Questioning Beliefs

Chelsey Fowler speaks at the 2016 Humanity in Perspective commencement. Photo by Tim LaBarge.
Humanity in Perspective (HIP) graduate Chelsey Fowler was chosen by her classmates as graduation speaker for the 2016 Humanity in Perspective commencement last month. In the following edited excerpt, she talks about some of the obstacles and lessons of the past year.

When I was accepted into this course, it felt good throwing around college names like Marylhurst and Bard. But with those names, the reality soon followed. We started our course with our first paper, an assignment to describe how we see something. I recall my classmates' titles such as “How to Look at Sunflowers” and “How to Look at a Garden.” My title shifted in the last few hours before the paper was due to “How to Look Panicked in FedEx Kinko's.”

But we overcame more than technological challenges. For most of us it had been years, decades, or maybe even the first time entering into a college setting. We had to push through many challenges, including language barriers, reading fine print, and fighting seemingly inherent chronic procrastination. For me it was looking at what I had labeled as apathy. Over the course of HIP, I learned that what I thought was a lack of caring turned out to be more of a sense of being overwhelmed. It was not that I didn't care for the world around me, but that I was unsure how to affect it or that I was even able to. So we pushed through challenges despite quitting school in the sixth grade, jail time, English as a second language, brain surgeries, or simply a lack of confidence.

While in HIP, I was encouraged to question. Question what you think you know! I was able to question and redefine what I'm capable of, in the same way this course questioned and redefined who a student is. We became a model for what is possible. We can come together as people—we proved it every Monday and Thursday, for eight months. So we were encouraged to question. Question the effect you have on others. Question the effect you can have in your community. Question the effect you have on society.

In our final reading assignment we read James Baldwin's “In Search of a Majority.” Baldwin states, "I want to suggest this: that the majority for which everyone is seeking, which must reassess and release us from our past and deal with the present and create standards worthy of what a man may be—this majority is you. No one else can do it. The world is before you and you need not take it or leave it as it was when you came in."

My take away is this: Lean into what got you here. Lean into what kept you here. Curiosity. Possibility. Hope. Lean in and let it help create change.


2 comments have been posted.

I am so moved by this story. It is powerful and ignites hope in the human spirit.

Lynda Williams | May 2016 |

Knowing Miss Fowler,as I do,her classmates couldn't have chosen a finer speaker to represent them to speak at their commencement. I am sure a year ago that this situation was the farthest occurrence from her often brilliant mind. Her ability to express herself with humor and lack of artifice has always been impressive.

Seantos McDonald | May 2016 |

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