Good morning! My name is Jennifer Williams and I am a graduating senior in the College of Arts and Sciences Class of 2009. I am deeply humbled today to stand where Howard Thurman, one of Martin Luther King’s mentors during his doctoral studies here at BU, sought to forge the way for common ground throughout this university and across this nation. Their legacy lives on. First and foremost, I would like to offer a sincere thank you to some special people here at Marsh Chapel who have enhanced my years at BU. To Dean Hill and Jan Hill, thank you for your guidance and mentorship over the years. I often smile to myself thinking of the times when Dean Hill and I would run into each other on Bay State Road on our way to class or chapel. We’d exchange a nod, a smile, or a quick conversation. As you know, I have served on the Marsh Chapel Usher Team since the spring semester of my freshman year, and it has been a truly rewarding experience. I’ve enjoyed greeting all of you as you enter the chapel doors on Sunday mornings. I’ll especially miss the lively conversations with my fellow ushers: George Coulter, Jay Reeg, Mark Gray, and our newest
member Andrew Lynch. Whether it was cheering on the Terriers in hockey with George, or discussing current events with Mark or Jay, I’ve learned something from all of you. Thank you for enriching my four years at BU with friendship, spirituality, and the sharing of your life experiences. I must also thank my family and friends for
their continued guidance and wisdom.
My parents and I flew up to Boston from Atlanta the spring of my senior year in high school to make that important college decision. That flight from Atlanta to Boston happened to be the first of many for me! It happened to be a rainy day, but as we walked along Bay State Road, towards the BU Beach, near Marsh Chapel and along the Charles River, the ambiance of this city and school struck me. No where else
could I have been immersed in a school environment with such a deep connection to the city. I chose a major concentration in anthropology and a minor in sociology. My coursework presented me with many opportunities to explore beyond the campus along the Freedom Trail, The Museum of Fine Arts, Chinatown, and the Government Center area. Each year, I made time to explore beyond campus, taking memorable
trips to Salem, Plymouth, Providence, New York, and this year Washington DC for President Obama’s inauguration. Traveling is a passion of mine, so whether it was touring Nathanial Hawthorne’s home or the Mayflower, visiting Plymouth Rock and Times Square, the exposure was worth it. Through notable lectures on campus such as Dr. Paul Farmer, Christine King Farris, and at the time Presidential hopeful Barack Obama, I’ve learned and I believe that we as a human race are all interconnected and share common hopes and dreams.
During the summer of my junior year, I was afforded the opportunity to study abroad in an Anthropological Field School Program in Peru. It was a life changing experience for me because I witnessed first-hand how so many people in the developing world live each day. I became even more grateful for the privileges that we in the United States take for granted like potable drinking water, basic health care, and standard
of living. The experience made me certain that I needed to make an impact on the lives of others even if in the smallest scale. The following summer, I was selected as a Fellow in the Public Policy and International Affairs Junior Summer Institute at the Heinz College at Carnegie Mellon University. The program exposed me to careers in
government service as well as graduate level coursework. It was Martin Luther King, Jr. who once said: “Everyone can be great because everyone can serve.” I believe public service will be my life’s work, as it has been my calling thus far. I feel blessed to be able to pursue a Masters in Public Policy next fall at The Gerald Ford School of Public Policy at The University of Michigan. Let us continue in Howard Thurman’s footsteps to forge the common ground that unites us all. Let us not forget to hear
the cries of the needy, those who mourn, and the oppressed. May we continue to serve in our communities because there is much to be done.
I will conclude by reading Proverbs Chapter 3 verses 5 through 6, which has
sustained and inspired me through my undergraduate studies. I hope
that you are also inspired:
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own
understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct