"Giving Back to Your Community is Your Highest Calling"


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On June 12, 2011, this inspirational keynote message was delivered by Lydia A. Hollie, JD/MAED, former Co-Chair, Long Beach DHHS Weed and Seed Program Steering Committee, at the Long Beach Polytechnic High School Class of 2011 Senior Baccalaureate Ceremony in Long Beach, CA.

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"Giving Back to Your Community is Your Highest Calling"

  2. 2. 2011 SENIOR BACCALAUREATE CEREMONY - LONG BEACH POLYTECHNIC HIGH SCHOOL INSPIRATIONAL KEYNOTE SPEECH BY: LYDIA A. HOLLIE, JD, MAED CO-CHAIR, LB DHHS WEED AND SEED STEERING COMMITTEEGood Afternoon Everyone, Foremost, I thank God for my life and the opportunity to serve mycommunity. Graduates, through determination and hard work you have earned the rightto be a member of this Class of 2011. Congratulations on a well-deservedaccomplishment! This commencement will be one of many successes that youwill achieve in your lifetime. Enjoy and cherish this moment.Let Your Light Shine with Power, Purpose, and Boldness This is an exciting time for you. You are full of anticipation and somewhatapprehensive about what the future may hold. In her 1992 book, A Return toLove: Reflections on the Principles of a Course in Miracles, MarianneWilliamson made an insightful observation: “Our deepest fear is not that we areinadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is ourlight, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I tobe brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? Youare a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There isnothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people wont feel insecurearound you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to makemanifest the glory of God that is within us. It is not just in some of us; it is ineveryone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give otherpeople permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, ourpresence automatically liberates others.” That statement is profound for thisreason: once you have come to terms with the power that is within, youautomatically raise the bar of expectation, you achieve the impossible, andsimultaneously demonstrate to others that everything is possible with thedetermination to overcome any obstacle and accomplish your purpose.
  3. 3. 2Booker T. Washington once said, “Success is to be measured not so much bythe position that one has reached in life as by the obstacles which he hasovercome.” Mr. Washington did not allow that peculiar institution calledslavery to subdue, limit, nor deny him of his rightful place as a contributingcitizen of this country. Most notably, he established the Tuskegee University inAlabama, which he led during his presidency in 1881 to become one of theleading institutions of higher learning in the United States. Graduates, I urgeyou to take special note of this fact: Anything that is worth achieving will notcome easy nor without a price. The obstacles and roadblocks that you faced toreach today’s milestone is a preview of what you can expect to contend with inyour quest to live your lives to the fullest and serve your community with honorand respect.Serving Your Community means Giving Back to Your Community You will soon learn that living an abundant life includes giving back to yourcommunity. The Former Prime Minister of England, Winston Churchill,succinctly emphasized that point, "You make a living by what you get, youmake a life by what you give." In the spirit of community service, ananonymous philosopher reminds us to, “never underestimate the power of youractions…with one small gesture you can change a person’s life. God puts us allof in each others lives to impact one another in some way.” Graduates, fromthis day forward, let your life be a living embodiment of this declaration: Thedestiny of society is found within the power of your decisions.Life’s Equation is the Formula for Giving Back to Your Community The milestone you have reached today has been both exciting and life-affirming. You must now prepare yourselves with the ability and confidence tothink with greater depth and breadth about how to effectively reconfigure ourcommunities in a lasting and meaningful way. And you can only prepareyourselves through study and scholarship, leadership, and community service.
