2011 Commencement Speech – The Urban College of Boston

When I was 8 years old, I wrote my first play. It was called “Rich Uncle.” It was seven acts long, three pages. The plot basically involved a lot of people sitting around drinking martinis trying to figure out how to get their hands on their rich uncle’s loot. That’s what they kept calling it – loot.

I didn’t know then that I was a writer. See, in my mind, I was going to be either a fireman or a rock & roll singer. But to be a fireman, you need unqualified bravery and I’m terrified of heights and to be a rock & roll singer, you need long, thick hair and I’m…

But I was a writer then. And I am a writer now.

When I was 12 years old, I spoke in front of my junior high school. The subject was he Innocence of President Nixon. It didn’t go well…but I did it. And at the end, many of them applauded. Even though they disagreed with me. They still applauded.

I didn’t know then that I was a speaker. See, in my mind, I was telling a group of people what I thought. It never dawned on me that such a capacity might be special.

But I was a speaker then. And I am a speaker now.

I don’t think I realized until I started teaching at The Urban College of Boston that I am not just a writer and a speaker, but a communicator. And even then, I don’t think I knew quite what that meant. Because it took you – your questions, your gazes, your boredom, your frustrations, your fears – it took you to teach me what it was that I had to offer.

And when you did that, that was the day I became a teacher. Because that day I realized – not only how important and powerful is the art of communication – but also that it does not come naturally to everybody, that it does take work, preparation, practice, and that learning how to effectively communicate in the spoken and written forms does make a difference in the quality of your life.

I can not emphasize enough to each of you how important it is for you to be able to communicate effectively, no matter what your discipline, no matter what your job or career. For, you see, the great thing about being able to write and speak is that those skills are valued and valuable no matter the industry. If you are in child care now and you continue in child care, writing and speaking can help you obtain opportunities in policy development or grant writing or establishing your own center, things you can not do without communication. And if you want to change careers, the abilities to speak and write will open doors for you the way nothing else can.

At least some of you started at The Urban College because your job told you you had to. And while some of you may think of your experience here solely as a means of keeping that job, I know many of you have had your eyes opened to the opportunities that education can provide.

And your ability to take advantage of those opportunities, to make the most of what stands before you, is directly related to your capacity with communicating your ideas, your strengths, your values, your opinions, and your concerns through both the written and spoken word.

By establishing yourself as someone who can speak and write, you needn’t be stuck in a job that you don’t want or that doesn’t want you simply for the paycheck. Because the most important thing your ability to effectively communicate will provide for you is the power of choice. And that power is the greatest single gift any education can bestow.

So, in conclusion, be happy, be proud of yourselves, celebrate with your families and friends…you’ve earned it. But when the party is over and you are once again alone with your thoughts and you stumble on to the question of what’s next, remember that continuing to study and practice and employ and refine your communication skills will provide for you that power of choice. And that, whether you are aware of it or not, is what we are all striving for and is, in one way or another, what brought each of you to the Urban College of Boston in the first place. You taught that to me. I congratulate you, and I thank you.

Current Project

Moneytubes – my first film, a short absurd-comedy written and directed by Nick Carlisle.

Join Mailing List

Keep up to date on upcoming events
and announcements.

Recent Videos

Connect With Ken