"There is no narrative more powerful than that of a young woman in the face of adversity. Multiply that by 41 and it tells the story of the class of 2017," said Mia Springwater '17 to a packed crowd inside Boss McLaughlin Gym. Though the weather outside was cold and rainy, the mood inside was bright and buoyant as the community gathered to celebrate the graduating class of 2017.
The class was joined by Commencement Speaker Madonna Badger, Chief Creative Officer and Co-Founder of Badger + Winters agency, creator of the #womennotobjects campaign, and no stranger herself to adversity. A remarkable wake up call for women in advertising, her #womennotobjects campaign shows images of real ads juxtaposed with commentary that calls into question the absurdity and harm of portraying women as props, things, or consumables.
"There is such a need for young women to resist the bombardment of who they are supposed to be and how they are supposed to look. As MJ Batson, the CEO of the non-for-profit the MAM Center in Nashville, Tennessee, and a speaker at this year's International Women's Day, said: 'stay shocked...' We are lucky to have brave and inspiring leaders in advertising like Madonna Badger who help us do just that," said Suzanne Fogarty, Head of Lincoln School.
Badger spoke about the campaign but her speech focused mainly on hope, specifically how she found it in the darkest of places. In the early hours of Christmas Day in 2011, a house fire broke out that claimed the lives of Badger's three daughters and both of her parents. Plunged into depression and a depth of despair she didn't know was possible, through friends and faith, she found her way through to the other side.
"My life changed in an instant. But there is no need to be afraid of change. No matter how big the change and how small the hope, change will happen whether you see it coming or not," said Badger. The best way to prepare? Don't try to control things with fear, she noted. "The very worst thing possible happened to me. But what saved me is bigger than fear. It was love. And it was powerful. When I went through this dark time, a lot of people said to me: everything happens for a purpose. But I think things happen, and then you have to find your purpose."
No matter what purpose they plan on pursuing, whether it be using computer science to carve out new pathways for social justice, going into the nursing field to define new ways of care and compassion, making space for female voices in the pantheon of philosophy, or studying the environment to combat the forces of climate change, Fogarty and the entire Lincoln community carry no doubt this class will be a powerful force.
"Stay tuned for what this remarkable group will accomplish," said Fogarty. "The girls and young women sitting on the stage here today are formidable agents of change. You are the bold minds. You are the ones who are already making true the statement: 'the future is female.' It is your example, your confidence, kindness, and love, that will provide the healthy and powerful role models for girls, boys, men, and women in the future."
Watch Madonna Badger's speech:
Watch Suzanne Fogarty's speech: