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2014 Baccalaureate Speeches

Greg Moyer ’06

Will, thank you so much for that incredibly kind and gracious introduction.  Thank you to the graduates for the opportunity to speak to you today.  I am deeply honored and proud to be part of this celebration.  As Will shared, I worked with him throughout the admissions process and encouraged him to attend once he was admitted.  So, to the entire Dickinson community—you’re welcome…and I am deeply sorry.  It is true that my colleagues and I had the chance to work with many of you through your college search process, and we vividly remember reviewing your applications.  We knew then that your class would be special and had high hopes for what you would accomplish.  When you were admitted just four short years ago, we truly believed, and still do, that you had the passion and the power to change the world.  Four years later your alma mater could not be more proud of you.  So, to all of the graduates, congratulations!  To the parents, guardians, siblings, aunts and uncles, grandparents, and everyone else who helped to bring these students to this point, thank you for all that you’ve done to support this community and congratulations to you as well.  

I’m sure that you all do not need to be reminded about how quickly the last four years have gone by.  No doubt, you, like I, will carry with you these memories and friendships that you’ve made for the rest of your life.  As I thought about what to say to you today and I considered the relationship between baccalaureate and commencement, I realized that the word “commencement” is a very strange word for a ceremony that marks the end of your four year journey.  But, as its name also suggests, it is a moment to celebrate a new beginning.  If commencement is an opportunity for celebration and new beginnings, then baccalaureate seems to be the perfect opportunity to reflect on our time together here at Dickinson.  

You have accomplished so much in just a few short years.  From research to prestigious writing fellowships, from conference championships to heralded art exhibitions, from prominent internships to Fulbrights, from graduate school to professional opportunities, from the Peace Corps to Teach for America, you have so much to be proud of.  You’ve honed your skills, challenged conventions, taken risks, and broken down barriers.  You are a class of revolution, of sit ins, of big ideas, and of strong voices.  You’ve always wanted a seat at the table (and sometimes some of you have elbowed your way in).  Through your time here, through your experiences, and through your accomplishments, you have developed a revolutionary spirit.  

As Dickinsonians, we come by this spirit very naturally.  In fact, we gather here today in the long shadow our founder, Dr. Benjamin Rush, who, as a signer of the Declaration of Independence, had high expectations for this college and for its graduates.  Indeed, it says in our charter that Dickinson, founded only six days after the signing of the Treaty of Paris, is to create “citizen leaders for the new democracy”.  Rush conceived of this college in a time of great tumult—just days after the end of the American Revolution and moments before the French Revolution—events that would shake, and eventually shape, the world.  And while the world was complex and ever changing, Dr. Rush’s intentions were clear—Dickinsonians were intended then, and are still today, to be educated with the belief that they will change the world—seemingly high ambitions for a once humble college founded on the western frontier of the new United States.  

Today, we find ourselves once again in time of revolution and rapid change.  From these old stone steps and from our vantages around the world, we’ve watched governments rise and fall from Tunisia to Burma, we’ve watched the climate change, we’ve watched social media push the limitations of our concept of connectivity, we’ve watched the economy crumble to the brink of collapse and begin to rebuild, and we’ve watched science and technology take significant leaps into the future.  The world is rapidly changing, and the pace of that change has only increased over the last four years.  You are about to enter a world that is more interconnected with more people and fewer natural resources than at any other time in human history.  You are all part of a new global generation, and as such, here at Dickinson, we expect you to see your education within a broader global context, to appreciate its interconnectivity to the wider world, and to know that the world’s problems are rarely solved by one person alone, but instead through a community of collaborators.  

Over 230 years ago, Dr. Rush deeply understood this idea and the complexity of his world, and thus, demanded more of a Dickinson education, insisting that it would be useful and pragmatic within a liberal arts context.  As Dickinsonians, we acknowledge that we are part of a much broader community.  Dr. Rush embraced this idea by conceiving of Dickinson and then drafting its charter with a fellow signer of the Declaration and Carlisle resident, James Wilson.  (Dickinson Fun Fact: We are the only college in the nations that had two signers of the Declaration also sign our college Charter.)  Together, they set out to create a new college for the new nation—one that acknowledged that we, as Dickinsonians, have a commitment to the wider community, to a world beyond Dickinson.  We were to be educated with a purpose and with a sense of stewardship.  

