Congratulations to the Class of 2011 – Lavender Scholars

Congratulations to the Class of 2011 – Lavender Scholars

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Sarah Toce

It was an absolute honor to serve as the keynote speaker for the Eastern Washington University (EWU) Lavender Graduation 2011.

There were about 50 young adults and their family members, friends and teachers in the crowd at Showalter Hall in Cheney, WA (30 minutes outside of Spokane) on Thursday, April 21. While many of the smiling faces were in attendance to learn from me and become inspired…it was actually the other way around by the end of the night. I was moved in a way I simply had not expected.

The message I decided to share with the young adults was one of love and acceptance. Not acceptance by others, but of themselves. Something many of us have a very difficult time coming to terms with – myself included for many a long day. Mostly, I wanted to inspire the young future leaders in the audience to get up and move. I wanted them to feel, see, touch, and believe in something/someone who had been there, done that and made it out onto the other side of the spectrum.

I was tangible. I was a gay woman standing at their podium celebrating the pride we all had in common. I couldn’t have been more filled with love and light than right then. I was beyond ecstatic to stand there in their hall and not only hear them speak about their experiences, but also get to share my own in the hope of inspiring the next generation.

When I was finished speaking, I took a seat in the audience and watched with a full heart as the graduating high school and college students walked to the podium to receive their purple sash and rainbow tassel. I decided to videotape the entire ceremony. I felt like a proud mom. There’s no other way to describe it.

A gentleman walked up to me as we were all gathering post-ceremony and said, “I bet you have no idea how many hearts you’ve touched. Your speech changed lives tonight.”

He was right. I had no idea. I was telling my truth. The fact that my life stories had the ability to affect a crowd of 50 people was beyond my comprehension.

There was a graduating high school student standing directly in front of me at one point taking photos of my face. This was new to me and I wasn’t exactly sure how to proceed, so I opened my palm up and reached out to his hand and asked if he would like to take a picture with me. I will never forget the look on his face as he said yes.

We all have the power to bring love, joy and understanding into someone’s life. It is a gift and one that should not be abused.

Thank you Eastern Washington University Pride Center, Eagle Pride, Odyssey, Sandy Williams, my travel partner Trisha Barnard, my very beautiful wife Stephanie, and the graduating class of 2011. May hope inspire you with every single day to come.

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  1. Hi. I am a lesbian who graduated from EWU four years ago and have never heard of the Lavender Scholars. Could someone please explain what this is? Thanks!!!!

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