I had the pleasure to attend The Ohio State University’s Commencement this past Sunday as a proud parent of an undergraduate senior. I had no idea I would find a topic to share today and start taking notes during the keynote address while listening to, Dr. Sue Desmond-Hellmann, CEO of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
Dr. Desmond-Hellmann shared her story; growing up, education, and research. She had bumps, valleys and success. Her message to the graduates was based on her own journey. Shifting her thinking from all about me to thinking all about us; brought depth and purpose to her work. She urged the audience to ask, What can I do for our world? This will shift our thinking from me to thinking about us. She urged us to question ourselves and cautioned us that good intentions are not enough. Good intentions are still about me. She wants us to ask; What was the impact? What improved?
She urged the graduates to shift their thinking as soon as possible from me to us! I began thinking about my second graders. Why do we need to wait to start thinking broader? Can we shift our thinking at seven and eight years old to be bigger than me? I started brainstorming questions and ideas –
- What can we do for a younger grade?
- What can we do for a special group of students?
- What can we do for families staying at our local childrens hospital?
- What can we do to impact our world?
- What can we do to make a difference in our own building or classroom?
- Read biographies about those not so famous.
- Find stories about kids making a difference.
- Discuss and identify feelings we have.
- Do things locally now to make a difference and make it concrete.
- Encourage and foster inquiry.
- Foster a relationship with an organization that needs help.
- Do community service more than once with an organization.
- Field trips are so limited – bring speakers from the organization to us.
- Share photos with the organization or video for visuals.
- Spark and provide creative moments to be a maker.
When Dr. Desmond-Hellmann said, “we under estimate ourselves” I instantly thought about our elementary age students. I think they get under estimated. They are powerful and filled with potential. Listening to her speak on Sunday made me think about fostering a community and how that is really taking the thinking all about me and making it all about us. However, can we take that all about us and make a difference? Can we go outside our four walls and have an impact on others?
I’d love to know what others are doing to take help their communities to make a difference and impact others. Please share ideas in our comments.