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Soar, Eagles, Soar! A Message for All Graduates

// May 27, 2020

Lauren Casteel’s Commencement Speech – Colorado Mountain College Vail Valley

This month, our president and CEO, Lauren Y. Casteel, delivered the virtual commencement speech for Colorado Mountain College Vail Valley-Edwards. Read an excerpt from her speech below or watch the entire speech.

I stand here tonight because a Colorado village of love – an inclusive family of new friends, mentors, and colleagues – extended support, opportunity, and unconditional belief until I believed in myself and found my footing.

Yes, I have experienced many things in my 66 years. My own mountains and valleys. And, on top of my own experiences, my mother’s memories of the Great Depression lived with me. I was amused by her excess of canned soup, dried beans, soap and toilet paper. That was THEN, I’d say.

And, this is NOW. There are similarities to the past and profound differences in the pain and impact. Plus, today, we are besieged with technology. Some of it is profoundly useful for saving lives and keeping us connected. Often it is a cacophony of noise.

I urge you to tune out the noise in your mind and tune in your hearts. You each hold a piece of the truth. At Colorado Mountain College, you found a village of love that supported you until you found your own footing. Thank them and your community for their love and support. Cry and cheer because you reached this summit by keeping your feet forward. Remember to breathe – inside your masks. I will do the same for you.

I have no illusions that your experiences at CMC were carefree. Certainly, not these last couple of months. However, the opportunity is invaluable, and you are all here today because you persevered. The world into which you are graduating is unfamiliar – but not impossible.

Take what you’ve learned at CMC and create new music based on the best of what you’ve seen in recent months. The opportunity for us to transform as an American culture is undeniable. The acts of kindness and connections you’ve made anew or reestablished are real. The self-reflection of isolation and making it through are real. Commit yourselves not to the fear of the uncertainty or the unprecedented, but rather to the love, patience, and community of mutuality that is the heart of this nation’s promise. The needs are great, and we need you. Work will require new innovation. You are a new generation in whom I have great faith that you will translate what your children will consider THEN into a better NOW and a better YET TO COME that I can’t even imagine.

What else can you do now to build lift for yourselves, and our community?

One, fill out the U.S. Census and help someone else do the same.  Population counts determine state access to programs that support basic needs such as nutrition, education, housing, and healthcare. We need you counted in Colorado.

Two, VOTE. Vote for yourself, your future, and those who can’t. 2020 is the year when we recognize the 100th Anniversary of the 19th Amendment, removing gender discrimination from voting across the nation. (Colorado was actually the first).  However, the 19th Amendment did not remove racially discriminatory practices of poll taxes and literacy tests that excluded black voters. Nor did it compensate for the fact that Native American’s and Asian immigrants were excluded from citizenship. Do not squander our democracy and the hard-fought right to lift your voice and advance America’s promise in which you believe.

Maya Angelou said:

We go from surviving to thriving with “Passion and compassion; humor and style; generosity and kindness.”

Pablo Neruda reminded us that:

If each day falls

Inside each night,

There exists a well

Where clarity is imprisoned

We need to sit on the rim

Of the well of darkness

And fish for the fallen light

With patience.

YOU each have that light.  Congratulations Colorado Mountain College Vail Valley Campus Class of Spring 2020!!!

Soar Eagles! Soar!





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