The following is the commencement address delivered June 10 by the student speaker, Kandi Bauman, at the 2016 Masters in Public Administration Hooding Ceremony at The Evergreen State College in Olympia.
By KANDI M. BAUMAN
Congratulations, graduates of 2016!
At this point in my life and at this point in my career, I am merely a worker bee.
I am not mindless nor visionless, but rather unwavering in my commitment to sustaining and maintaining the system, the community, the democracy, the hive.
I value public service because I believe in the hive. Even amidst the oppressive forces of inequity, disparity, corruption, and extremism, I believe that my service to the hive as a public administrator will change these things, outweigh these things, or at the very least, outlast them.
Every day as a worker bee, I am presented with a simple choice. I choose whether to make honey or to make wax.
I can, and often do, choose to make honey. I spend my time converting tasks, opportunities, knowledge, and relationships into the sweet syrup of power, of wealth, and of privilege — and I do this willingly. I came to the MPA program for a variety of reasons, but none so basic as my want for more honey. This should come as no surprise as I stand before you today, dressed in robes sticky with the traditions of privilege, adorned in colors symbolic of my newfound access to power.
Like so many of you, I know and have experienced the immense power of making and having honey. Honey can change our lives, give us energy, stability, and comfort. For those of us that come from families, communities, and histories without enough honey, we know first-hand how the harsh winters of recession, oppression, and poverty can leave us hungry. Honey can, and often does, make the bitter forces within our society seem a little more palatable.
And while the degrees we receive today won’t make love more logical, parenting any more convenient, or the realities of death any less sobering, they do somehow promise access and opportunity to help us make a little more honey. So I want a little bit of honey for me, for mine, for you, and for yours.
I want you to have better jobs, with better pay, and more vacation than you’ll ever use. I want you have the time to do things you enjoy, whether it be hiking, marathon running, horseback riding, outlet mall shopping, or just enjoying a big glass of wine. I want you to live in nice homes, drive reliable transportation, and maybe not have a lot of things — but things of good quality. I want you to have the time and the means to love others and to have others love you. Deep down, I want this degree to mean more honey for you — every one of you.
And that is much of the work that I do every day as a worker bee. It is the work I will continue to do — make honey. Except on some days, when I decide to make wax.
Making wax isn’t as simple. A bee has to make the honey, eat the honey, digest the honey, and process the honey through a specialized gland. Flakes of beeswax are then excreted through the bee’s abdomen, carefully collected by the bee, and tediously chewed until the appropriate consistency for building — building the hive. Unlike honey, wax is not really palatable or easy to make. Wax begins by a bee deciding — choosing — that their honey would be best used in structural enhancements, repairs, and changes to the hive.
We give up our honey when we make our wax.
Over the last two years, our class has become versed in the art of making wax. Of building process, testing theory, and creating means of understanding. We have read together, researched together, and seminared together on the complexities of maintaining the hive and the challenges of creating it anew. Together we have made the hard choice, over and over again, to trade in our honey in order to learn to make wax. We traded in date nights for cosmopolitanism, bedtime stories for critical theory paradigm, and goodnight kisses for policy windows. And despite my overwhelming pride at completing this academic journey, I find myself tired and weary. I miss my friends. I miss my family. Like many of you, I have become reminiscent and hungry for the sweetness in my life.
It is important to remember though.
Wax can do many things that honey can’t. The policies, the systems, the processes — the wax — that we make through our service cannot feed us but it can change the hive. When we are unafraid to trade our honey, our wealth, our power, our privilege to build a just society and strong communities, equitable access and transparent systems; we begin to shape the hive, mold the hive, and decide what matters.
In an age where struggle is real for justice to matter, equality to matter, black lives to matter, and equal pay to matter, every ounce of wax that I choose to make matters. Though small in quantity, the wax that I choose to make is lasting. It changes the hive bit by bit, and it changes me, bite by bite.
I came to the Masters of Public Administration program wanting just a little bit more honey, but I leave the program realizing my power as a worker bee is in my choice. The great power and potential when I choose to make wax; when I choose to make lasting and system change.
Class of 2016, before you can be the change, you must choose change. You must choose to show up. You must choose to stand up. You must choose to speak up. You must choose when to make wax.
As you leave these walls, degree in hand, I hope that in every meeting, every email, every presentation, every relationship — I hope that you realize your right, your responsibility, and your obligation as public administrators simply to choose.
I am a worker bee. A worker bee unwavering in my commitment and my love for the hive.
Everyday I choose — we choose — whether to make honey or to make wax.
Thanks the 2016 Public and Nonprofit Administration and Public Policy cohort for having me as your speaker, our first nations for providing me the honored space to speak, and to my friends, family, and colleagues for being my inspiration. — Kandi M. Bauman.