UM–Dearborn Commencement 2010
May 2, 2010
Thank you, Chancellor Little, and thank you to the Dearborn community for the invitation to address the Class of 2010.
Let me begin by commending Chancellor Little on a decade of leadership at the University of Michigan–Dearborn. He has made the University of Michigan a stronger, more engaged institution, particularly in southeastern Michigan.
Being invited to address today’s graduates and their families is a particularly special honor because it comes as the University of Michigan–Dearborn is celebrating 50 years of education and service in metropolitan Detroit. More than 40,000 people hold degrees from UM–Dearborn, and today’s graduates now join this legacy of excellence and service.
I am certain that every graduating class in the history of this campus has put on caps and gowns, gathered for commencement, and been told: This is your special day.
And it is. You have sacrificed and worked hard, impressed the faculty, and created new knowledge for our world. Your family has supported you and, in turn, you have made them proud with your achievements.
As special as this afternoon is for you, it is an equally significant moment for the people of Michigan.
As of today, metro Detroit has more teachers, writers, scientists, urban planners and psychologists.
As of today, our region has more college graduates for an economy that demands creativity, knowledge and people willing to take risks.
As of today, our state will benefit from the ideas, discoveries and enthusiasm that will move Michigan forward to compete and prosper in a rapidly changing world.
Today is indeed special, for all of us, because of what it means for tomorrow.
Graduates, tomorrow demands your intellect, your compassion, and your leadership. We need the depth of your UM–Dearborn education to address the immense challenges facing our region. Advance the work underway for stronger public schools, effective public transportation, innovations and technologies to expand our economy, and a deeper respect for our diversity of faith, ethnicity and race.
And share with us your knowledge about the environment, of understanding and countering the threats to our natural world. Environmental education and action are critical for our region, which is rich in waterways and wildlife, but also burdened with brownfields and vestiges of our manufacturing heritage.
We need graduates like Sarwan Grewal and his commitment to a future that is more sustainable. As a student, he has pushed for more recycling on campus. He co–founded and led the Urban Studies Club. As a graduate, he will work toward smarter urban development and city planning that is effective, functional and environmentally sound.
Tomorrow, graduates, we need your compassion. No one here needs a speech about home foreclosures, the auto industry, and the state of our state. We see it and live it, and we are working our way through it, with innovation, creativity and a commitment to increased education.
But we cannot forget the neighbors and strangers who are struggling. We must remember our most vulnerable young people and senior citizens, the unemployed, and those in need of health care.
A stronger metropolitan Detroit demands a commitment to community service that is a hallmark of University of Michigan students. This is why the UM–Dearborn campus holds a place on the President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll.
Civic engagement is the foundation of a vibrant, prosperous society, and more than ever, as our neighbors and communities work through this economic downturn, your contributions matter.
Your classmate Ashleigh Hodge is inspired by the words of the 19th century author and clergyman Edward Everett Hale, who said, "I am only one, but I am one. I cannot do everything, but I can do something. And I will not let what I cannot do interfere with what I can do."
She has made a point of extending her education from the classroom to the community. She has taken a special interest in the lives of those behind bars, and takes time to talk with inmates about crime, punishment and justice. She knows she wants to do more, and is pondering prisoner education programs, AmeriCorps, and a master’s in social work.
Ashleigh will tell you, "We become educated people so we can, in turn, help educate others."
For her, not helping is not an option.
Finally, tomorrow we need your leadership. We are serious at Michigan when we say we aspire to be the leaders and best. It is what is expected of University of Michigan alumni, and I am confident you will continue this heritage of leadership.
Look to fellow graduate Rebecca Wilczak and the hours devoted to encouraging young people that a college education can – and should – be a reality, not a dream. These are pre–teen girls in southwest Detroit, girls who are smart and eager but lacking in encouragement.
As a successful college graduate now headed for a Ph.D. program, Rebecca is a tremendous role model. Mentoring makes a difference, and she and her peers in the Women in Learning and Leadership program are showing girls that college can change their lives, their families, and their community. And all of us benefit.
It was 1957 when the U–M Board of Regents accepted a tremendous gift from the Ford Motor Company that would become the University of Michigan-Dearborn. At the time, one regent remarked, "No one here today can completely envisage the future of this undertaking ... and we gladly accept the challenge to new leadership in educational horizons."
The Michigan of 50 years ago had its unique challenges, and the University of Michigan responded by establishing a vibrant campus for our state¡¯s most important region. For five decades, graduates of UM–Dearborn have shaped Detroit, Plymouth, Warren, Troy, and countless other communities with their knowledge, service, and leadership.
Today, as our state focuses on a new economy, UM–Dearborn alumni play a vital and unique role in that transformation. Where assembly–line production drove 20th century progress, higher education – and its limitless positive benefits – will define this new era. The critical thinking skills that come with your education are essential to a vibrant, productive Michigan in the 21st century.
Graduates, today you make history in the University of Michigan–Dearborn’s 50th year. Tomorrow, we await the history you will make in our region, state and world.
For today, goodbye.
For tomorrow, good luck.
And forever, Go Blue!