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Inspiration: Yo-Yo Ma’s commencement address 1998

I am taking a class taught by Prof. Janice Jackson called Proseminar: School Leadership. She shared with us the commencement address given by Yo-Yo Ma at Williams College on June 7, 1998. Mr. Ma describes his journey to find his voice after his mentor Leon Kirchner said he will need to take a long journey to find it. I find the last part particularly inspiring and I find myself reading it daily.

You remember that Leon Kirchner gave me a decade to find my voice? Well, I’m still looking for it. More than ever, though, I’m convinced that our capacity to love and work defines who we are and informs our voices. Or, to put it another way, our voices are found in how we combine and develop our academic, civic and personal virtues.

You …, with your breadth and compassion, will surely understand that the voices I have in mind are those that include service to our society and planet in ways that may be far removed from fame and fortune. You know there is no formula, although in each of the stages there is a common thread: the work is always toward a goal that is larger than oneself.

This is certainly true in the work that I do, the art form that I practice. The voice I seek draws from life itself. So if I can leave you with one thought, this is it: Think of your voice as your life, and live your life as your art form.

I really take this to heart. What a big man Yo-Yo Ma is… the role model for global citizenship. I hope I can be like him when I grow up.

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