As a first generation college student, coming from a small town of just 650 people (Carlisle looked huge to me), I had my first taste of this when I joined this community of new and different people, of divergent and dynamic ideas.  As a Dickinson student, I left the country for the first time in my life to study abroad in Bologna, Italy, and I could appreciate, for the first time in a very real way, Dickinson’s commitment to stretching its students—to creating a community of risk takers.  I learned a new language, built lifelong friendships with other students from around the world, and challenged myself academically in a completely new environment.  While there, during my second semester, I interned at an Italian Terrorism Research Center with a woman named Cinzia Ventoroli, who did not speak a word of English.  Remember, I spoke basically no Italian when I arrived in Bologna.  These experiences shaped and stretched me, and allowed me “to become comfortable with being uncomfortable”.  When I returned to campus, I was encouraged by faculty like Melinda Schlitt, Marc Mastrangelo, Matt Pinsker, and Steve Weinberger to question the world around me, to take responsibility for my education, and to become a lifelong learner.  For that, I will be forever grateful.  

At Dickinson, I learned to become not just a citizen of the community in which I lived, but to stretch myself and become an engaged citizen of the world.  As Dickinsonians, we are all asked to step beyond these limestone walls not just to see and experience, but to know and understand—to understand that there is work yet to be done, to know that our education has a very special purpose—one of engaged citizenship.  

Tragically, as we look to the wider world, we are reminded time and time again that this educational opportunity is not yet an opportunity afforded to all.  There is no starker reminder than the recent events in Nigeria where almost three hundred school girls so believed in the transformational power of an education that in the face of incredible adversity, (imagine this) they returned to school for the last two weeks to take their final exams in hopes of earning a diploma.  But that dream, like that of so many young women from all around the world, was ripped away from them by the Boko Haram, a terrorist organization, who violently opposes the education of women and the “Westernization” of Nigeria.  So, we were reminded once again (and all too often) that we have been given a great gift and that as Dickinsonians we have a special responsibility.  With your Dickinson education, with your passion, and with your drive, let this be the generation that needs no more reminders like this.  For as Rush, himself, said, “Freedom can exist only in the society of knowledge.  Without learning, men are incapable of knowing their rights, and where learning is confined to a few people, liberty can be neither equal nor universal.”  For where there is struggle and strife, let us speak out; where there is sickness, let us be the healers; where there is apathy, let us take the lead; and where there is injustice, let us be champions.  As Dickinsonians, we are expected to know and to see the world differently and to take action.  This is our promise.  

So many graduates that have come before you are already living out this promise.  Graduates like Rick Smolan, a ’72 alumnus, who has worked for TIME, LIFE, and National Geographic and is now CEO of Against All Odds Productions, has committed to a life of engagement in issues of global importance though his photography.  Having founded one of the “25 Coolest Companies in America” according to Fortune Magazine, (not so bad) Rick sees the world differently; through the lens of his camera, Rick captures, for the world, issues of water scarcity and war and conflict.  Graduates like Sam Rosmarin, from the class of 2008, who now works in Somalia and Sudan as a policy advisor on gender and conflict, have continued this tradition of service to the wider world.  Sam, just like you, began his work as a Dickinson undergrad while interning at Harvard and studying health trends, food insecurity, and mortality rates in Darfur (and, in his free time, gave tours of campus as a member of the Liberty Cap Society..we’ll take credit for that one).  Or even, like graduates sitting here with us today, like Noorjahan Akbar, who co-founded Young Women for Change in 2011, and continues, even now, to campaign for women’s rights in Afghanistan.  

Dickinsonians all around the world are already doing this work.  This torch has passed from generation to generation of Dickinsonians and it now passes to you.  The promise of an education that is more than a commitment to a single endeavor, that will ask more of you as graduates, is now yours to live out.  It is a promise to be nurtured and passed down, to be celebrated and spread throughout the world.  Like the thousands of graduates that have come before you, we know that you will find your own way, your own path, and your own commitments, but in the spirit of Dr. Rush, in the spirit of this place, we know that you will do so with a deep sense of responsibility to the people and the world around you.   We believe that you will be the generation that not only passes on this promise, but begins to fulfill it for all future generations.  Just like the first time that we sat down to read your applications, we believe that you have the power and the passion to change the world.  

For those of you that know me well, you know that I can rarely talk about Dickinson without becoming breathless.  For me, this was a transformational opportunity, and I feel a deep sense of responsibility to not only appreciate this great gift, but to give back to the wider world and to live a life of purpose and stewardship.  So my hope for you is that as you prepare to leave these grounds, you remember this experience fondly, but that you also do so with a sense of commitment to each other and the world around you.  I truly hope that you will always remain forever breathless about this college, your alma mater, and that you will remain forever ready to change the world.  We believe that you can, and we know that you will.  As Dickinsonians, we see the world differently.  May you always carry the aspirations and the spirit of this place, your college, with you for the rest of your lives.  Good luck and congratulations!  Thank you.