(An excerpt) Inspired by the story of Esther in the Old Testament
My Commencement speech at Lee Arrendale State Prison for women. 17 women will receive certificates in Theological Studies.
…Thank you graduates for rising to the occasion. Thank you for being courageous and taking the risk. Thank you for standing here as a powerful witness and testimony to each of us that it is worthwhile:
- to show up;
- to let our light shine;
- to not be stifled by setbacks or paralyzed by fear,
- to discover within ourselves gifts and talents and wisdoms we never even knew we had,
- To look up to the hills from whence cometh our help
- To stand up confident and self-assured, for such a time as this.
I’d like to end by sharing with you that Esther’s Jewish name is Hadassah and it means “myrtle tree”. The myrtle tree is an unassuming shrub with these glossy green leaves with brilliant white blossoms with a purple trim. It is not only a symbol of beauty in the Greek tradition, but its leaves have also been used to honor the bravery in soldiers. But the most fascinating thing to me about this tree is that the leaves exude a sweet perfume, sweeter than the scent of roses, only when they are crushed. Haddassah. Her name reminds us that even though we may find ourselves in crushing situations at times, we do not wither and die, but have the capacity to emerge beautiful, resilient and exquisite. I would like to believe that after Esther’s bold, brave and courageous move, she strutted around the palace shouting out her true name: My name is Hadassah! I showed up, I looked up and I stood up! My name is Hadassah!
Ladies, what is your true name? What will you say your name is as you walk out of this place with that certificate in your hand?
How about “My name is powerful; confident; strong; my name is faithful, generous, wise; my name is beautiful, sassy, worthy; My name is grace, joyful, kind; my name is love, peace, freedom; my name is forgiven, delivered, healed, whole;We are highly favored, and we have a name that is worth far more than rubies and diamonds; our name is BLESSED. Yesterday, today and tomorrow. Blessed. Congratulations!