Just about ten years ago, enlightened and motivated students, teachers and administrators at the University of Michigan innovated the first Lavender Graduation Ceremony. It’s now become quite the event at a quickly growing list of universities, conducted to honor lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and ally students to acknowledge achievement and contribution. By design, Lavender Graduation occurs a week prior to the general commencement for all students, as a way to allow a time and a place for a special focus.
Recently, when my alma mater Wake Forest University asked me to be the inaugural speaker at their first Lavender Graduation (in April, 2014), I was honored and humbled. I also quickly accepted. Lavender is our color. It results from combining the symbolic colors — pink and black — that gay men and lesbians were forced to display during Nazi persecutions. Over time and with purpose, people in the LGBTQ movement transformed what once designated hatred to signals of pride and community. Lavender Graduations recognize LGBTQ students of all races and ethnicity. The ceremony exults in acknowledging the substantive things done by successful students. It is, above all else, an opportunity for a collective group of young people to share their hopes and dreams, to create a community of thought and emotion beyond the larger university population. I have been asked to “speak from the heart.” At the moment, I don’t know what words that direction might bring to my lips. But I do know that my own journey through business as an advocate for equality and social justice will not be short of experiences to share, or stories to tell.