The Celebration of Success: My Black Graduation Speech / by Lauren Rascoe

Yesterday, I had the honor of returning to my alma mater as the keynote speaker for the Black Student Association’s Celebration of Success Pre-Commencement Ceremony. (aka Black Grad). This was completely a breathtaking experience 1) because when I graduated in 2014 — a black grad didn’t exist and 2) this truly was an opportunity to see how God will make room for your gifts for His glory.


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I decided to share my speech with you all because I think there were things shared that are good to remember at any stage of life.

Congratulations Class of 2018! Give yourselves a round of applause! You did that there! Yasss! Congratulations! First and foremost, I’d like to thank the University and the Black Student Association for allowing me to be the keynote speaker tonight as we celebrate your success. I’d also like to thank Jenn Smith, D’ana Downing, President Manuel, and any one else who had a part in bringing this night together. Without you all, this night wouldn’t have been the same. And I’m grateful to be permitted to stand up here in front of all of you sharing my thoughts, ideas, and wisdoms gained in four years post-graduation.

Four years may not seem like a whole lot of time, but as you heard in my bio, I’ve had a lot going on since 2014. I’ve lived a little, worked hard, played harder; experienced life, love and dealt with loss. I’ve failed a few times and I’ve succeeded all in the name of living my best life possible. It definitely hasn’t been easy, but I use my faith in God and His will to provide me hope that I’m being the best me I can be for the betterment of society.

If I had the time to tell you about everything I’ve learned since graduating from Uindy, I would, but we’d be here for days.So I narrowed my life lessons down to 10 things for you to think about as you continue to navigate the next phase of your lives.

1.) You don’t know everything. Life has so much more to offer you and the world has so much more you can discover. Take advantage of it.

2.) The only thing that can hold you back from anything is in between your ears. Your thoughts and your perspective. Keep an open-mind, be hopeful, and think positively. I guarantee it will get you a lot farther.

3.) If your dreams don’t scare you, they really aren’t big enough. Nothing brave is done without a little fear and everything you want is on the opposite side of it.

4.) There is never going to be a right moment, so just take the first step. Whatever that first step is… the next will always follow in due time.

5.) Learn to trust the process. Sometimes you will have to lose control in order to gain control of your joy because life doesn’t happen to you, but for you. Everything happens for a reason.

6.) It’s okay to not know what you’re doing because the truth is… no one does. We’re all just winging it.

7.) It’s okay to change. At any point. At any time. Don’t limit yourself. You’re fluid like water and are allowed to be whatever it is you desire to be in the moment.

8.) Become your biggest cheerleader instead of your biggest critic. Celebrate your dopeness and encourage your own success and creativity.

9.) Team No Sleep is dead after college. Self-care is UTTERLY important. You cannot pour out of an empty vessel. So take time to rest, relax, and enjoy your life.

10.) Invest in yourself and take chances on you. You are your greatest asset and should be your number one priority. Don’t physically, mentally, spiritually, or emotionally overdraft on people or things that do not serve you.

It’s not worth the final cost.I realize I gave you all a lot to digest, but these are just a few things that will help you progress through your lives. You will always be a work in progress because life is not a destination, but a journey. Auntie Oprah Winfrey once said, “Create the highest, grandest vision possible for your life because you become what you believe.” I made it my personal mission to live my life in my own lane and to be intentional about the life I lead. And I want to encourage you all to do the same.

If there is nothing else you remember me say today, remember this. You are the author of your story. From here on out, how the rest of your life happens is up to you. Treat your goals with respect, persistence, and compassion. Nothing and no one can stop you, but you. Let your melanin magic shine because you are the creator of you destiny and the epitome of your ancestors’ wildest dreams.

Thank you!

#BestLifeManifesto — Charge given to the graduating students

#BestLifeManifesto — Charge given to the graduating students

I even was able to leave the graduating class of 2018 with a charge that I wrote and is included in the weekly planner that I designed with my university degree. This charge challenged students to go after their dreams while living their best lives every single day. (Weekly Planner available on my store now.)After the presentation, I had an overwhelming amount of students congratulate me on the speech, how they really enjoy it and how it truly resonated with them. Words can’t even describe how touched I was to know not only was I on target, but they heard my words. I’ve been on the Alumni Board (one of the few people of color) for my University for a year and the opportunity has provided me the opportunity to attend events and programs that allowed me interact with students with ways that I don’t know if I would have done on my own. To know that I’ve been able to leave a mark and foster new relationships with and for students of color at my alma mater (a private PWI) is incredible. Realizing that I was a part of something bigger than me was humbling. These students are the future of what our society is to be. I may not be much older, but knowing that I had the chance to shed a light on them and celebrate their achievements was moving.

Thank you, University of Indianapolis. Thank you, Black Student Association. Thank you, Class of 2018. Continue to live your best life and follow your dreams.