I gave this speech at the 2018 Best Writing launch party in 2018, where we celebrated the newest edition called “Stories We Live By.”

Since this year’s theme for Best Writingis “Stories We Live By,” I thought I’d tell you one of my stories that has led me to be here.

When I was growing up, I loved spending time with my grandparents at their farm. I especially loved being with my grandmother, who seemed to know how to do everything – milk cows, gather hidden chicken eggs, grow plants from a single leaf. I adored her and wanted to be like her. 

Until one day, when I saw the grocery list she had made. Almost every word was misspelled. “Carrot” was spelled “carot,” “bread” was spelled “bred.” These were simple words that even I at 8 years old knew how to spell. I was crushed that my hero couldn’t write well, and I made fun of her errors.

My grandmother stands in the woods with her leg on the stump. She looks confident.
My grandmother Martha Foote

What I didn’t know then was that the misspelled words on that grocery list was a source of shame for my grandmother. She didn’t go to school after 4thgrade and never graduated from elementary school, much less a university like the one we stand in today. She was married at 13 and had three children by sixteen – the same year her husband died. 

The story I live by is that no one else should ever have to be ashamed of their writing like my grandmother was. I am here at university because she couldn’t be, and because she would have wanted me to appreciate the many gifts – including the gifts of multi-literacies – that every individual has.

We need stories to live by. Stories explain why we exist here on Earth or why we attend TAMUQ. Stories remind us of what kind of person we want to be, and they tell us what we are like at our worst. 

I encourage you to listen to the following student authors for the ways in which they tell us truths about each individual human spirit. These are volunteers who are speaking to you tonight, people who are answering a higher call than a professor assigning an essay. 

They are telling you the stories that we live by. 

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