learn because we have differing opinions. None of us parent the same, and there is no one “right” way to parent….thankfully! And I am a better mom because of these women.
Oh, and they love my children too. Just as I love theirs. I can’t wait to watch my own children, and my children’s friends, grow up and witness the people they will become.
It has given me a new appreciation for my own mother’s friends, the ones with whom she shared her parenting years. One of them, sadly, is no longer with us. And I still miss her. Another one is still very much a part of our lives, and I wonder if she takes delight in watching my siblings and I “grow up.” My guess is she does, as I know my mom loves her children too.
Motherhood. How do you describe it? There is no one definition, and there shouldn’t be. All mothers and all mothering are to be celebrated.
Happy Mothers’ Day!
My apologies for not having a more recent blog post. I have been writing, but just not here.
19 days from now, I will walk on the field at Notre Dame stadium as the 167th commencement speaker. Instead of posting blogs, I have been writing.
When I first told my husband that I was asked to be the graduation speaker for the Class of 2012, he said, “Uh oh. You’re in trouble. A good graduation speaker needs to be funny.” Ha ha. Yes, my husband is much funnier than I. He’s also more dramatic, more out-going, etc… Opposites attract, and we did. Thankfully I have him to help me out.
When I was on Notre Dame’s campus a few weeks ago, it dawned on me that most graduation speakers probably do not write their own speeches. Of course, most graduation speakers are politicians, actors, heads of state, etc… individuals who give speeches often, and therefore require a speechwriter. I give speeches often, but none like this.
It is a privilege and a really big deal, to be honest with you. I am confident in my message, but want to make sure I convey it in a way that resonates with 21- and 22-year olds. And then it hit me: I am writing this speech just for them; just for the class of 2012 at Notre Dame. This is not just another commencement address; this is their commencement address. I may be writing it myself, and it may be “just I” who is delivering it. But it will be written and delivered specifically for them.
I’ll post it when I can (no sooner than 20 days)…and hopefully I’ll post something else before then. But if I don’t, you’ll know what I am doing.