Guest Column: To graduates: Each of you must discover your gift

By Ronda Joe
Miss Navajo Nation

Yá’át’ééh, Kin Yaa’áániin nish?’, (Towering House) Tó’aheedl’inii (Water Flow Together Clan) básh’shch’’n, Bit’ahnii (Within His Cover) dashcheii dóó Táchiinii (Red Streak Running Into the Water Clan) dashinál’.

Ronda Joe é’ yinishyé. Sh’ é’ naakid’m’’l yaazh’ dóó b’’aa’hast??’áah dóó tsosts’idts’áadah Naabeehó Bich’eek?? nish?’. Tsé Nitsaa Deez’ah’ binaashii Tsé A?hi? Halne’é dóó Tsé Biná’ookaah’ hoolyé é’ bita’gi shimá, shimásán’ dóó shicheii ’nda shiyáázh dóó shimáyázh’ dóó sizeed’ké dóó bi? háájéé’ bi? kééhasht’??.

Each and every one of you graduating this year possesses something special — a gift that is uniquely yours. Each one of you carries something within that only you can share with others and offer to the world. And each one of you has a responsibility to yourself and to the world to discover what that gift is.

That’s the opportunity an education can offer you. You’ll need all the knowledge and problem-solving skills you have learned, and will continue to learn, once you leave your commencement ceremony. Some of you will attend college, others will work, still others will do both.

Most importantly, in addition to formal education, all of you will needÊa strong and enduring knowledge of Navajo language and culture, which together give us our identity and an understanding of where we come from. You will use this knowledge to build your own future.

Where you are right now does not need to determine where you’ll end up. No one has written your destiny for you. As a Navajo graduate, you will write your own destiny by making meaning and creating connections using your Navajo language and culture.
Whatever you are determined to do, whatever energizes and inspires you, whatever excites and empowers you, I call on you to commit to it. I call on you to throw yourself into your future with motivation that is mental, spiritual, and emotional, motivation strong enough to endure as you learn to excel in your endeavors.

No one, not any of us, is born already good at things. We become experts through hard work. And even when you are struggling, even when you’re discouraged and feel like other people have given up on you — use your motivation and determination to continue to believe in yourself.

It is during the times when we feel most alone that the strength of our convictions means the most. It is at those times when we learn what we are made of, when our character is strengthened.

So as graduates I ask you: What is your gift, and what is your contribution going to be? What problems are you going to solve? What discoveries will you make?

Your families and your teachers have done everything they can to make sure you have the education you need to answer these questions. We have the highest expectations for you, especially now, when the world around us is in so much need of your good work. We expect great things from each of you. We have confidence that you will make us all proud. We know you can do it.
Congratulations Class of 2017! You did it!

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Categories: Guest Essay