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Saturday, June 16, 2007
Memorial Auditorium

First and foremost, I want to thank Spirit for giving me this message to share with you tonight. Secondly, I would like to thank the Black Graduation committee for giving me the opportunity to address you. It is an honor to be before my community. The title of my speech is “The Spirit of Potluck”.

Life is a three-course meal. We must always remember to feed the mind, body, and soul. The developmental stages of life often lead us to only focus on one source of nourishment at a time. As children we only worried about physical nourishment, as students we tend to focus on mental nourishment, and as we age our focus shifts to the Spirit. As graduates, we are all entering a vulnerable stage of life where physical nourishment is assumed, learning typically slows down, and spirituality tends to declines. I am here today to remind you that at each stage of our lives, we need a balance of all three.

The first course of tonight’s meal are the physical foods; they include fruits, vegetables, grains, and meats. I’m sure that this weekend has been a time of feasting and celebration with family and friends for all of us. Whether your plate consisted of traditional Southern cuisine; Jerk Chicken, Rice, Beans, and plantains; ogbono soup with yams, or tibs and injera, all of the traditions of the African Diaspora revolve around food. Soul food, as we call it in the African American community, isn’t something that you buy; soul food is something that we co-create together as we take foods in their rawest form and put love and energy into them to make a meal. Like our ancestors, we must seek to restore an intimate relationship with Mother Nature and the land that abundantly gives us these gifts, for no matter how many college graduates sit before us today, a community can never be totally free when it lacks the basic knowledge of how to feed itself.

Our second course consists of our mental food; it comes in the form of wisdom and knowledge, the byproducts of elders, experience, and education. For the past few years, our minds have been ignited by this stove called higher education. In the same way that food is prepared, school has served as one way of mentally preparing us for service to the world. Similar to how the degree of temperature affects the state of food during preparation, our degrees have the power to affect how the world receives us. We must each ask ourselves, when my life is fully digested by my children and community and all that remains of me is dirt, what lessons do I want them to harvest from the seeds of truth that I planted and cultivated with my life? Culture is the remnant of the lessons learned by all those who came before us; it is an iterative process that shapes us while we simultaneously shape it. Thus, if life has taught you something valuable, let the way you live your life serve as an example of how deeply you believe what you claim to believe. Integrating truth into our daily lives is the best way to transmit wisdom from generation to generation.

Spirituality is not only the third course of tonight’s meal, but it is the main course. Our spiritual food comes in the form of prayer, ritual, song, and worship. It is no secret that African people are among the most spiritually-rooted people in the world. Our community is multi-faith; we play significant roles in the Christian, Muslim, Rastafarian, and Religious Scientist communities. Regardless of what you believe, I pose this challenge to you. Ask yourselves, if I achieve all of my financial goals in life, what will I seek next? Whatever “that thing” is, be it God, purpose, knowledge of self, love, etcetera, I encourage you to seek “that thing” first. Centuries ago, a great spiritual teacher encouraged us by saying “seek ye first the kingdom of God and its righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you as well” (Matt 6:33). My time here at Stanford has shown me that my Spirit is healthiest when I am in relentless pursuit of my god-given purpose.

The theme of this year’s Black graduation is unity without uniformity. Here at Stanford, we are in a melting pot of people, cultures, and ideas. In melting pots, the ingredients do one of two things; they either blend in and assimilate with more dominant ingredients or they stand out and add a distinct texture or flavor that make the final dish memorable. Will you and I conform or will we preserve our character and culture while simultaneously engaging with the rest of the world?

As people of African descent, the original women and men of the world, we are the host of this global banquet yet we are 100s of years late to our own feast. Our guests have already arrived and are awaiting us with their unique contributions in hand. What will we bring to this potluck? Or will we be empty handed?

To the graduates, I pray that each of you sees your degree as an invitation to the world table and humbly accepts the call on behalf of all African people and the advancement of humanity. We are who the world is waiting for. What will we contribute to the world table?

Thank you.


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Jullien's Purpose Statement

My purpose is to help as many people as possible reach their full potential by helping them making a living doing what they love and in the process of doing so achieve my own. I want to do this through writing, speaking, and creating offline and online spaces that facilitate conversations around purpose.

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