The happiest day in every university president’s life is commencement. It’s a day when we celebrate our students’ successes and we rejoice with their thrilled families. This year, a good number of students will be walking across the stage to receive their diplomas to music, applause and tears. I feel that it is an honor to be here again and share this moment with you.
I am a lover of noble and bold statements and I would like to start saying that instead of focusing on our aspirations we tend to look only at our limitations. Some may call this a natural historical correction; a pragmatic need to scale back in order to live within the confines of what is possible a€” a reality check. But when we look at the world of ideas that has brought forth the society in which we live we learn that reality is a subjective vision. The eras of wealth have always lead to other eras of recession, like the one in which we are now living, and they have produced golden ages of progressive thought and action that has benefited humankind.
I believe the days of such extraordinary investment are over and this leads us to look at a different set, a set of broader issues.
The liberally educated mind understands that knowledge is never about waiting for someone else to supply the single right answer. Our students will be curious about their world and clever enough so that they can shape the course of their lives so that their lives don’t just happen to them, so that they have control. A liberally educated person possesses global orientation and is ready to confront a future where change will be constant and it will be continuously unfolding.
IAU is clearly one of the fortunate in the competitive world of higher education and I believe our success is directly related to our core values. At IAU, we believe that education begins between a student and a teacher, not a lecture given to hundreds and not a printout available in the cyberspace. These people learn from each other, creating a lifelong mentoring relationship. Each of our students creates, in partnership with their professors. We are looking for quality and we’re looking to build relationships.
Another IAU core value is that we believe excellence can only be achieved through diversity, and taken as a whole our community of faculty, staff, students and trustees, IAU should be open to students from all parts of the globe, of all racial and ethnic cultures and of different socioeconomic backgrounds. Faculty and students at larger universities may in fact experience less ‘diversity’.
Knowledge is at a tipping point since sound preparation for the present is only one strategy for effective preparation for a future in which such expertise has such a short shelf life. The world is at a tipping point, representing us with a welter of challenges in technology, human understanding and cultural coexistence. We must be ready to face over the course of our lives: Global climate change, the wise management of vital resources and the effective exploration of alternatives, the revision of policy regarding social arrangements under which so many remain disadvantaged in affluent society, the wise recognition and avoidance of ideologies that divide rather than unite and, yes, identifying life work that’s satisfying and rewarding and suitable to your individual qualities. Understanding the individual responsibility for coming to terms with these issues reflects the heart of our most devoted endeavor.
My congratulations to all of you. Today is the first day of your future, and the future of all mankind.