In the Zone

Take Care of Yourself So You Can Take Care of Others

Silberman School of Social Work at Hunter College Commencement Address, June 2016 (Excerpts)

You bring all that you have learned, your vibrant energy and your powerful determination to the field. Your fresh perspective and bold new ideas will refresh us all. I know that if you turn on the news these days it sometimes looks like America is losing its way, but for me, each of you is another reason for hope.

Let me conclude by adding a bit more to all you have learned here at Hunter, something I have learned from many years in the field – and as a woman, a woman of color, a mother of three and a wife of 24 years.

First and foremost, you must remember to take care of yourself in the years ahead.  You cannot be a healer if you are not being healed. You cannot be a healer if you are run down, and you cannot help to fill up someone else’s cup if your cup is empty.

No matter how well-intentioned you are, you will hit the wall like even the strongest marathon runner. Social work can be frustrating and emotionally draining. Therefore you need to replenish before you hit the wall.

Lean on each other, use the strength and love of those around you to sustain you.  I promise you it works. I promise you it is as important as anything you have learned in graduate school, and I promise you that you will want to push it to the side, which is a losing strategy.

And speaking of those around you: Are there any parents and family members of our graduates here today?

Graduates, these are your secret energy source. Don’t be too proud to tap into their love for you as a source of strength.  They, like me, are so proud of you today.

Find other things you can do for yourself to maintain your inner strength.  For me it is yoga, running, being with my kids and relying on the comfort that my faith gives me.

Allow me to end with the words of the ancient Greek scientist Archimedes, who once said, “Give me a place to stand and a lever long enough and I can move the world.”

Today, Class of 2016, you have arrived at that firm place to stand. Now you can leverage all that you have learned. Go out and move the world.