  4. 4. 3Peace Ambassador Claudette Powers summarizes life into this simple equation,“Events plus Responses equals Outcomes.” With this equation in mind, Iwould like to share with you how I have been giving back to my community. The Events in My Community. I have fond memories of growing up inCentral Long Beach, but since my childhood, the neighborhoods worseneddramatically. This area lies north to Hill Street, south to Anaheim Street, east toCherry Avenue, and west to the L.A. River. With a population of approximately46,000 residents, one-third lives below the federal poverty level with an annualmedian household income of $21,000 for a family of four, and over one-half ofthis community survives on $15,000 a year or less. Over one-half have notcompleted high school and less than ten percent are high school graduates.As you know, Long Beach Polytechnic High School is an oasis in the middle ofthis section of Central Long Beach. Despite the best efforts of concernedcommunity members and civic officials, for nearly 30 years, this area sufferedfrom the notoriety of having the highest violent crime rates in the city of LongBeach. Over those years, I have attended far more funerals than weddings,watched others enter the jail and prison system, and observed the devastationon the families (including my own) and neighborhoods where crime sceneswere a regular occurrence. These conditions have always troubled me andcompelled me to initiate proactive measures to permanently end this negativecycle. The great Cesar Chavez spoke of the interdependent relationship betweenthe community member and the community’s destiny, "we cannot seekachievement for ourselves and forget about progress and prosperity for ourcommunity...Our ambitions must be broad enough to include the aspirationsand needs of others, for their sakes and for our own." Implicit in thatobservation is a depth of selflessness that must be present if civic engagementis essential to your purpose. Professor Thomas Ehrlich, a senior scholar at the
  5. 5. 4Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, defines civicengagement as "working to make a difference in the civic life of ourcommunities and developing the combination of knowledge, skills, values, andmotivation to make that difference. It means promoting the quality of life in acommunity, through both political and non-political processes." He goes on tosay that, "A morally and civically responsible individual recognizes himself orherself as a member of a larger social fabric and therefore consider socialproblems to be atleast partly his or her own; such an individual is willing to see the moral andcivic dimensions of issues, to make and justify informed moral and civicjudgments, and to take action when appropriate." How Did I Respond to the Events? I renewed my mind and changed mythinking about my role as a member of this community and my purpose in life.According to Physicist and Nobel Laureate Albert Einstein, "You cant solve aproblem from the same consciousness that created it." My response to thoseoverwhelming community conditions was driven by the realization that I have amoral and ethical responsibility to make a difference in the quality of life in myhometown. Since 1996, I have given back to this community by volunteering my mind,talent, and time, while simultaneously working as an elementary educator andfulfilling higher educational goals. And in 2002, I became a relentless advocatefor effective and humane approaches to address youth and gang violenceprevention and intervention, specifically in the area of building communitycapacity and empowering its members to work collaboratively to changesystems and policies to reduce violence, save lives, and restoreneighborhoods. When I served as Chairperson of the citys Human RelationsCommission, a comprehensive report on the problem of youth and gangviolence was written, approved by community and civic leadership, includingan endorsement by the Long Beach Police Department, and unanimously
  6. 6. 5approved by the Long Beach City Council in 2003. That effort led to theformation of the Long Beach Youth and Gang Violence Prevention Task Forcein 2004, which focused on Central Long Beach. While chairing the Task Force,two grants were successfully spearheaded, the U.S. Department of JusticeWeed & Seed grant ($1 million) and the Long Beach Gang ReductionIntervention Program ($400,000) from the Governor‘s Office. The Weed andSeed Steering Committee, along with city support staff and the Long BeachPolice Department, engaged in programmatic strategic planning thatestablished effective violence prevention approaches to violent crime, gangactivity, youth development, and community restoration in the Central LongBeach area. What Outcomes have the Community Experienced? Since its inception in2007, the Long Beach Department of Health and Human Services Weed andSeed Program community residents and partnering agencies have benefitedthe Central Area, including: (1) a 24% drop in violent crime since 2007, whichsubstantially contributed to the citys overall reduction in violent crime to itslowest levels in nearly 40 years; (2) a reduction in gang activity and truancycitations, (3) the development of a citywide Comprehensive Reentry andEmployment Services Strategic Plan and demonstration project designed to aidjuvenile and adult re-entrants from Californias camps, jails, and prisons inmaking a seamless transition back to the community, while minimizing thelikelihood of re-incarceration, (4) sponsoring parent empowerment workshopsin English, Khmer, and Spanish, from which graduates become communityparent mentors, (5) established a Youth Leadership Program and curriculum,currently developing 25 teenagers into tomorrows leaders in the areas ofsocial, environmental, and economic justice, and (6) incubated the PEACEGARDEN at Martin Luther King, Jr. Park , a recent recipient of second placehonors at the 2011 Neighborhood of the Year awards in the Multi-Neighborhooddivision. Within one year and under the watchful eye of community elders, this
