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September 27, 2006:

Remarks by President Arnold Speert
William Paterson University Undergraduate Commencement Ceremony

May 17, 2006

Thank you Tiffany (Groglio)…Members of the Platform Party, members of the William Paterson University faculty and staff, and members of the Class of 2006, please join with me in thanking and congratulating those family members and friends who have given of themselves to bring forward this graduating class.  Their love, support, and understanding were essential to all of our successes.

Will the faculty please rise.  These individuals are at the very core of our University and its efforts to promote our students’ success and to provide our region with intellectual leadership and cultural enrichment.  Our successes are a result of their hard work and dedication.  Please join me in demonstrating our appreciation.

Members of the Class of 2006, we are gathered here to celebrate your accomplishments as members of the William Paterson University community.  Today’s ceremony marks the completion of all degree requirements and yet is referred to by a word, commencement, that signals the beginning of the responsibilities of life after college.

Commencement is a pageant infused with the colors and symbols of the academy.  The faculty wear caps, gowns, and hoods which are differentiated by colors of disciplines and of the colleges and universities at which our faculty studied.  The mace, which symbolizes William Paterson University’s sovereignty, is carried by the Grand Marshal, Linda Dye, who leads our procession, and I follow the entire procession wearing the seal of the University as a symbol of my authority.

The music played relates to the solemnity of the program.  We sing praise to our country through The Star Spangled Banner, and praise to our University through The Alma Mater.

I like tradition.  And of all the traditions I know, Commencement is my favorite.  In two short hours we get the chance to celebrate your success and, through you, our collective accomplishments.  Individuals are lauded for completing their degrees and sent off in a burst of love to what we envision as even more successful careers and lives.  Individuals who are black and white, Latino and Asian, women and men, gay and straight, Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Hindu, and atheist.  Individuals who share a connection through this community of scholars and learners and who are empowered to pursue their futures with confidence and resolve.

Yesterday afternoon we honored members of the 50th anniversary class of 1956.  These graduates of Paterson State Teachers College have contributed to their communities and succeeded in their professional pursuits and are symbolic of our hopes and expectations for your future accomplishments.

Shortly, we will honor two individuals who have succeeded in their respective fields and have worked to improve the lives of others.  They serve as role models for what can be accomplished by each of you.

This is the last time I will have an opportunity to address you as a group.  Your successes here are harbingers of what you will achieve in the world after college.  My hope is that you will use what you have learned here to not only contribute to the workplace but also to the civic environment that we depend on day in and day out.

On campuses, in the media, and in the Statehouse, the State Budget for next year, and support for higher education in particular, is a critical and timely topic for reflection and debate.  In the ensuing discussion, questions of spending and duplicative majors and unfettered growth are being raised.  Those are, to be sure, important considerations, but what should be of paramount concert to the citizenry is the mission of public higher education and how the State could and should be supportive.

Our funding at the University enables spending and growth, but it is the outcome, you and what you are taking with you, that is the most compelling rationale for state support.  I referred earlier to the faculty as the very core of the University and what they bring to you and to our surrounding region.  The academic programs that they have created and delivered define the University and will be your point of reference for many years to come.  What will also be defining for the University is what you accomplish and what you foster in your homes, communities, and workplaces.  Each time you are referenced, where you went to college will likely be noted.  You will become our point of reference for many years to come.

As we do after each Commencement, we will be sending State legislators a list of the members of the Class of 2006 and I expect that they will write to congratulate you as they have in the past.  I hope that many of you will take the time to write back and let your legislators know how much you believe that future generations of students should have access to the opportunities you have had and that support for higher education is among the most certain means to advance the State’s core mission of building an informed and committed citizenry.

We are very much dependent upon each other for our achievements as a community and as a society.  This was underscored this weekend by a report I read about the Commencement at Tulane University in New Orleans.  Former Presidents Bush and Clinton were honored for their work in raising in excess of $130 million in relief money for the victims of Katrina.  Former President Bush said that “the flood waters may have breached the levees that surround this city and may have destroyed home after home, block after block, but today we also know they couldn’t break the spirit of the people who call this remarkable, improbable city home.”  And Former President Clinton noted that the enormous response should represent for the graduates “a positive manifestation of the most important fact of your lives—the interdependence of human beings on this planet…and if you look at the negative aspects of Katrina, the lives lost, the property washed away, dreams broken, it is also evidence of our interdependence.”

As you leave our campus community, recognize how wonderful you are and how much potential you have, not just for yourselves.  Recognize how you can apply the knowledge, skills, and talents that you developed here to improve the lives of fellow citizens throughout our region, our nation, and even the world.  Recognize how much you will be able to accomplish by your future achievements in teaching, science and technology, social service, the arts, mass communication, and business.  Recognize how much your family, friends, neighbors, and associates depend upon you.  Remember your experiences here and use what you have learned to foster tolerance, understanding, and harmony.

I can and do dream of your future successes, because I know that each of you will make a difference and contribute to the future of our world.

We are depending on you.  You have our confidence, our trust, and our love.

Congratulations! END