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Winter 2023 commencement address by Sen. Kim Ward

Winter 2023 commencement address by Sen. Kim Ward

by Public Relations | December 22, 2023

Good morning. I’m good. Yeah, I’m good. Yep, I stepped on a little thing back here because I am short. Five foot was generous, I’m just saying. I was five foot half inch at my height and I shrunk.

Thank you so much for this honor. I don’t even know what to say. I’m honored to be here today.

Good morning everyone, respected guests, members of the community, staff, family, friends, and most importantly the graduates of this class of 2023.

How about a big hand for them?

And thank you Father Paul for such a warm welcome. You know, you make me like myself when you say all those things. You are such a great man, and I am so honored that you asked me to be part of this today. You know he has been an inspiration and supported friend for as long as I have known him.

We drove ATVs with this gentleman. Did you know he can drive an ATV? And he is good. I won’t even get on one with him because he’s also a little crazy! But he is such a great person that can connect with people. He has a gift and that gift makes him able to serve and help others.

He serves this institution, he serves the students who travel through it on their journey to the rest of their lives so thank you Father Paul thank you for always being my friend and thank you for everything you do for our community, for these students and for Saint Vincent College.

In preparing for this talk, I was reading about saint Vincent Depaul for whom this college was named. It is reported that he wrote more than 30,000 letters in his lifetime.

So it’s a Saturday, we have nothing to do, I’m going to go ahead and read them all. Everyone have what you need here? Maybe that’s too much.

But two miracles have been attributed to Saint Vincent. A nun cured of ulcers and another woman cured of paralysis. And I hope my address today doesn’t cause anyone to develop ulcers, but we have put Saint Vincent on standby over in the basilica. We are ready.

There have been many challenges along the way for you to get here today. But you did it!

Think about what you have faced over the past four years as you are trying to get your education and get your degree. You graduate from high school or nursing school, you came to college, you got hit with a global pandemic that changed the way our world operated.

It changed how you took your classes and it probably forced many of you back home with your parents. I don’t know who would have liked that more, you or them but?

You have faced enormous challenges in your educational journey. You faced challenges that no other generation of graduates had to face.

So congratulations you are there, you did it!

And this is the beginning of an early chapter in many chapters of your life.

 It’s an opportunity for you to evaluate how far you have come in such a short time frame and review the decisions that you have made that brought you here. It’s a really big deal today.

You are taking an upward step on your life ladder and will be starting your next journey of experiences and life is a collection of experiences, good and bad. What you may not even think about much, but you’ve already had a lot of life experiences that you have put into your life box.

As you continue to grow, it’s important that you never forget where you came from. Its your foundation whether its positive, negative, traumatic, wonderful, whether your family was rich, poor or in between, along the way you learn and you decide what to carry with you and apply it.

You are not bound by your past but you are informed by it.

You have the power to rise above and improve your life and our world.

 And your graduation today from this esteemed institution is proof that you have that power.

My life experience, watching my parents struggle to find good jobs and make ends meet, put me on the path to healthcare. Knowing that I could always find a job and support my family working in the healthcare field. My early life experiences put me on a path in a field for job security reasons. And I’m so grateful to my parents who taught me perseverance and hard work. My mom taught me something today that I never forgot, and I still use to this day and that is there is always a way and never give up.

So as you move into this next exciting phase of your life, think about that and know that there is always a way.

Never let anyone tell you, you can’t.

If I heard that one time, from when I began my career, I heard that 50,000 times. You just have to ignore it.

No matter what career path you choose, set your goals, don’t take your eyes off that goal, work hard, persevere, and go!

There may be twists, turns, and delays but if you see something you want to achieve, just go get it!

Sometimes your goals change. Ok, set a new one and go!

Never in my entire life would I have thought I would end up as a state senator. I was never interested much in politics let alone become the first female majority leader and first president pro tempore of the Pennsylvania State Senate.

To be honest, I didn’t even know what those things were but my life experience in healthcare brought me to politics and government.

I worked at Vanderbilt University Hospital at the time that AIDS was discovered. One of my friends, an intern when he contracted it, contracted AIDS and he didn’t know he contracted it because we didn’t discover it for two years and he realized that those were his symptoms and he had gotten it from a hemophiliac.


