Afternoon and thank you for the complimentary Introduction.
First, I want to extend my congratulations to the
Graduates. This is your day; this is a very very
special day. You and your parents have every right
to be both proud and pleased with your accomplishments
and with all that today means. You are graduating
from an excellent University. Graduating, however,
does not mean an end to your relationship with this
Institution. From this day forward you become an
alumnus of this great University.
As an alum myself, I am deeply honored to be asked
by President Lee Todd to speak to you today,
and to receive an honorary doctorate degree.
is no greater honor for me than to return to my alma mater with such
high recognition. As trite as it may sound, I “love” the
University of Kentucky, if it is at all possible to “love” a
University. I have had a proud affiliation with the University of Kentucky
as a student, as a professor, as an alumnus, and as an advisory board
member for the College of Arts and Sciences.
Because of my long association with UK, I had the
opportunity and the pleasure to know and become
friends with former Presidents Otis Singletary
and Charles Wethington, both of whom I admire for their dedication
and service to this University.
also know that UK is comprised of outstanding Professors
who are leaders in their fields.
We need to appreciate and applaud the work
of this world-class
faculty. Graduates, there are faculty here at UK who challenged
every thought you dared utter out loud or write
on paper. By taking advantage
of what UK has to offer, as I am certain you graduates have, you
are leaving here with not just a degree, but most importantly,
that will serve you all of your life and upon which you will build.
message today is a very simple question to you: “What
Does It Mean To Be A Graduate Of The University of
Kentucky?” In sharing
my thoughts about this question with you, I will highlight a
few of the key benefits I see for all of us who have
navigated our way through this
institution for four or more years.
This is a very exciting time to be graduating from
college and launching one’s professional career. I suspect that it is human nature for
people to believe that the time in which they live is “special,” “unique,” and
very “different” from previous time periods. Pick any person
in history, and despite all of the hardships, the natural disasters,
the famines and diseases, and wars, that were prevalent during their
time, that historical figure believed that the years spanning his or
her lifetime were the most unique period in the history of human kind.
The Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., in a speech toward the end of his
life, said that if he had been asked by the “Almighty” to
decide which time period he could live in, he would do a quick “over
view” of the entire known history of human kind, pointing out great
achievements along the way that would have been exciting to witness first
hand, but he would end up selecting the current time, the 1960s, as the
best time ever to have been alive. When considering the many advances
in medicine, in communications, in travel, in computers and technology,
our lifetime in so many ways is characterized by dynamic change, and
that is what makes this a most exciting and interesting time to have
been fortunate enough to witness.
“Flexibility” is one important quality I learned here at UK; that
is the ability to adapt quickly to changes whether these were technological changes
or new ideas. There is no question that we all need a certain amount of flexibility
to reach our goals and objectives without undue stress or debilitating trauma.
This is especially true in our high speed technologically driven world, where
change comes rapidly and where there are great demands for quick adaptation.
All of you, of course, are lucky because you grew up at the same time as this “Technological
Revolution,” which has made it a little easier for you to adjust and learn
new techniques than my generation.
When I was a student, it was quite different. In
1977, after completing my course work and exams,
all I had left to finish my Ph.D.
degree was to type my dissertation. That sounds easy enough, except
it was not.
There was an extensive set of rules regarding the formatting
of the dissertation. It had to be typed on special Duke University
If you made a typing error, especially if you left out
a word, you had to retype the entire page.
The problem, of course,
retyping the page, you would then make yet another typing error,
type the same page over and over until you got it right, with no
errors at all! Plus, you had to use carbon paper to make copies,
taking the carbons out and reinserting them for each retyping.
The process was
long, tedious, and most surely frustrating.
Yet, within a few years of completing my Ph.D.,
technology had advanced dramatically to where
in 1984 I had my own
personal computer, a “Mac,” for
word processing and formatting my papers. And, wow! It seemed unreal,
absolutely amazing compared to the past. I no longer had to type the
same page over and over, no messy, smudgy carbons to deal with. I quickly
discovered how to delete, how to cut and past, and drag and click, and
how to print as many original copies as I desired.
Speaking of printers: back then, my first dot matrix
was like dealing with a snail … a tranquilized snail at that. I could leave the
printer running, go have lunch or run some errands, and sure enough 30
to 45 minutes later, it was still cranking out the pages of my manuscript.
By contrast, today, my son, Benjamin, and I are “networked” and
no sooner than I hit “print,” and I walk into his room, the
printing is done.
And what about cell phones? Major advances have
occurred in this area as well. My first mobile
a ton and
size of a
brick and I was always trying to figure out how to
carry it and where to put
it. But look at the ones we use now … slick, tiny “cells” that
easily fit into our pockets. And we can set them to ring or ding or play
a little song, pulse, or just take a voice mail message. It’s really
amazing compared to the trouble we used to encounter when trying to make
a call away from home.
technology doesn't solve all problems. I have
a friend who was so excited when he got his teenage
daughter a cell phone. He told
me, “Now I can always know where she is.” I
reminded my friend that “yes, he will know
that his daughter either called or answered a call
on her cell phone, but he surely still won’t
know for sure where she is when she answers.” He
didn't like that little
bit of additional information one bit.
