This post is adapted from Kate Ebner’s graduation address to ITL program graduates.
In her beautiful poem, “The Summer Day,” Mary Oliver asks, “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” Tell me, what is it that you plan to do next?
This week, we celebrate our graduates in the Institute for Transformational Leadership (ITL). At ITL, our mission is to develop and sustain worldwide communities of transformational leaders, facilitators, consultants and coaches who are dedicated to awakening and supporting the leadership required for a more sustainable, harmonious and compassionate future. Our mission is ever green. This week, America has watched families seeking asylum being separated at our border, children, including infants, taken from parents and placed in detention centers. We look around us and see daily evidence that our planet is suffering due to climate change caused by human activity, that there is great unrest around the world as countries struggle to determine the balance between compassionate policies and protecting their economies and ways of life. We see great work that needs to be done in order to for us to learn how to communicate, relate and respect one another, respecting the full range of human experience in a way that includes people of every race, gender and sexuality. We see that our generation of leaders is grappling with 21st century complexity – from new ways of working enabled by technology to changing expectations about the very nature of work in the global workplace. Leadership today looks and must be different than ever before. Our context calls for us to recognize and step up in a new era.
And so, our mission to engage in the work of awakening and supporting the leadership needed for a more sustainable, harmonious and compassionate future is right here, right now for us to do. And, through our programs and learning events at ITL, we are doing it.
Sometimes, when I talk like this, people say, “But, Kate, it is not all bad.” And that is absolutely true. In fact, life – our lives – always present the dynamic polarities that give us hope and help us to envision a future that we want and can believe in even as we grapple with inevitable challenges. Here at ITL, our work is an investment in a positive future, a buddy jump if you will to create that positive future. That harmonious, compassionate and sustainable future. We see evidence every day of the goodness of humanity, our willingness to be stewards of the future.
This brings me back to you. You have taken time and put in much effort to complete your certificates. Congratulations!! Leadership Coaching. Transformational Leadership. Facilitation. Strategic Diversity and Inclusion Management. Organization Consulting and Change Leadership. Health and Wellness Coaching. You are the vanguard of the future. Through your experiences here, you have created the kind of communities within your cohorts that model the transformational values that we teach in our classrooms. You have learned to “set yourself aside” in order to open up to the possibilities of life, of work and of what you can do in this world. We celebrate your achievement joyfully!
Choosing to go back to school, to learn more at this stage of your life is a courageous act. We know that you have made sacrifices to achieve this certification, that you have put in many hours and that, most likely, along the way, you’ve asked yourself, “Is this right for me?” Despite those moments and challenges, you stuck with it. You practiced. You shared. You probably journaled! You worked on it. Congratulations on your outstanding achievement. In making this choice, you have opened a door and walked across the threshold into new experiences that can change your life and open up the field of possibilities for you. Now, it is up to you to decide how you will travel forward, how you will continue to embrace the discomfort and excitement of working at your learning edge, your own frontier. This frontier is the place where leaders live. As edgy as it is, it is familiar territory to you.
I’d like to close by reading Mary Oliver’s poem, The Summer Day, in its entirety to you. Before I do that, I want you to know how proud and excited we are to welcome you into our community of compassionate leaders. You are part of a proud tradition and now belong to a community of ~2000 graduates of ITL’s programs. Together, we are awakening the world to be stewards of the future.
Here is The Summer Day:
By Mary Oliver
Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean-
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down-
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?
Please, stay connected with us. Thank you and congratulations!