Alex Mehran (Photo: Stephanie Secrest)
Graduates, families, professors and administrators.
Congratulations on your fine accomplishment.
When President Qayoumi's office contacted me by e-mail with instructions on this morning's program, I thought the e-mail read, "Be short of inspirational," and I said, well, I can do that. On closer review in fact the e-mail said, "Be short and inspirational."
Well, I'm afraid I can't do that. However, for inspiration I can direct you to Shakespeare, the Bible and Confucius. All of the lessons have been learned, all the tales told and all of the attempted short-cuts well chronicled. YOu will find that life's lessons have been learned, mistakes have been made, adversities overcome, and transgressions well itemized.
Through all this, the optimism of the human spirit has prevailed and our culture has continually advanced. Your presence here today, as you join the society of educated individuals, is a testament to that fact.
I have had the honor of being both a graduate and a parent of graduates. I can tell you in both situations I have asked the question, "What is the value of an education?" I am certain that many of you are asking that very question right now. As a student you question, "Why have I sepnt so many late nights and weekends learning lessons when so many attractive alternatives were available? Why did I sacrifice all that time?"
And as a parent, I am certain that there are those of you who are asking, "What is the value of this education when my child could have been working harder and the lessons better learned while the sacrifices I have made may have been better served?"
In my view, the value of an education is the preservation and advancement of the civilized world. It is the appreciation of art over araments, the recognition that science is more reliable than intuition, and an understanding that the interaction of human beings yields a greater purpose than serving the individual.
A civilized world recognizes the inspiration created by Michelangelo and Matisse, the insights of Homer and Hemmingway, and the intellect of Newton and Hawking.
As you take away from this day the lessons you have learned in the classroom and on the campus, and weave them through Shakespeare, the Bible and Confucius, the time has arrived when you need to apply what you know. It is in that application of knowledge and experience that you will advance civilization.
Let me leave you with two final thoughts: There is a vast difference between I.Q. and mental character. One is given, the other developed. Hitler and bin Laden had high I.Q.s with disturbed mental character. Mahatma Ghandi and Abraham Lincoln had both character and intelligence. The plwer of their ideas endure.
And finally, thinking is more than memory. Memory is about history; thinking is about the future. When I as your age, Apple was something one ate and Facebook was an actual book we used to check out ton the girls at the neighboring college. These are both now part of your history.
The question before you now is, how are you going to use your intelligence, knowledge, character and thinking capabilities to build a more civilized world for your generation and those that will follow?
I am confident that the world will be a better place for the good deeds you are about to accomplish.
Good luck and God bless you all.