UMass Dartmouth faculty, staff, Trustees and friends; parents and families of our graduates...and especially the Class of 2012 ... good afternoon and welcome to our Graduate Commencement exercises!
This is a ceremony steeped in tradition AND aspiration and tradition. The academic robes with our school colors and the disciplinary colors of the hoods and even those funny hats that we are all wearing today, come from traditions that have endured for centuries and are meant to be both celebratory and serious.
We are reminded by this old world style that the ideals and purposes of great universities must continue to be cherished.
And the singing of the national anthem, the display of our national and Commonwealth colors, bring us to the 21st century and remind us that true learning and discovery can only occur in a thriving Democracy where the freedoms to debate....to disagree....to challenge the status quo.....
to invent....to create, and above all to be respected as an individual....is not just tolerated but celebrated.
This amphitheater --The Vietnam Veterans Peace Memorial Amphitheater--is named for citizens -- some may be our family members and neighbors --who have been willing to sacrifice everything in defense of principles that make real education possible here and around the globe.
Education -- the constant effort to eliminate ignorance and prejudice -- is indeed a force to eliminate strife around the world and division here at home.
So, today -- with and through the Class of 2012 -- we celebrate the inspiring thrill of mastery and discovery, knowing that knowledge and reason and passion are the cornerstones of peace and prosperity and critical to our personal and collective evolution as human beings and as communities.
I welcome you to this celebration with great hope for the future you will create and enormous pride in what your accomplishments represent for our University and for the future of our world.
Just a few weeks from now -- on July 2 -- there will be a birthday. It will be the 150th anniversary of the signing of the Morrill Act by President Abraham Lincoln. That historic act established public higher education in America.
The vision was to create higher educational opportunities across a divided nation with the intent of unifying the national spirit and confronting the economic and cultural challenges that existed then.
The mission of UMass Dartmouth, which will celebrate the 50th anniversary of this campus in 2014, was borne from Lincoln's Act. Today, the Class of 2012 personify that mission.
You have proven yourselves to be innovative, entrepreneurial, and highly skilled. You will fuel the engine that powers a bright economic, cultural and sustainable future here in our region, across the Commonwealth, and far beyond.
You know the challenges that await you: a fragile global economy, religious and ethnic strife, extreme ideologies clouding rational thought, and fear of fast-evolving technology and science. Today, we are demonstrating our trust in as leaders and innovators who can discover, create and execute new solutions.
The Class of 2012 will be making some university history today.
We will be conferring our first-ever Doctor of Philosophy degree in Nursing, and indeed a record number of overall doctoral degrees.
But we are first and foremost here to celebrate your individual accomplishments, completion of your graduate degrees, knowing that your accomplishment benefits us all.
It is important for you to realize that you are among the fortunate ones because it is still relatively rare in this world to have a college degree, let alone a graduate degree.
Many have made this possible by investing their energy, money, love and faith in helping you get to this place.
Will the graduates please stand and join with me in letting your friends and family know how much you appreciate their strong support. You know you could not have done it without them.