Raley Martin described studying at Eastern Kentucky University as a “privilege” in her commencement address to the College of Letters, Arts and Social Sciences on May 12. She chose that word for a reason.
The Lebanon, Kentucky native believes that many students allow stress to steer them into thinking of their education as an “obligation rather than an opportunity.”
“We often forget how extremely fortunate we are to have access to an education, to have choice and diversity in what we study, and to apply our knowledge to both our personal and professional goals and aspirations,” she said.
According to Phineas Rueckert of Global Citizen, many cultures still deny women and individuals with disabilities access to education in 2018. Still other cultures force education only as a tool to reinforce totalitarian propaganda. “Painful as these facts may be,” Martin said, “they are a humbling reminder to those of us so fortunate to not face these hindrances that our education is a privilege.” She encouraged her fellow graduates to consider their education “a transformation rather than a duty.”
Martin’s expression of gratitude crescendoed into a rallying cry to change the harsh realities she described. “The more that scholars like us learn to embrace the importance and impact of education, the more inspired and capable we become to ensure that education is delivered to those deprived and oppressed communities.”
After earning her bachelor’s degree in communication studies, Martin hopes to do just that. Her dream is to find a career where she can use her skills to advocate for disadvantaged and marginalized groups and individuals. The education she earned at EKU has given her and her classmates the “tools and momentum” to accomplish that dream, she said.
“What makes the students in the College of Letters, Arts and Social Sciences so special is that each one of our programs is dedicated to studying and improving the lives of people,” she said. “Though we may all have that in common, we all came here with very different visions. This is a beautiful thing. Our education has provided us with countless possibilities to make a difference in others’ lives as well as improve ourselves.”
For a demonstration of the transformative power of education, Martin had to look no further than the faces in the crowd. “I see a congregation of intellectuals who are walking out of these doors today as leaders,” she declared. “From pupil to professional, from student to master, from spectator to champion.”
— by Madison Harris, Student Writer, EKU Communications & Brand Management