Photo courtesy of University Relations
Nicole Wong reciting her poem “Forward” during the inauguration of President Poser.
“Same book, different page. Far from perfect. It may be risky, but go for it. All the trials sown will reap a reward. Forward,” recited third-year law student Nicole Wong during the inauguration of President Susan Poser.
In preparation for the inauguration, Hofstra University organized a poetry competition. The winner would have the opportunity to present their poem in front of students, teachers and parents during the inaugural ceremony.
Unsure if graduate students were even eligible to enter the contest, Wong decided to work on a poem over the summer. “I actually returned it on the last day,” Wong said, “and about a month later I got a call [that her poem won] and i was shocked and really grateful because this poem means so much to me.
Wong was inspired to create a poem about new beginnings. In light of the trials the world has faced over the past year and a half, Wong believes we need a fresh start. “In life, I just felt like there were a lot of times when it was hard to tackle something,” she said. “When people told me I couldn’t do something, my response was not to be mad at them, but rather to move on, and I associated that with idea of a fresh start.”
Wong drew much of her inspiration for the poem from her experience in law school, her years working as a teacher, and her knowledge of the Bible and her spirituality.
The title of the poem, “Onward,” comes from a pep talk she received from one of her law professors during a particularly stressful time. The teacher told her to recognize the ordeal she was facing, but to keep moving forward.
Prior to attending Hofstra Law School, Wong worked as a teacher for five years. She taught grade 12 in underprivileged communities for two years, then worked with foster kids in middle school for three years. According to Wong, many of these students did not always believe they could achieve their goals or in the potential Wong saw in them. “When I work with young people, I’m like, ‘What’s your dream? Let’s do it,'” Wong said.
As a Christian, Wong felt a connection to a new beginning based on her faith. However, Wong wanted the meaning of the poem to be transferable to any faith or spirituality his listeners might follow.
One of the most defining moments of Wong’s rendition of “Forward” was when she started singing, adding even more emotion to her already powerful presentation. “I’m actually a little nervous doing anything in public, but I’ve learned that I don’t necessarily sing to make people judge me: I sing to help them out,” Wong said. “The second they told me I had to perform, I started looking at the poem like, ‘Where am I going to sing? “”
Wong enjoyed singing for most of her life. She and her brother were in foster care for eight years and according to Wong, “Singing got me through the tough times.” She continues to sing in her church, finding much peace and joy there.
Wong wrote this poem with President Poser in mind. “I just wanted Dr. Poser to feel like she didn’t have to start from scratch, but she could really build on a really good foundation,” Wong said, “but also add whatever she has wonderful things to bring to the table.”
Wong believes that Hofstra, the world, and everyone in their daily lives have the potential to create a new beginning for themselves. “When we wake up every day, we should think about it like, ‘Okay, this is a fresh start or a clean slate.'”
Here and now, welcome opportunity.
Overcome adversity break.
Feed and cut capacity needed
Thus, we can refine our humanity.
– “Forward”, by Nicole Wong