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President Harrison's Remarks

Good morning, and welcome to the undergraduate commencement ceremony! It’s a beautiful day—I’m grateful for the warmth and sunshine.

I really appreciate that more this year because it wasn’t completely true last year. As many of you know, this year—for the first time in University history—we are holding two ceremonies, one for graduates and one for undergraduates, mostly because it rained like hell last year and everyone got soaked! So, this year, thanks to my creative colleagues, we have this giant tent. Not giant enough to hold everyone, alas—nothing short of a circus tent would hold everyone, and I don’t think we can fit a circus tent into this space—but this arrangement is large enough with streaming video now available in many indoor venues around campus to make it possible for everyone to stay dry on a rainy day.

Fortunately, we don’t need any of that today. But I would like to know what your experience is today, so please feel free to e-mail me and tell me how you like or don’t like this set-up. You can find my e-mail on our webpage. So, wherever you are sitting, if you are within the sound of my voice, please feel free to let me know how you like this.
,br> Now, let’s start with the most important thing I will say in these remarks: congratulations to the class of 2012! Let’s all give them a big round of applause. Now, the second most important thing I have to say: graduates, please stand up and give a big round of applause and cheers for the people who made it possible for you to be where you are today—your faculty and staff, and all of your friends and family! Let’s hear how much you appreciate them!

Now it is my turn to thank the class of 2012. Today marks the end of my fourteenth year as president of the University of Hartford, and I can honestly say this: as a group, you have been the most outstanding class I have known during my time here! You have had terrific leadership at every position of responsibility throughout the student body, you have distinguished yourselves in the classrooms, the labs, the studios, the theaters, and the stages throughout the University. You have won prestigious international and national scholarships, you have won prizes and competitions, published scholarly papers, and volunteered in our community in a manner I have never seen a class do here before. Some of you have started successful companies while you were here. Some of you have won athletic conference championships, set school records, and participated in NCAA tournaments. Let me tell you this: if the class of 2012 puts its mind to it, there is nothing you can’t do! Trust yourselves—just as you have changed this University, you are going to change this world!

It is important for me to tell you this just at this moment in our history because so many people in the national media are questioning the value of a college education. Now I know this will sound self-serving, and I am clearly biased on this subject, but you have done the best thing you could possibly have done for yourselves and for our world by attending the University of Hartford and earning your college degree. Now we have dozens of majors, and you have lots and lots of different personalities and talents, but I can assure you that you will live happier and more fulfilling lives because you have gone to college, you will understand yourselves and the world around you better because you have gone to college, and you will affect change in this world more because you have gone to college.

Don’t just take it from me. Right here in the first row we have a group of University alumni from the class of 1962 who are joining you today to celebrate their 50th college reunion. We call them Golden Hawks. Golden Hawks, please stand. Ladies and gentlemen of the class of 2012, please join me in a round of applause for these ladies and gentlemen who have gone before you. Ask them if they aren’t happier because they went to college!

I know these are challenging economic times, and I know I can’t predict the future. But I can say this with every ounce of confidence I have acquired in my 66 years on this earth: the future of this country and this world will depend more than at any time in our history on your abilities to use your minds and the knowledge and skills you have learned here. It may not be immediately clear to you, but trust me: when you are my age, you will be ever so thankful you challenged yourselves by coming here to grow and to learn.

As a class, you have blazed your way through the University of Hartford. Now go set the world on fire. Take the energy, the vitality, and the enthusiasm you have demonstrated here, and use them in your lives ahead. Rabbi Cantor can correct me on this—she gets the last say during the benediction, after all: there’s a traditional Jewish phrase, “tikkun olam.” Repairing the world. God knows, we need that now. Use what you’ve acquired here. Go do it!

So, here’s the beginning of the rest of your lives: the ceremony for the next hour or so. We’ll begin by recognizing students and faculty who have distinguished themselves here, and then we will recognize our distinguished alumna and three individuals. Each in his or her own way they have repaired the world they found. They have collectively improved the lives of women, Native Americans, citizens of greater Hartford and Connecticut, and our nation and world. Then we’ll hear from our commencement speaker, our distinguished junior senator from Connecticut, Richard Blumenthal, and our student speaker, Om Ramrakhiani, and then—finally, finally—to the moment you have been waiting for: bestowing on you the degrees you have earned.

So, sit back, relax, enjoy our wonderful tent, and then get ready to celebrate. This is your party. Enjoy it!
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