Hannah Hamilton MSEd '24 Delivers Student Address to Graduates from School of Education, School of Business

May 19, 2024
Hannah Rose Hamilton

How would you define a leader?  What does ‘leadership’ exclude from its definition? For most, a leader is a highly competent goal setter, able to quickly adapt to change and efficiently lead others by their noble example. As I see it, the true measure of an individual’s potential to lead is their capacity to care for the whole student, friend, stranger, and person. This sentiment is expressed best in a Latin phrase that our students know well, one that originates from a centuries-old educational tradition and offered to us by the Jesuits, one that echoes through the walls of this very institution: Cura Personalis. In other words, ‘care for the whole person’- supporting every unique individual’s pursuit of intellectualism, social, spiritual and physical well-being.

This is a challenging concept. It takes a special person to commit themselves to such a cause as this. To be a graduate from Canisius University, means to pursue and embody these attributes throughout all walks of life. Graduates from Canisius are living in the pursuit of Magis, -more. More ideas, more skills, more growth- and to do more, to be more, to care more for our fellow beings, all beings, including ourselves. Qualities infused within the walls of this venerable establishment, within the curriculum, within the pedagogy of every classroom and seminar are carried out into the world via its graduates. We live to create positive ripples in our communities.

Why is this such a noble challenge? It is because we are never guaranteed that the passion and empathy we exude will come back to us. As graduates of Canisius it is our joy to pass along our gifts and to know that we are, in fact, creating sustainable and limitless opportunities for the world around us by way of diversity, equity and inclusion. What I believe this translates to is: Love. My challenge for you today is to ‘love more’.

People who embody altruistic qualities of leadership tend to also display loving behaviors. Dr. Robin Wall Kimmerer, Potawatomi, botanist, higher-education director, and author- believes loving behaviors look like the “generous sharing of resources”, or “working together for a common goal”, and at times “encouraging individual growth and development”. She elaborates on certain qualities of leaders- qualities that Canisius graduates are encouraged to embody throughout their academic careers and continue upon graduation. In her book Braiding Sweetgrass, Dr. Kimmerer beautifully remarks on the nature of loving behaviors in society between humans, and between all living things: “If we observed these behaviors between humans, we would say, ‘She loves that person.’ You might also observe these actions between a person and a bit of carefully tended ground and say, ‘She loves that garden.’ Why then [...], would you not make the leap to say that the garden loves her back?”.

Canisius graduates have learned to be open to learning, in all forms. They have become proficient in recognizing and protecting the dignity of every person no matter their struggles or situations, and apply this understanding to all living beings, knowing that all creatures are sacred. I have faith in this sentiment and how it drives us to love. The drive to give and accept love is evident in our actions, our words and our service to ourselves and others.

With Faith comes love, these two concepts I know to be inseparable. Loving people with an open heart and mind, delving deep into that which makes us human is a gift unlike any other. There exists nothing more transformative or transcendent than loving one another. And despite our different paths, each of us in attendance today has hope. We have hope for the future, the hope to be successful, the hope for a better world. To lose this hope would mean the loss of a piece of self and ultimately, a loss of self-love. For us to remain in the path of love and leadership requires the sustainability of our faith and hope.

Finally, it must be said what a graduate from Canisius University is not. They do not walk through the world with an inflated sense of self-importance or ego. Rather, they act as sowers of the seeds of tomorrow, knowing that they may never enjoy the fruit of their labor- but doing so to provide for the world ahead.

Dr. Kimmerer portrays this attitude fittingly with the following excerpt:

“There was a custom in the mid-1800s of planting twin trees to celebrate a marriage and the starting of a home. The reach of their shade links the front porch with the barn across the road, creating a shady path of back and forth for that young family. I realize that those first homesteaders were not the beneficiaries of that shade, at least not as a young couple. They must have meant for their people to stay here. Surely those two were sleeping up on Cemetery Road long before the shade arched across the road. I’m living today in the shady future they imagined, drinking sap from trees planted with their wedding vows. They could not have imagined me, many generations later, and yet I live in the gift of their care.”

A Canisius Graduate, like myself, and like many tens-of-thousands of equally curious, reflective, insightful and ambitious beings- have planted those seeds across the globe, for many generations of humans to live in the loving gift of our care.

I will leave you with a word from Rabindranath Tagore, Indian religious leader, social reformer and poet:
“The one who plants trees, knowing that [they] will never sit in their shade, has at least started to understand the meaning of life.”

When you leave from here today, walk out with more love in your heart than when you sat down. Gift others with the love of your care. Plant seeds knowing that you may never enjoy their sap or their shade- but that you are the sower of a shady future imagined for the next generation of curious minds.