Thanks to the Internet, parents can even keep track
of their children’s
academic progress in school. For the last three years, my wife, Valerie,
and I simply pull up my son’s teachers’ Web sites and get
the homework assignments and then go to a certain box and review their
comments and then leave comments of our own. I can assure you our son
does not consider that a technological “advancement.”
So today, with the advances in technology we
can access our accounts and a wide range of
office or home
or anywhere for that matter because mobile
phones also have Internet access.
But you graduates already know all of this.
You grew up with technology and rapid change
at home with
And despite all
of the impressive advances in technology
that have occurred, more will
because technology continues to evolve and
some adjustments and adaptation will be necessary
in the future for
you to meet these
and new challenges. Clearly, the education
received here at UK prepared
you to be flexible for this ever-changing
The flexibility you learned here at UK is
not confined to technology: your college
serve you well
with other people and their differences,
whether the differences are
race, gender, age, geographic locale, or
in the social, cultural, or economic areas.
Religious tolerance is one area where flexibility
is crucial. Today more than ever before
all of us come
of different religious backgrounds and
beliefs. There is no question that the
received at UK
helped me tremendously
regard to religious tolerance.
The Lexington, Kentucky that I grew up
in was a homogenous place in terms of
everyone was either
and for the most part, Protestant. Lafayette,
my high school, to my knowledge, had
very few Jewish
no Hispanics, and
only a sprinkling
of Catholics. So, I was limited in exposure
to other religions until I entered College.
at the University
a wide range of courses that focused
on “The Religions of the World.” It
was in those History, Sociology, and Political Science classes that I
first reflected seriously about the hatred based on religious differences.
From that point to the present, I have attempted to learn as much as
possible about various religions and especially about the plight of people
who are a religious minority in a certain society.
At UK, I took a number of courses
that touched on the Jewish
had such a great impact
on me that I felt compelled to travel
and see first hand the results of what
I went to Munich, to both sides of
a divided Berlin, and to other
in Germany. I visited Poland to see
the beautiful city of Cracow
where Jews once
to see what had
Auschwitz Concentration Camp. I became
interested in Islam, and other religions,
especially those found in the Far East,
led me to visit Istanbul, Turkey, Malaysia,
My interest in all of these places,
their religious beliefs and
classes here at the
University of Kentucky.
Graduates, whether you remain in
Kentucky or move around, there
is no question
of other religions.
that you move beyond just tolerating
other people’s religions to
truly trying to understand them and to respecting them and their differences
with your religious faith. In my view, respect and understanding are
the ways to find common ground between “others” religious
beliefs and your own. Respect and understanding pave the way to getting
along with “others” in the world, even when “others” hold
views different from yours.
Today we often call differences “Diversity.” Diversity is
not a new concept. But, because of the breakthroughs in technology that
have led to increased mobility and rapid communication, interacting with “other
people” is more compelling in our world now than previously.
I have no doubt that at UK you
met at least one person who was “different” from
you. Perhaps the most striking “difference” in your time
here, and perhaps into the future, has been meeting someone of a different
race. And, I suspect that while you were here at UK, you heard people
proclaim their support “for diversity.” But, the more you
talked to them, the more you discovered that they had numerous reservations
Graduates, in the world of your
immediate future it will be
than ever to examine
and understand—not simply dismiss—these
reservations. Indeed, I challenge you as college graduates to continue
learning about and embracing “other people. It is important to
appreciate the unique contributions made by others to our society and
the world. This appreciation creates a bond and a realization that we
are in the same “boat together” and that we need to find
ways to cooperate for the good of all. We cannot accept atrocities like
9/11 and the subway bombings in Spain as inevitable. We must continue
to strive to bring people together.
To me, this is most important
because the more you learn
people,” the more you realize that “other people” are
very much like you. They are not that different at all. There is no question
that this view—of the commonality of all people—was one of
the things I learned in classes here at UK. As you move to the next phase
in your life, I urge you to continue exploring other cultures by reading,
by taking the time to attend programs and seminars, and above all, by
traveling to countries outside of the United States.
As an aside here, international
travel has helped me to
the things that
seem “odd” to me might be very natural to
others, such as driving on the left or “wrong” side of the
road. I believe 45% of the people in the world think that we drive on
the “wrong side.” I looked up and found the 10 most populous
countries in the world and then determined which side of the road their
people drive on. The total population of these 10 countries is 3 billion,
750 million. By my count 2 billion, 50 million drive on the “right” side
and 1 billion, 700 million drive on the “left” side. I know,
someone in the audience is saying, “who cares?”
