I believe in us

We’ve achieved nothing on our own, and that’s powerful

A day in the park for Girls on the Run, a young female empowerment program in Milwaukee covered by Milwaukee NNS.

I met the man who changed my life was the day he died.

August 19, 2014.

That day, I learned about James Foley, the conflict reporter and Marquette alumnus who gave his life documenting the toll of war.

Mr. Foley showed me the impact of storytelling. He taught me that there are no faceless stories, that our choices affect real people. His mission inspired me to seek justice above wealth or status.

Because of him, I am a human rights journalist.

At the time, though, I had no idea how to be a reporter. So, I searched for help and ended up in Johnston Hall. There, I met Herbert Lowe. The communication professor pushed me to enroll in a journalism class. Professor Lowe gave me the tools and confidence to tell stories.

Students of Loyola Secondary School in Northeast India before a school performance.

Those stories included entrepreneurs starting businesses in depressed neighborhoods, individuals struggling with homelessness and gospel singers raising money for health centers. I’ve met people whose hearts swell out of love for others. My journey took me across the country and around the world. God has blessed me with success.

Yet, every time someone congratulates me for my achievements, I wish I could explain the truth: I haven’t achieved anything by myself.

In fact, none of us achieved anything on our own.

That day in Johnston Hall, Professor Lowe did more than help. He sent a message. And that message said, “I believe in you.”

Those four powerful words have been echoed to each and every one of us. Every success in our lives is because someone was willing to say, “I believe in you.” Maybe it wasn’t said out loud, but it was there.

“I believe in you” was the encouraging phone call from a loved one as we studied for finals, the GRE or the MCAT.

“I believe in you” was the message of the donor who gave a scholarship to a student she or he may never meet.

“I believe in you” was the mentor who patiently answered every question we could think of.

Those four words powered us to pursue our dreams.

So, I would like to thank the mothers and the mentors, the fathers and the friends, and everyone who shaped us into the people we are today.

Thank you.

Joe Bartoletti (left) and Jordan Smith (center), two of the most inspiring, dedicated and loving people in my life.

When we realize that our success is because someone believed in us, we begin to see the power we have in believing in others.

For more than two decades, our generation was told that we could make a difference, that we could move the world from conflict to compassion. We can make those ideas a reality. But the work will not be easy. We are entering a world in need.

Poverty affects more than one billion people. Pollution is destroying our freshwater supply. Violence plagues the very city we have called home.

That is reality. We can be discouraged by it, or we can get to work. We can stand by, or we can stand up. But remember, we are not standing alone. We are never standing alone. People are already paving the way forward.

A doctor in Nepal has performed hundreds of thousands of cataract surgeries to help the blind see. There are young people at Urban Underground on Milwaukee’s North Side working to end youth violence.

Think about our classmates. Our friends will design roads and build bridges to connect families and bring communities closer. Our peers will start businesses and lead nonprofits. Our class will stand in courtrooms and defend the rights of the oppressed.

During my four years, I’ve been blessed to know doctors who will serve rural communities. There are teachers among us whose hearts call them to the most depressed school districts. I’ve shared coffee with nurses who care for the suffering as deeply as they care about themselves.

There are people among us willing to walk the difficult road for change. Regardless of if they live down the street or on the other side of the globe, we can encourage them with our hands, our hearts and our minds.

We can begin to make a difference by sharing those four powerful words. We owe it to our neighbors to say, “I believe in you.” Those words worked for us. We can make them work for someone else.

Marquette Class of 2016, I believe in us. The people in this arena believe in us. The world believes in us. Let’s believe in the world. Thank you.

A version of the full speech at Marquette’s graduation ceremony.

Wyatt Massey is a journalist, self-diagnosed health nut and unabashed introvert. He grew up on a farm in Wisconsin, in a town where cows outnumber people. At Marquette University, interactions with individuals who are homeless and marginalized taught him shared humanity. The life of James Foley inspired him to pursue a career as a human rights journalist.

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