Student Speaker Xavier Jernigan

Duty Calls

Do you know what bothers me? You're reviewing your voicemail, you get to a message and all you hear is the sound of someone hanging up. That means that whoever called you allowed the phone to ring several times, listened to your entire outgoing message, and then when the time arrived to speak up - they hung up. Passing on the opportunity for their voice to be heard. I find that irksome, but maybe that's just me.

From time to time we are all called upon to rise to a particular occasion. We all know when that time has arrived and instinctively react differently to various situations. Some of us have adopted the "Caller ID" mentality, "let me see who's calling and I'll decide if I feel like answering." Some answer the call and the minute you say something they don't want to hear they hang up. Literally cutting off the line of communication at the intersection of divergent points of view. There are some who turn off their ringers making themselves oblivious to the calls of those reaching out. Yet, there are others who hear the phone ring and choose to not answer the call at all.

Over the course of the matriculation of many graduates in this room, the United States and New York City in particular experienced turning points in the history of this country: the biggest attack on American soil, a heavily debated Presidential election, a slump in the economy, numerous corporate scandals, fluctuating terror alerts, and the War in Iraq.

The major movements of the1960's, which spurred unprecedented social change, hinged on students' unrelenting involvement and willingness to challenge the status quo. Those who truly wanted change answered the call. Since then, an apathetic "every man for himself" attitude has infected the general populous. This is where we come inů As we shift from student life to the working world we must remain a reflection of our ideals and introduce what we've been thinking about as students into our professional lives.

Do you feel there are Nursing practices that should be changed? Do you think this country still needs Health Care reform? Is the New York City public school system free from a budgetary crisis? Are media ownership rules favorable to corporate giants? Are the arts provided the necessary sanctions and copyright protection to encourage free artistic expression? If you don't like the way the music industry is run, incite change.

Don't hang up the phone when it's time for your voice to be heard. By voicing your personal messages you will inspire others to do the same and open lines of communication. Pick up the phone when it's someone you may not want to talk to. Engage in that tough conversation. These are the conversations through which we reach shared meaning. Communication is defined as shared meaning and by communicating we develop an understanding of the viewpoints of others and establish the foundation for the future that we all envision.

2004 will be an important year for this country and it is time to rekindle the movement mentality of the'60s, or the mindset that the world is your oyster and the future is what you make it. We are in a unique position to speak for others that may not be in a position to have their voices heard. Answer the call. I don't think you heard me. ANSWER THE CALL. Can you hear me now? Good.