I am sure that as you navigated
your way through the
University of Kentucky,
such a thing as
too much flexibility.
being willing to change how
do things and
drop of a
we can be left not knowing
who we are and we can
detached, cynical, and
confused. That is
why it is so important
to have balance,
to have some continuity,
with the flexibility.
We have continuity when
we retain important
With the rapid
changes in technology
those values that have stood the test of time and change. Graduates,
it is now your responsibility for preserving and passing these values
to the next generations. These values include honesty, integrity, and
Graduates, as you leave
UK and move into
this ever-changing world,
know, to be
able to discern,
what you must hold
onto from the
past. If it seems
as if things
have changed to the
point where honesty
behavior are being
then you need
to insist that
some things must
the way they were
in the “Good Old Days.” This
is not always easy. In fact, it can be difficult in an ever changing
world where it seems the old rules no longer apply, and where you will
be labeled “Old School,” or worst for embracing and promoting
Being honest, keeping
your word, or being
like “Old School.” But, I have no doubt these very
positive attributes are still necessary in the world you will now enter.
They are as important as ever for maintaining an orderly society where
people know what to expect and how to act based on truth.
the “keys” to a successful
and rewarding professional career in any field. I have had the good fortune
to meet prominent people who are successful in business, in medicine,
law, education, and politics. I have met dozens of men and women who
sit on governing boards of Universities, both public and private. All
of these people—to a person—work extremely hard, are kind
and generous with their praise of others, keep their word, and are honest
and forth-right in their dealings with others.
with a healthy
positive attributes that
I learned from
of Kentucky. But,
too; like a
to service. It is
of us give
back to the University
give to others
made it possible
even UK, has always
and required a
from most of
When I started
$140 a semester,
18 hours, and
costs for my books
of my classes
with today’s dollars that might
not seem like a lot of money but those dollars were still very difficult
to come by. The University made loans and scholarships available to me
and others. Therefore, I must give back.
people of this state
UK, as a land
institution. To say
less than diligent
elevate my poor
admitted into UK
also find innovative
for “diverse students,
especially those who are right here in our back yard. We must open the
doors wide to young, Hispanic people. We need to keep the doors of UK
open to International students from all over the world. And when we open
the doors, we must be sure to mentor those who come, because mentoring
is a form of service. In mentoring there is so much that you graduates
have to offer, that you can pass on to other young people. You can help
them understand the core values of society. You can help them become
grounded in the basics of a good education, just as you were, just as
I was here at UK.
point: I am
to the most
University of Kentucky
all who attend
graduate: it gives
one the confidence to aspire to new goals; and by the challenges
one encounters from faculty and fellow students, it helps develop
a “blue print” to reach one’s goals. I recall,
very vividly, as a 6th grader in the Spring of 1962, coming to
this campus on a field trip to the Funkhouser Biological Building.
visiting this campus inspired me. That excursion left me with a
desire to attend this University. In 1968, when I enrolled as a
I was awe struck by this campus, the people I encountered, and
the wide range of activities taking place. And, there were times
I doubted myself. I wondered if I had the “smarts” to
obtain a college degree. But, any time I became doubtful, there
was always someone around to encourage me. Eventually as I became
confident student, I dreamed I would some day be a Professor here.
And that dream became a reality too. But I must admit that even
in my wildest dreams, I could never have imagined this day and
the University of Kentucky has given me. But, Graduates this is
what the University of Kentucky is all about!
You have learned so much here at UK, perhaps more than you can even appreciate
right now. Flexibility and adaptability in meeting the new demands
of technology and in interacting with others; holding on to values
that will sustain you during difficult times; and confidence in your
ability aspire to and to reach lofty goals. These are just a few
benefits you have received during your time at UK.
you have been blessed to obtain an
you must do something significant.
I don’t believe that
I am taking anything away from
any of you by saying that you
were assisted by “others” in
obtaining your degree from UK. This compels you all the more to give
something back to society. In the Bible, John, Fourth Chapter, 37th
and 38th Verses, The Living
Bible, Paraphrased, says, “For
it is true that one sows and
someone else reaps. I sent
you to reap where
sow; others did the work, and you received the harvest.”
I challenge you Graduates to “sow” so that others may reap.
Every one of you can do something that will make a difference in the
lives of someone else, especially for the elderly, the ill, the young,
the underserved, or the neglected of the world. From my study of both
World and United States Histories, I have discovered, many seemingly
ordinary men and women who felt moved to do something, to take a stand
for what they knew was “right.” Their actions turned out
to be extraordinary!
So for now, I challenge you to
pass on what you have learned
here at the University of Kentucky.
Stay involved with your University.
in touch with your humanity. And, above all, always remember to
Graduates, families, friends, faculty,
staff, members of the Board,
President Lee Todd, thank you again for having me here on your
special day. This
is indeed a very special day for me as well.