On Saturday, 13 May 2017, Fred Miller was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from The Sage Colleges in Troy, New York. The Record covered the graduation ceremony and reported on the reception of the speech – click here for the story.
A video of Fred’s speech will be posted soon – check back for an update! In the meantime, we would like to share a summary of Fred’s remarks during the ceremony.
Thank you President Scrimshaw. Thank you Board of Trustees.
A word about them, these very special people: I have been on the Board at Sage for 12 years and this is my final year. I have served on many boards and I can say this is one of the most dedicated and giving Boards I have ever seen. It has been an honor and privilege to serve with you.
Thank you for a wonderful experience. I have grown so much from being on this Board. Thank YOU!!!
And it has been an honor to partner with such a strong, smart, and caring faculty and administration. The Sage Colleges team is outstanding and so very, very dedicated to the students.
And, WOW!! What great students. Every time I have the opportunity to interact with our students I am wowed. Thanks for being who you are and bringing your voices and perspectives to the Sage Community; a community I am so very proud to be a part of.
I am very honored to receive this recognition!!!
There is a story I tell that Susan often asks me to repeat, so in her honor, I will tell it today. Way, way back when I was born in November 1946, on my birth certificate it said, “Negro.”
THAT was not just a descriptor of the day for people who looked like me, it was a label defining your position and status in life as a human being. It was a label defining your place in life as a somewhat less than fully accepted human being. Your place was understood and you were expected to stay in your place.
And knowing your place and staying in your place meant: don’t expect much from life; don’t try to be too big; your role in the world will be limited; don’t challenge what is; and, don’t get in the way of the important people. And, those are only some of the negative messages that were conveyed.
I could have listened to those messages. My mother, who is 105 years old and living in Philly, could have listened to those messages, especially when the school system told her I should go to vocational school, I was not college material. Some very important people in my life could have listened to those messages. But, I was lucky. They could have limited me, but they did not.
THANKS Mom!!! And thanks to my many mentors and friends, including Corey Jamison, Carol Brantley, Rick Kremer, and colleagues, teachers, and people who helped me in ways I don’t even know, and those who did not let the color of my skin or how they were supposed to interact with “Negros” in the 50’s and 60’s get in the way of teaching me, modeling for me, and moving stuff out the way for me. It took many, many, many people for that birth label not to be a predictor of my life.
The people who helped shape my life didn’t put me in a box based on assumptions of what I could and could not achieve. And they stood up when others tried to put me in that box. And they taught me not to put myself in that box.
And so, here I stand today!!! Thanks to all who touched my life!!
I thank my many friends of childhood, and all my professional partners, past and present, in and through The Kaleel Jamison Consulting Group that is in downtown Troy, and especially my marriage partner Pauline Kamen Miller and our two children, Shay Miller and Kamen Miller.
Why did I tell you my story? Because I want you to know—don’t let anybody tell you who you can or cannot BE!!! The world needs you to be your biggest self, YOUR BEST self. Please don’t let anyone tell you WHO or WHAT is right for you.
And, most importantly, LISTEN MOST to that voice inside that tells you YOU CAN and LISTEN LEAST to that voice that says you can’t!!!
Don’t buy into the labels that others may put on you to diminish you (Negro, too young, too bold…). Don’t let them put you in whatever box that might mean. And don’t put yourself in that box.
The world needs all you have to offer. And you have a lot to offer.
So, from someone who was marked to be small and less than and who is now receiving this Honorary Degree, I say listen most to that voice inside that says YOU CAN be big!! You are WONDERFUL just the way you are, which doesn’t mean there is not room to grow and learn and be better – BOTH can be true!!
The world needs YOU!!! Don’t let anyone make you small!!!