By Cynthia Downend, Lesley University
Gay Su Pinnell was recognized by Lesley University for her life-long work in the field of literacy education with an Honorary Degree, Doctor of Humane Letters, at this year’s commencement ceremony held May 19th. Dr. Pinnell delivered a highly motivating speech to the graduates that inspired and offered words of advice that are helpful for all to consider no matter where they are in their careers.
Below are some highlights from her speech as featured on the Lesley University website:
“Education is nothing short of the power to change the world.”
“From everything I have learned about Lesley I conclude that people here see education broadly, including intellectual, social and aesthetic learning—what people need to prepare for vocational success, yes, but even more important, to live a quality life from the earliest years on,” Pinnell said. “Lesley faculty and students are also interested in and fully support social justice, something my own father talked about on a day-to-day basis in my home. They study it and they fight for it.”
As Pinnell discussed the power of education, she also revealed the oppression that attends a lack of education.
“There were reasons that it was illegal to teach slaves to read and that even today, the poorest children are the most likely to be taught with a mindless, unthinking curriculum, without being able to read very well,” she said.
“It’s not the mechanical act of decoding words that’s so important, they get taught that really well and it is essential,” Pinnell added. “It’s the way the words are strung together to create language that enters the human being’s mind from the earliest listening to a book to the extensive reading I know all of you engage in. It is power over language. It’s the thinking that emerges from deep comprehension of text after text, of talking with others about ideas, and being inspired. As teachers, that’s what we do.”
Gay urged the audience to hold on to optimism and determination in a world that can sometimes seem divisive. She also encouraged all to not try to be perfect; don’t be afraid to fail; make lofty goals but break them down into small manageable steps; find good work companions with whom you can laugh; know the theory and rationales behind your teaching; and never give up your dreams.
Please feel free to congratulate Gay in the comments section of the blog.