by Melissa Shephard
Karima Burns commands the room with her poem “The Power of Hope”
Graceland is known for creating lasting, homegrown events. Traditions like the Wednesday Night Movie, New Years in November, Final Fling, and House Meeting were started long ago; though they may change here and there, these are traditions that endure to help define the Graceland Experience.
And with three years of success under its belt, the Campus Ministries event “Hope Speeches” is emerging as one of those promising traditions.
Hope Speeches was begun three years ago by Campus Ministries Interns Zach ’08 and Katie ’09 Harmon-McLaughlin. Inspired by the TED Speeches the Hope Speeches are an annual event, held at The Coliseum where Graceland students and staff give 5-10 minute speeches devoted to the concept of hope.
Speakers are asked to address hope as it relates to their life and their unique interests. The event is typically peppered by musical performances, poetry reading and other artistic expressions.
This year’s event was coordinated by Campus Ministries Intern Christy Pratt ’11. Pratt’s vision for the event was something everyone could connect to, with a diversity of speakers and themes.
“I wanted people with ideas to have an opportunity to share their thoughts. I wanted people that were really genuine and passionate and would be worth listening to,” said Pratt.
Pratt also made a point to covering all aspects of hope—its inspirational and beautiful sides, as well as its darker sides.
Campus Ministries Intern Christy Pratt, coordinator of this year’s Hope Speeches.
Sustainability Coordinator Jennifer Abraham-White speaks about improving the world around her.
“Hope is interesting because not all hope is pretty. It’s good to have both sides of it. It’s nice to have those really inspiring speeches, but we don’t always get hope from being fluffy. We get hope from suffering sometimes. I think that that’s beautiful, to have all aspects of that, to have that range,” said Pratt.
This year’s event took place March 28th. Students filed into the newly renovated Coliseum to hear from a variety of performers. The night began with an address from Pratt, then launched quickly into its assortment of speakers, beginning with next year’s Speaker of the Senate Antonia Davidson ’14. Jazzmyn Bigsby ‘12, followed, speaking powerfully about her experience with domestic violence. Campus Minister Matt Frizzel took the stage next, followed by a performance where students from the audience rose and spoke about unity. Later, Liz Deegan ’12 used film to express herself, while Trent Ranney ’12 spoke about his work with Outreach International and Karima Burns ’14 gave a chilling reading of her poem, “The Power of Hope”. Graceland Sustainability Coordinator Jennifer Abraham-White followed, despite a small head-cold, speaking about the importance of improving your community and Daniel Vogelsang ‘13 concluded, telling about his experiences studying abroad in Argentina. The night finished with a musical performance of “We Are the World”.
Overall, Pratt was overjoyed about the night’s success.
“This year’s Hope Speeches were about being active in your community and in your world. They were about making change, on a small or big scale, and knowing that you, yourself can make that change,” said Pratt. “I hope that people walked away feeling that and feeling passionate and inspired to go and do something about it.”