So he started to be active with the government. He started to go on talk shows. Many of you wouldn’t know who Phil Donahue was but he was pre Oprah.

He went on the talk shows, he went before the government. He worked and lobbied hard for us to find a cure and a treatment for this new disease that nobody knew about. It was a scary time.

So my experience growing up led me to healthcare and healthcare led me to government.

Life is a puzzle and through your experiences and education you can take these skills and tools that you have learned along the way, the ones you have learned here at Saint Vincent, and it will help you make your puzzle. It will all fit together. God will help you do that.

So whatever path you choose, work hard and never give up.

There are so many things happening around us every day. I really hate to turn on the television. It’s sad and its depressing and its scary. When we turn on the news, we see negativity from all over the place from news shows to X, there are people or groups that are trying to influence what you think.

Use the tools and resources that you have learned to think for yourselves and research the issue, to pull back the layers and find the truth.

You are smart and you can figure it all out.

Don’t let commentators and others unduly influence what’s in your own heart and brain.

When I look at what’s happening politically and in our government on a national scale, it’s ugly but it doesn’t have to be quite as ugly.

In the Pennsylvania Senate, the republican and democrat senators, eat together.

We talk politics. We talk our families. We talk about sports. The important thing is, we talk. We talk to each other, and I believe that is the reason we don’t have that ugliness no matter that we are on different sides of issues, we just vote.

We don’t insult each other. We don’t attack each other because when we look at people, I think we need to look at them as a person and not an ideology. You know, you’re not a democrat so I don’t like you and you’re not a republican, so I don’t like you … You’re a person!

You’re a good person and we all have families, kids and a life.

Just because we think differently doesn’t mean we have to be hateful.

What you witness in our body is a diverse people voting differently and not attacking each other.

Another good tool that I’ve found comes from the rotary. They have four question tests for everything they do.

Is it fair?

Is it true?

Will it build good will and better friendships?

And it will be beneficial to all concerned?

That is respect and kindness and that goes a long way in life.

Sometimes I think, sometimes I don’t think sometimes my mouth beats me to my head but, I try to think how what I’m about to do or say, how would that affect the person that I’m saying it to?

How would it affect my grandchildren?

How would it affect my children?

I know that sounds cliche and I’m sure your parents have said to you a million times how would you feel but when you really think about that, it really has a lot of value.

How would you feel?

As you travel out into the world, you’re going to see so many people in so many situations and sometimes you’re going to get an opportunity to help.

If that opportunity comes, you should take it.

For me, I love when that happens and I always say thank you God for letting me be kind of an angel to that person and I love it.

Sometimes it might be as simple as some nice words.

Sometimes maybe someone needs a little bit more cash at the cash register.

Maybe they need a meal.

Maybe the need a coat, you have an extra one.

Your action can make a huge difference in the trajectory of someone’s life and therefore the people around them because you never know what’s happening in a person’s life but you do have the power to help.

Maybe we can’t change the entire world, but we can change our own little corner of it and all together better corners make a better world.

Makes me think of a story of two friends were walking on the beach at high tide and the beach was full of starfish. One of the friends leaned down and picked up a starfish and threw it back in the ocean. The other friend said what are you doing there are thousands of them you can't help them all and the first friend said no but I helped that one so just remember you have the power to make difference in people's lives.

Just under 20 years ago my family and I sat in this Auditorium twice and watched two of my sons graduate with their classes from St Vincent College and my daughter-in-law a few years ago from the nurse anesthesia program.

I understand there are many nurses and anesthesia graduates here today but now it's your turn you are the next generation of leaders in our communities, our business world, our Industries, our education, our health care, and our military.

We need you to solve problems and create things.

We are counting on your intellect and creativity to keep our communities and our country prosperous and safe.

Life goes fast, the contribution from your generation is what will protect America's standing and leadership in this world.

You'll be doing that for you and for those that come after you.

So recapping, work hard, set a goal, and stay focused on it.

Make up your own mind and be creative.

Never give up because there's always a way.

And be kind and don't let anyone ever tell you what you get to do, what you think, or what you accomplish and if you want something you make a plan and you go get it we are counting on you.

You are important.

You are what our world and my generation need to succeed so congratulations to all of you.

I wish you much success and happiness in your life.

The world is yours so go out there and own it. God bless you!