Monday, June 18, 2012

Keynote Speech - Brooklyn GED Access Center

My attitude! My life!

Good morning.  It is an honor to speak before the Downtown Brooklyn GED Access Center community.  Thank you to Principal Pearson, administrative and teaching staff, Good Shephards, family, friends, students and honored graduates.  My name is Kilusan Bautista and the title of my speech is, “My Attitude! My Life!”

A great Chinese philosopher Lao-Tzu once said, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”  The completion of your time and effort at the Downtown Brooklyn GED Access Center is not only a step forward it is a step that represents a great change in your life.  You didn’t have to work hard everyday in order to be here today as a graduate, you choose to because deep inside your heart you knew that your education will take you far! Look around you, the people sitting around you may not have been the people you started with.  Some people didn’t make it.  It may not have been their time.  But you are here and this is your time! Give yourselves a round of applause!

I want to talk with you today about education as a community weapon.  New York City is quickly changing right before our eyes.  If you walk down Schermerhorn St. you can see new buildings, new condominiums rising to the sky......In less than a year the new Brooklyn Nets stadium will be a living and breathing force on Atlantic Ave......And right here in this very building we have you all graduating into the next stage of your lives be it college or career.   I want to ask a question to us as a community, how can we continue to be a part of the change within New York City?  How can we use our education and experiences living in New York City to influence how this great city grows and expands according to the needs or struggles that we believe needs more attention?

Its been 2 years since I have written Universal Self as my unique way to give back to New York City and the world.  Universal Self is a solo theater production that has taken me across America.  Back in January 2012 I was blessed with the opportunity to teach Universal Self as an elective course with the Downtown Brooklyn GED Access Center.  Let me say that it has been an amazing run so far and I hope that we can continue this relationship.

Last Friday we conducted a Universal Self workshop for the entire school.  I was more than impressed with how it turned out because not only did we have fun but I saw transformation take place as individuals volunteered themselves to participate in live poetry, improvisation theater and the art of freestyling or rapping.  We transcended the negativity that exists outside of our school and became a community that supports each other in taking risks.  That is what life is all about.  Living the moment and taking advantage of any opportunity that helps us develop into stronger people!  I am honored to be a part of the Downtown Brooklyn GED Access community!  Shout out to everyone who volunteered during the Universal Self workshop.  If you keep on putting yourself out there, you will see positive results.  If you keep on showing up and putting in the will develop the two most important skills in life: consistency and productivity which equals success!!!!!

Have you ever heard the saying, you can either look at a glass half empty or half full?  To me this saying is all about one’s attitude towards the many situations we encounter in life.  I can walk into a room filled with important people and say to myself:
I’m not smart enough to be here.....
I am not rich enough to socialize with these people.....
I’m talented enough to be here.....
I can go on and on about what I am not BUT what good will that do.  This attitude will eventually make me turn around and leave that room.  I will shoot myself in the foot by looking at the glass half empty.  My attitude plays a huge role in how I live in this world....

Imagine when I see the glass half full and I walk into this same room filled with very important people.  Imagine me saying to myself:
I am suppose to be here!
I am excited to meet people and discover new friends and new opportunities!
No matter happens, I will show the greatness of my mind and the honesty of my heart!  

One thing I love about the legendary boxer and heavy-weight champion of the world Muhammad Ali was that before he left his room in the morning he would repeat to himself hundreds of times, in front of a mirror, “I am the greatest.....I am the greatest.....I am the greatest!”  And what is he remembered as within boxing history?  He is known as one of the greatest boxers of all time!

But let us know the difference between soul and ego:

As we grow and conquer our fears, let us also find our humanity.  The best way we can do that is by developing an understanding of our universal selves.  A Cree Indian proverb wisely states, “When the last tree is cut down, the last river poisoned, the last fish caught, then only will man discover that he cannot eat money!”

What good is an education achieved for selfish reasons?  What good is a million dollars if you have no one who truly loves you to share it with?  What good is this world if we are not taking care of it for future generations to come?

In the Universal Self class, we share personal experiences that are easily relate-able in order to build a classroom of trust and risk taking.  Issues such as:

pain and healing from losing someone
dysfunctional families
the effects of drugs within the community
dreams and nightmares
respecting our elders
Hip Hop, creativity and community building.  

The goal is to realize that the universe exists within ourselves.  In order to reach our souls, we must know and put to rest our Ego’s.  The more we understand ourselves, the less we will give power to judging others, the less time we will spend hating on others....The more we understand ourselves, the more we will see the world as a glass half full and we will create more and more so that the glass will eventually become overflowing.

If you haven’t already noticed I try my best to maintain an extremely optimistic attitude towards the world.  It is important that I do so because there are many struggles that are taking place that can easily turn my attitude upside down.  For example, I just found out that Rodney King had passed away yesterday.  May Rodney King rest in peace.  In 1991, the Rodney King tragedy represents a time within American history where police brutality was out of control, nobody should ever be beaten so badly!  As a result of the acquittal of the LAPD officers who beat down Rodney King led to urban uprisings across the country especially in Los Angeles, CA.  And just yesterday there was a silent march led by Reverend Al Sharpton and other national civil rights leaders such as Ben Jealous of the NAACP and the lead attorney for the Trayvon Martin case in Florida to protest the NYC “Stop & Frisk” policy around racial profiling.  
 How far has America really come since the Rodney King beating in 1992?  

I can either grow extremely angry at this reality that has affected myself personally, my students, friends and innocent people in the community. Instead of growing angry, I channel this energy into this speech.  I channel this energy into being a motivating force for the GED Access Community in seeing education as a community weapon.  An educated people can never be fooled!  An educated people can never be held down because an educated people will find intelligent ways to rise and solve the challenges that are before us.

I want to congratulate all of the graduates here today for choosing to continue your education.  We have a great challenge before us because only time will tell what will happen with the Trayvon Martin case.  But let me be very clear, we must learn from the Rodney King case of 1992.  How do we express our anger and frustrations with the world in a way that is healthy for the well being of the entire nation?  Racism in America affects everybody, Black, Latin, White, Asian....everybody!  When someone is killed we all are affected and therefore we all need to heal so that we do not just accept murder as a natural occurrence!  If we do not heal from violence and if we do not fight for justice we lose a piece of our collective souls.  Humanity is about taking everything seriously because one step forward can lead to a thousand miles of progress that can heal America!

I love graduations because they symbolize a time where we as a community celebrate all of the hard work that has been accomplished and we look to the future with an optimistic attitude, with our universal selves...we look to the future ready to solve the challenges of our generation!   

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