DESIGNER / PLANNER / ARTIST / EDUCATOR
PAUL LAWRENCE MCGEHEE
Was honored to be selected to speak on behalf of the Graduate Class of 2014 for Berkeley's College of Environmental Design. The following tried to capture my gratitude for my classmates and the lessons we taught each other:
Good evening graduates, friends and family I am warm to see so many familiar faces and expect that some of you may recognize I may have even had the privilege of being your TA, and for that I sincerely apologize My name is Paul McGehee and I am honored to be joining my classmates from both the Department of City Planning, and the Department of Landscape Architecture.
I have to say I was shocked when I was asked to provide a personal reflection of my time at the CED Throughout the process of developing this reflection I arrived at several conclusive points yet countered and undid them with unanswerable questions. My inability to come to resolve illustrates not just mere indecision on part, But the presence of reflexive tensions. The seemingly conflicting dualities that have rendered themselves at times when we are all developing uniform definitions of self as practitioners and citizens. Thus I ask that each of you brimming with much deserved excitement take the time this hour to consider those moments of internal conflict and wavering perspectives. And that each of you be clear and honest with you own trajectory and history and to locate it within the greater history of the practices which you now assume.
Speaking personally, I can offer three of my own internal conflicts that have colored my time as a graduate student. To begin, like many I entered this college with a heavy handful of self-doubt. Despite what my parents taught me, as a child when I thought of the pinnacles of academic success for many reasons, I did not necessarily envision myself there. Thus when I started these programs I was about as nervous in the first few weeks as I am standing before all of you at this moment. But I was not alone. I have spent many nights in the Computer Lab, the Lounge, Caffe Strada, and elsewhere providing and receiving the necessary pep talks to fight battles inside and outside of Wurster. Because of these conversations and more, today there is far more faith and self-confidence in these hands And I thank you for it. Thus for those of you I’m referencing please know you are valid, I love you, and that your voices are necessary.
Secondly I think back to the often unchecked and unmeasured hunger towards my own work, against my needs as an empathetic son, brother, friend, boyfriend and more I expect that this tension between work passion and life will continue and I am thankful for those of you who call me in and out of both spheres.
Last but not least, I like many of you choose to be here because of the presence of multiple disciplines in one concrete bunker that is Wurster Hall. I think back to the times when I shared with classmates Lauren Ivey, David Ghosh, Erik Jensen, Norma Guzman and others the tensions between our interests in the application of critical planning ideas That at times are an affront to our addictions to design making and doing
Evidently I cannot hold that these narratives are wholly applicable to your own, and yet I want us to leave in relatively uniform thought. Because of this I wonder as I often do in this College what is our common denominator? What is the most malleable conclusion we can come to with such reflections After all, we have urban designers, planners, architects, landscape architects, public health professionals, environmental planners, product designers, artists, theorists, engineers, and more And yet we are more than just our professional titles We have aspirations beyond what we’ve achieved today We all have an impulse for the creation, maintenance, and study of what we are individually defining as ‘good’ inhabitable spaces.
With that said what I hope we can all leave Berkeley with is the consciousness of histories and the validation of our own struggles and reflexive tensions. I hope that we can see them as a necessary means to developing multi-faceted individuals capable of the collaborative work necessary in practice and in life. In doing so, I honor those of you that acknowledge your own struggles and put them at the forefront of your work And I celebrate those of you that in a place like our own take a confident stand and a position for you what you believe is fair, just and even beautiful Lastly, I am beyond proud, but excited to continue on in a profession knowing each of you are present.