Valedictory Speakers

Seiple, Ingrid Nohea

President Wright, members of the Board of Trustees, faculty, staff, graduates, family and friends, it is an honor to speak to you tonight.  I am impressed by my professors and the hard work they put into creating the new MATESL program at HPU.  The program would not have been as interesting without the strange and wonderful personalities of the other students -- people you would meet traveling on the other side of the world.  Without the support of these students, my friends, and family, I would not have been able to do it.

In the second grade at Lanikai School, I was a defective child.  I was taken for testing because I could not read or write.  They said I suffered from "motor retardation."  That's right, retardation!  No one wants any part of their intellect described as retarded.  It became known to me under the gentle euphemism "learning disability" or dyslexia.  This has bothered me my whole life; it has absolutely shaped my character.

I've lived through the not-so-hidden opinions of my many teachers and fellow students.  One opinion is simply that you are not so bright, or to put it more bluntly, stupid.  Another common opinion is that you are lazy.   I would like to thank those teachers who did not buy into those opinions, but rather saw me as an individual with strengths to be cultivated and disabilities to be overcome.

Another opinion is that having a learning disability it means that you cannot succeed.  If you do succeed then you must not have one.  That is not true.  I have problems reading and writing.  That does not mean that I have problems thinking.   The average person reads about 300 words per minute.  I still read less than 100 words per minute.

What does this mean?  It does not mean that I cannot think or that I cannot do my work.  It means that after all of you have finished your reading and writing assignments and gone to bed, I am still reading and writing.  That is the disability.

People might say, "Why?  Why do something for which you are not inclined?"  I am drawn to learning and thinking.  I am interested in ideas.  It just takes me longer to process these ideas.  When I finally do, after everyone has gone to bed, I have my own unique way of thinking about them.

Why am I telling you this?  As a teacher, this disability has special significance to me and it should be significant to anyone who will teach in any way.  Who is normal?  Who here thinks they are normal?  Normality is a straight jacket, stifling individual expression and ways of learning.   All people have weaknesses and strengths.  Some people have a great disparity between their weaknesses and strengths.  No one in my classroom will ever be treated as if they are stupid or a slacker.  Everyone has a sad and beautiful story that they are trying to create for themselves with their individual skills and histories.  Everyone deserves respect.  If you find yourself lacking in one area, compensate with your strengths, commit yourself, and never give up.

Aloha nui loa, mahalo, and goodnight.