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Terry Cross Receives Honorary PhD from Portland State
Author: School of Social Work Communications
Posted: June 15, 2015

On Sunday, June 14, 2015, Terry Cross — a distinguished alumnus and former faculty member of the School of Social Work — received an honorary PhD from Portland State University at its commencement ceremonies.

After receiving his degree, Terry delivered the commencement speech to graduates and assembled guests. His address was a mixture of reflection on his own experiences working for social justice and advocating for Indian child and communities and advice to the new graduates.

-> Read the full text of Terry’s speech.

Some highlights from his address:

“An MSW does not a social worker make.  Remember, it’s not the degree. It’s what you do with it."

"When people ask me 'what is the secret of your success?' I usually say that it’s mostly about 'showing up.' You see, I didn’t set out to be a leader. I didn’t set a goal of establishing a successful national nonprofit or writing a seminal work defining cultural competence. I set out to confront and correct, wherever I could, the racial inequities that I had experienced as a child…."

"When there were moments of opportunity to bring change, I took advantage of them.  When an elder said, 'You will speak on our behalf,' I did. When someone said, 'Go dream,' I jumped in."

"The deepest feeling I have about this life of service is gratitude. I have learned that every door that opened was prepared by others before me. I have come to know that for me to make a difference, someone had to prepare me, believe in me, support me, or teach me."

"Will we repeat unsustainable patterns of artificial hierarchy based on culture and skin color, or will we pursue a path of truth, healing, and reconciliation? The answer depends entirely on our collective internal compass. We can easily look back 50 or 150 years and see the injustices that were then commonplace. It is much harder to see injustices as they exist around us, such as over-incarceration or income inequality. But somehow, we must."

"My invitation to you all is simply this: show up, in service to others, with gratitude and courage, with your compass held firmly on true North, and I guarantee that you will have an interesting life. You will not just have letters behind your name or volumes of acquired knowledge. You will understand that knowledge in context is the essence of wisdom."

-> Learn more about Terry’s amazing history, work and spirit.

Congratulations, Terry!  We are humbled by your work and service and delighted that you have been recognized with this distinguished honorary degree.