All Things Commencement
May 28, 2008
UNH Commencement Gallery: Photos by Lisa Nugent
Transcription of Commencement Speech by Michael Brown
Commencement Remarks by President Mark Huddleston
Good morning and welcome to the University of New Hampshire's 138th commencement
What a beautiful day to be outside in Durham, New Hampshire. Although this
is my first graduation here, I have been told that not every UNH ceremony has
been blessed with such sunshine. That's just not right. As far as I'm concerned,
we are going to start a new UNH tradition, beginning with the class of 2008:
clement weather for commencement.
While commencement may seem like the end of the educational road, it really
isn't. As Einstein once said, "Intellectual growth should commence at
birth and cease only at death." You have been learning since the day you
were born and you will continue to learn long after you leave here today. May
I say to each and every one of you, it has been a privilege to have you as
fellow learners at UNH.
Commencement is always a bittersweet day for graduates, friends, families
and for those of us on the faculty and staff. We're all proud of what you've
accomplished and are eager to celebrate it. But we are also all sad to see
you go. Well, maybe not "all." There may be a few parents out there
who see commencement mainly as the end of tuition payments, although their
unbridled joy today has to be balanced against a few other parents who see
today in terms of a lost guest room.
Whatever the case, in recognition of all the support and sacrifices that families
and friends have made, I would ask all graduates to take a moment, stand and
give a rousing ovation to everyone who helped you to get to this point.
By the way, among those standing and applauding just now were: 2,023 undergraduates
and 475 graduate students who earned their degrees from 221 different programs.
They hail from 38 states (as far away as Alaska) and 13 foreign countries from
Morocco to Thailand to Sweden. I suspect that our students from Sweden felt
right at home in Durham last February; I'm not sure about the ones from Morocco
Our youngest graduate, by the way, is 20, and our oldest is 60.
Because I believe that David Letterman finished second in the balloting to
Michael Brown as a commencement speaker, I didn't want to disappoint anyone
and thought I'd lead with a list of the Top Ten Reasons Why We Know You're
Ready to Graduate From UNH Today. But then, because I didn't want to encroach
too much on Michael's speaking time, I decided to pare it to the Top Five Reasons
Why We Know You're Ready to Graduate from UNH.
Here we go:
Number 5. Engineering students have run out of new functions to use on their
Number 4. Students on the "five-year plan" have developed an algebraic
formula demonstrating that seven returnable bottles equal one nutritious Ramen
Number 3. English majors taking their biology final defined microtome as "an
itsy bitsy book."
Number 2. Mick Jagger and Arnold Schwarzenegger both studied economics and
look how they turned out.
And the Number 1 reason why you're ready to graduate today: While we know
how much you really enjoyed your three years as a sophomore, tomorrow begins
a new journey, a journey where you wake up at 6 a.m. instead of going to bed.
Now you see why I chose a career in academia as opposed to stand-up. In making
that decision, I heeded some advice you might wish to keep in mind as you begin
your post-graduate journey, from the great American philosopher Jerry Seinfeld: "Sometimes
the road less traveled …is less traveled for a reason."
Now please allow me to reflect in a more serious manner. All of you graduates,
no matter where you come from, no matter how old you are, no matter your major,
are about to enter a world that is at once fascinating and enticing, but complicated
and often troubled. It is a world that needs your help—not only in the
respective professions for which you are now so well prepared—but in
your neighborhoods and in neighborhoods far beyond our own borders.
That is the message you will hear from today from Michael Brown, our commencement
speaker. Michael is, of course, the founder of City Year, the organization
that for 20 years has so effectively brought together those in need and those
willing and able to help.
City Year's motto is: "Give a year. Change the world." That's a
great message, one that I'd be happy to see emblazoned on our own stationery
here at UNH. It's a message that also resonates with one of the best bits of
advice I've ever heard dispensed in a commencement address, which came from
Tom Brokaw, the former NBC news anchor. Brokaw stood before an audience like
this and said: "You are educated. Your certification is in your degree.
You may think of [that degree] as the ticket to the good life. Let me ask you
to think of [it instead] as your ticket to change the world."
Even if you can't give a year, think about how you might give a week, or a
day, or even the occasional afternoon. Someone, somewhere, needs your help.
Get your ticket punched today and change the world.