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Valedictory to the Graduating Students

June 10, 2018

 

Okay, graduates, congratulations! It has been literally years of hard work that have led you to this day and to your final moments as students at Dartmouth. We're all gathered here to salute your accomplishments and celebrate your future. We are friends and family who have loved and supported you, faculty and staff who have nurtured your talents and passions, alumni who eagerly welcome you into the Dartmouth Fellowship.

For appropriately today is all about you. It’s your journey, your achievements—academic, athletic, artistic—and most importantly, your transition into the next phase of your life.

But let’s not forget that we also conferred honorary degrees from Dartmouth today upon six distinguished individuals, seated over here. Four of them were seated exactly where you are many years ago... 17 years ago, 39 years ago, 50 years ago, and 72 years ago, to be exact.

Did you ever stop and wonder why do we celebrate the accomplishments of our honorary degree recipients, if today is supposed to be all about you? What’s up with that?

Well, in fact, the honorary degrees are all about you. As we prepare to send you out into the world, they serve, for you, as some awesome examples of what a successful, purpose-driven life can be. In every one of their stories, there is much for you to learn about the path to success in the world. Kindness and humility. Grit. Courage and determination.

But this year’s particular set of recipients, taken together, the lives and careers that they’ve led, they deliver yet another message, and one that is especially meaningful at this moment in time.

David Rubenstein, a founder of a major global corporation, Chairman of the Council on Foreign Relations, and Member of the International Business Council of the World Economic Forum, has devoted a career to understanding the global economy.

A practicing psychiatrist in Tanzania, Sylvia Kaaya has leveraged international collaborations through partnerships with Dartmouth and other universities to make breakthroughs in mental health research.

Peter Fahey’s rapid rise to partner at Goldman Sachs was in no small part the result of his innate understanding of the world’s financial markets and how they fit together. And even after retirement, he’s continued to support small businesses and women entrepreneurs worldwide.

Bill Holmes has devoted his entire life to global health issues, working in the most underserved parts of the world, both as a practicing physician and a partner to international aid and humanitarian organizations.

The proud daughter of immigrants, Mindy Kaling routinely draws inspiration from world cultures to create and portray characters that are eminently relatable to audiences and, at the same time, challenge conventions and stereotypes.

And throughout his entire public service career, Frank Guarini recognized the value of international trade and worked to foster the kind of global partnerships that he knows are critical to our future.

So yes, there is wisdom to be found in the life stories of these six remarkable individuals. Each of our honorary degree recipients has embraced their global citizenship as both a gift and a responsibility. They relish the rich interplay between world cultures; they understand that never before have the world’s economies been so intertwined; and they recognize that at no time in history have the urgent challenges facing humankind so defied national boundaries in their impact and their solutions.

Two years ago, Gail and I had the incredible opportunity to travel to the Arctic. Ross Virginia, our beloved professor of Environmental Science and head of the Institute for Arctic Studies, led the expedition. While we were there, we witnessed, firsthand, the profound effects that our changing climate is having on the people, the wildlife, and the habitat in the region. Although the effects of climate change are extreme in the Arctic, they’re actually felt on every continent and will require true global partnerships to address. This is the case for so many of today’s pressing issues.

Members of the Class of 2018, other graduates today, we have done our very best to prepare you to be citizens of the world. Many of you came to Dartmouth as international students and enriched our campus with your perspectives and your culture. Well over half of you spent at least one term abroad, and still more of you will begin your careers overseas.

As you leave Dartmouth, remember the lessons you’ve learned through your global engagements, taking inspiration from today’s honorary degree recipients. Understand the importance of cultural awareness and cultural humility. Recognize the rich pool of talent that exists across the globe, and harness the power of partnerships in your work. Remember that better solutions arise when diverse perspectives are applied to the complex challenges you’ll face. In short, be citizens of the world.

Congratulations, and away you go! Make your mark all across the girdled earth. We’ll be watching your exploits with pride and awe. May you travel far and experience much... but always keep Dartmouth close to your hearts. Good luck!

Last Updated: 6/11/18