Graduate Speaker Justin Baker on Power

Artboard 1 Announcements Member Contributed Posts
icon-clock April 24, 2019

The following remarks were written and delivered by Justin Baker for the Cohort 17 & 18 graduation celebration on April 12th, 2019 at 32BJ SEIU. Justin reflects on power and the importance of perseverance.

Justin Baker delivering his speech at the Cohort 17 & 18 Graduation. Credit NYCHA.

Cohort 17,

When I say this a lot of things come to mind. This gritty and consistently forceful presence that we became manifested out of literally, our blood, sweat, and tears. I’ve seen some of the most inspiring transformations from my own peers and that motivated me to be nothing short of great. This 11-month journey turned the uncertain into the biggest dreamers. It has made the introverted the most gregarious characters. What I will miss most is all of the memories created with my fellow corps members building bonds, playing with the kids, and seeing that just being out there serving can be a great time. I thank my fellow members for being the individuals they are.

At the start of our term, I think we all had similar thoughts, “This is going to be a long 11 months.” It’s never really easy to break the ice with a whole room full of strangers. Our supportive staff along with some of our alumni pushed us to want to build that unity and strive for success as young individuals. Through the heat of the summer months, we pushed ourselves and each other toward our goals. Day after day, farm stand after farm stand, and training after training we persevere every day. When Cohort 17 was on site or in the building, everyone knew.

We further extended our family when Special Forces arrived. These guys brought in a new set of responsive skills to the table that played as the catalyst to finish out the service term. Brandon says “The strong sense of unity comes from uniting with special forces, then having to blend with the OGs.” This adaptable approach and flexibility only made us more tenacious and capable as a unit. This made it possible to touch the lives of thousands of children, and residents while evolving into a greater us.

We powered through the winter weather building infrastructure, still outside and still engaging. Speaking on our service and what we want for ourselves moving forward became fluid. We have become forward thinkers, leaders, and trailblazers for our generation without realizing. That change that you want to see is in the mirror. That role model is in the mirror. That powerful individual is in the mirror. A lot of us were hesitant to use our power. Our voices. To those still hesitant think about the quote “You get out of life, what you put into it. Don’t expect more until you do more.”. Let’s let ourselves be the motivators and teachers for the generations after us.

Justin Baker receiving his graduation certificate. Credit NYCHA.

I thank GCF for their availability, the opportunities given, and the mutual respect as I move further along my path. I thank my cohort for the experience and being everything from the most docile to the most exorbitant people I have ever had the pleasure to serve with, and I bet GCF chants will never be the same again. I, of course, want nothing but the best for you guys and feel blessed to have stood alongside you as we fought for something bigger than ourselves. This isn’t the end, but just the beginning of our paths. Let’s let every day be an opportunity to learn. Also, never settle for mediocre, we deserve much more.

Today we make the transition to one of the most important points in our lives. May we continue to be the force as we disperse into our new roles. We know we will be great because we have been tested and now know our power. As we share our power we will manifest our own success and happiness. With that said, I would like to share a call and response that I thought up. When I say “We get up” you guys say “We get busy”.
We get up, We get busy 3x
Thank you.

You can meet all the graduates of Cohorts 17 and 18  and read their testimonials on the Graduate Gallery