  7. 7. 6community garden was designed and built by Central Area youth whilesimultaneously strengthening intergenerational relationships. There areseveral Weed and Seed Program youth leaders who are graduating from LongBeach Polytechnic and other area schools, including: (Jazmine Franklin,Kasmere Duffey, Ashley Kearn, S. Robert Rath, Jarath Sok, Jericho Williams;and Genesis Higareda, Sophall Serth, Rin Chhnoun, Erica Vargas, and EricVargas). The Weed and Seed Program and PEACE GARDEN have receivedlocal and national recognition because these young people changed theirconsciousness, immersed themselves in the community, and as a result,directly contributed to reducing violence, saving lives, and restoring CentralArea neighborhoods.The Class of 2011 will Elevate Long Beach to a National Model City Nearly ten years have lapsed since I started this journey, and I am gratefulto see the fruits that giving back to the community have made possible. I havegreat confidence that your advocacy will raise the bar of expectation and takeour city to an even higher level of community engagement and civic action forthe purposes of reducing violence to zero, completing the restoration of ourneighborhoods, and establishing Long Beach as a model city throughout thenation. If this vision is to be realized, then giving back to your communitymeans to be fully persuaded that public service is a ministry of the highestcalling as well as the epitome of visionary leadership, boldness to speak truthto power, compassion for the least among you, and humility in knowing thatlove will always conquers hate. In the world that you will inherit, exemplifythese characteristics in your conversation and lifestyle, and you will becomechoreographers and facilitators that seek to orchestrate a symphonic,harmonious, and holistic approach to developing the human infrastructure inan ever-changing world. As 21st century leaders, your job is to inform,educate, encourage, and empower communities so that they transform intogrowing, thriving, prospering, and safe environments where people will be
  8. 8. 7drawn to come and live, work, visit, and worship. In closing, more than one-third of the Long Beach population is 24 yearsand under, which means that you are its most significant constituency. You arevaluable, important and necessary to this citys path to greatness. Use yourstrong moral and ethical fiber, boldness, courage, and leadership to make thiscity a better place to live in harmony and peace. You are a beacon of light thatwill shine through the challenges before for you and brighten the lives of othersaround you. Your city needs you, and its future is in your hands. Again, congratulations Class of 2011. May God abundantly bless each ofyou in your present and future endeavors. Thank you.
  9. 9. LYDIA A. HOLLIE, JD, MAEDLydia A. Hollie is a champion for reducing youth violence and transforming troubledneighborhoods into model communities. Her efforts are inspired by the awareness thatthe well-being of families determines whether children fail or succeed and whether acommunity declines or prospers. A Long Beach native, Hollie volunteered eight yearson the Long Beach Human Relations Commission, including a two-year distinguishedterm (2001-2003) as Chairperson. Dr. Hollie then served as Chairperson of the LongBeach Youth and Gang Violence Prevention Task Force (2004-2009) and spearheadedthe successful acquisition of both the U.S. Department of Justice Weed & Seed grant($1 million) and the Long Beach CalGRIP grant ($400,000) to reduce violent crime,address gang violence prevention, youth development, and community restoration inthe Central Long Beach area. During her four-year tenure as Co-Chair of the LongBeach Department of Health & Human Services Weed and Seed Steering Committee,the target community achieved a 24% decrease in violent crime, which helped toreduce the citys overall violent crime rate to its lowest levels in nearly 40 years.Reducing violence, saving lives, restoring neighborhoods, and revitalizingcommunities are are chief objectives of her mission.An advocate for intellectual and professional development, Hollie is a 2010 PassingThe Mantle Fellow from the USC Center for Religion and Civic Culture. She holds anAA in International Business, BA in Political Science (with dual Minors in AfricanStudies, and Social & Political Economy), MA in Education, and a Juris Doctor. Arecipient of numerous awards and recognitions for her extensive involvement andvolunteer service to the community, Hollie is a frequent keynote speaker and panelistat various venues, and guest lecturer at higher education forums. Recently, Dr. LydiaHollie was elected by the Lynwood Teachers Association as the representative on theCalifornia Teachers Association State Council for a two-year term to address statewideeducational policy.Dr. Hollie is a passionate believer in the resilient, transformative, and evolutionarynature of the human spirit to yield progressive change to one’s circumstances andascend beyond the insurmountable.