Voices of Simmons

Professor of Practice Randi Lite: Make Every Day Count

During the undergraduate Commencement ceremony, Professor of Practice, Biology, and Director of Exercise Science Randi Lite addressed the Class of 2020. Read her full speech below.

Members of the Board of Trustees, President Drinan, Provost Conboy, students in the Class of 2020, faculty and staff colleagues, family and friends.

I am honored to be speaking to you, but I have to admit, sharing words that are going to resonate and frame meaning for you on this day feels to me like a daunting task. We are all in our respective spaces instead of together under the tent at the Boston Seaport (though truth be told, it IS raining outside).

Our graduates have not been able to move through the normal rituals that seniors experience in their last weeks of the semester; senior week activities, reminiscing and hanging out with dear friends, preparing for the arrival of beloved family members who will meet their friends, visit dorm rooms and apartments and stroll through our jewel of a campus. Instead, we have been online, in Zoom classrooms, on social media, Facetime chats with friends to bridge the physical distancing that has been necessary during this pandemic.

Today is the 36th day of the counting of the Omer. In Judaism, we count the 49 days between the second day of Passover and the holiday, Shavuot, that celebrates the giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai. Jews are not the only people that count – our Muslim brothers and sisters are in the middle of the 30-days of Ramadan, building to the celebration Eid al Fitr (fitt’r). Our fellow Christians recently observed 40 days of Lent leading up to Easter.

It strikes me that we have all been doing a lot of counting and calculating these days. Our seniors have been counting down the days until this day of their graduation since before this semester even began. We have been counting rolls of toilet paper, sheets of Lysol wipes, packets of yeast, cups of flour left, and steps on our Fitbits, and, of course, COVID cases and deaths.

Without counting, time exists on a never-ending continuum. Humans count to confer meaning, to differentiate one day from the next. 

So on this graduation day, I am going to encourage us to keep counting in two additional ways:

  1. Count your blessings: COVID has given us a sober reminder that life is uncertain and unpredictable with no guarantees. Cultivating an “attitude of gratitude” actually produces feelings of positivity and can change the neurological patterning of our brain. Dr. Robert Emmons, American Psychologist and leader in the positive psychology movement writes, “gratitude is the acknowledgment of goodness in one’s life. In a state of gratitude, we say, 'Yes to Life.'” Gratitude is not only an end unto itself. The resulting shift, to a positive brain state, can invoke a broadening in perspective, greater vitality and resilience. That shift enables positive action. So here is my second prescription for counting:
  2. Make every day count: Graduates, you have the tools, the energy, and the heart to move our world forward. I have seen you in class, in the library and in Common Grounds, grappling with and mastering concepts, discussing and debating, producing papers, research and inciteful reflections. You are graduating today with knowledge and perspective and strengths that you can, and will, leverage to make meaning for yourself. This pandemic will not last. We will regain our lives. Even at this time, and especially at this time, your actions during each day can make a difference.

In closing, small or large, it is the collective sum of our daily actions, strung together over time, that define us, and can lead us to greater community and profound social change. Make every day count!

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