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Chicago Graduate Calls on Class of 2020 to Fight For Social Justice and Equity

Stories | 12.07.20

During the 2020 Adler University Commencement Ceremony, held virtually on December 6, graduate Dominique Barnes-Walker, Ph.D. ’20, reflected on the challenges and opportunities of the past year. A graduate of the Couple and Family Therapy (Ph.D.) program in Chicago, Barnes-Walker emphasized to her peers the importance of being socially responsible practitioners who stand up against social injustices and inequities.



Good afternoon everyone, thank you all for joining us today. My name is Dominique Barnes-Walker, a graduate of the Ph.D. in Couple and Family Therapy program. I am very honored and grateful to be chosen to give the student commencement speech today. I first want to say congratulations to the class of 2020! Yes! We did it!

I understand how amazing this accomplishment is and how difficult it is to be having graduation during the pandemic. We finished our degrees during a very exhausting and difficult year.

I know for myself I could have never imagined or predicted that we would be having a virtual commencement, and I’m sure for you this is not how you imagined things. But as practitioners we know and have learned that we should trust the process, and this part of our process. In reality, we are history makers, and this is historic. The fact that we are still graduating during the COVID-19 era and we are off to different career paths and opportunities, I am very excited for all of us; again, congratulations!

There are two key points that I want to leave you with today: the first is one of the very basic Adlerian principles; we are all social beings. And with that, we have all been socially constructed by things we have experienced in many ways. This has led us to our chosen careers, our areas of research, the work we do in our communities, and our choice of an institution whose mission is to fight for social justice and equity.

During these last 4-5 years, or however long you have been in your program, I am sure you guys have seen how much things are constantly shifting and changing; however, this last year has been very challenging.

Social injustices have been seen on camera at an all-time high. We have witnessed several forms of discrimination and social injustices in the media. That is very unique to this era that we are living in because generations before us did not have the ability or access to show these things to the world.

Class of 2020, this is my call to action to each of you. There is the need for us practitioners to come together. No matter what background of discipline, counseling, art therapy, couple and family therapy, psychologists, or psychiatrist, we are all Social Change Agents.

We can make a difference. We can help folks heal from trauma and uncover those hidden wounds experienced from social injustices they have faced.

When we leave here, now that we are done with our respective programs and training, do not let your work stop. Let’s continue to do our work. Continue to do the work on ourselves, and for our clients and the people we are in contact with. It is so important that we stand up against these social constructs and social injustices that hold power and dominance in society.

There’s a saying we use in the Black community: “Your mama taught you better than that,” because you know better.

Well, as graduates from Adler, You have been taught better than to not work to keep fighting against social injustice. You have come across some Common Hour, some organization, a conference, presentation, class lecture, class reading, research article that has taught you to address social injustices.

I recognize and understand that this work is an ongoing process, but we, as practitioners, are in a position where we can be part of the change process. There are so many marginalized communities of people who need practitioners like us. Many of us will continue on doing research, teach in academia, and see clients in the therapeutic setting. Please make it your mission to address inequalities and social injustices inside and outside of therapeutic settings.

My last point is very brief, and it is actually a quote from one of my favorite poets and Civil Rights activists, Maya Angelou said, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” Try to remember to think about how you make people feel as practitioners when you are holding space for clients, when you are at speaking engagements, teaching, conferences, or interacting with a human being. Never forget how you make people feel.

Again, Congratulations, and I wish all of you the best of luck.

Thank you!


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