China E.M.B.A. Commencement
October 29, 2009
Back in Texas, on occasions such as this, I often greet the crowd by saying "Hello, Mavericks!"
Even though we're a long way from Texas today, and even though many of you may have never been to our campus, you are still graduates of The University of Texas at Arlington. You are still Mavericks. And so, let me say to you today "Ni hao, Mavericks!"
Thank you. Unfortunately, that's the extent of my Chinese vocabulary. And so, I'm grateful to my colleagues here at this great university, and those who have accompanied me during my stay in your extraordinary country, for their support and assistance. Despite our different histories, languages, and customs-and even though thousands of miles separate our two countries-I do not feel that we are a world apart. I feel at home here, among friends, a part of our global village and our global economy.
I am amazed at how much China has changed in the four years since my last visit. Part of it is because of the spectacular Olympic Games you hosted last year. And part of it is a continuation of the momentum that has been building here. I see new development everywhere, and great progress. I see a nation that's advancing rapidly and has become an undeniable force on our world stage.
This is especially evident in business. At a time when many nations are making little or no economic gains-or perhaps even seeing sharp declines-China's economy is forecast to grow by as much as eight percent in 2009. What happens in China matters in Texas...and everywhere else, too....more than ever before. Likewise, despite our current economic challenges, what happens in the United States matters in China. There is no doubt that President Hu's desire to make your nation a greater global presence is being felt around the world. Yet we need each other as partners more than ever.
The fact is that we live in a new world that's interconnected and, increasingly, interdependent. The same sun that rises in the East also sets in the West. The factories of China need the markets of America, the ships of Europe, and the materials of Africa. Wall Street depends on the stock markets of Shanghai and Mumbai, Shenzhen and Berlin. Ideas from Beijing need innovations from Arlington-and vice versa. And we all breathe the same air, as President John F. Kennedy said almost 50 years ago.
All of this means that we are in unique period of human history. For the first time, a nation's survival relies more on its ability to collaborate than to conquer. And what's more, every citizen can make a difference in this brave new world. Opportunities come to those who are prepared, not simply those who are privileged.
And with your new Executive MBA degree from The University of Texas at Arlington, you are well-prepared indeed. You are ready to satisfy not only your needs, but to answer the call of your family, your city, your nation, and our world.
You live in one of the oldest and most revered nations in human history. But China is a relatively new nation in terms of the global economy. You are only its second generation of global-minded business leaders. That makes your education and experience even more significant and valuable, because you have a broadened view and expanded horizons. And in the years to come, you will build relationships and forge partnerships that you can't even imagine today.
I believe that you will learn what matters most is not where you live in this world, but what you contribute to it.
Case in point is a bright and passionate student I met a few years ago at the University of Texas at Arlington. Her name is Wajiha Rizvi. Her parents were from Pakistan, and Wajiha was the first person in her family to attend college. Not only did she attend college, she excelled. After graduating, she worked on the election campaign of President Barack Obama. And now, because of her education and her enthusiasm, this young woman from Pakistan is enrolled in one of our nation's most prestigious law schools. From humble beginnings, she's on her way.
Last year, I met Jorge Callado, a student who was born into poverty in Mexico and faced difficult odds his entire life. But he preserved and triumphed. Like Wajiha, Jorge was the first person from his family to attend college. And like you, he majored in business. Today, Jorge is a long way from his poor village in Mexico. He's now working as a member of the corporate finance team at the Microsoft Corporation.
Let me tell you one more story. This one is about one of your classmates here in Beijing. Hollis Zhao is the general manager of Beijing Harley Davidson. Hollis started the entire operation for Harley Davidson in China, and still oversees much of the progress the company has made in this market. I love this story of a Chinese man who oversees operations for an iconic American company and earns his degree from a leading American university...without ever leaving China. As I said, we're more interconnected than ever before.
All of these stories involved women and men from humble origins who have made the most of their education to propel themselves forward, and to contribute greatly to their families, their nation, and the world around them. Your education can afford you any opportunity that you can imagine. But opportunities are not guaranteed. You have a head start, but you must still run the race.
This is an exciting time for you to stake your claim as a business leader in our global village. But I hope you will always remember how quickly things change. And I don't simply mean the spectacular new skyline of Beijing or Shanghai. I'm talking about innovation. Innovation is a river flowing so quickly that what's original today is obsolete tomorrow.
When the famous American journalist and foreign affairs expert Thomas Friedman spoke on our campus last year, he said that "we must all run faster in order to stay in place." And if you don't run faster than ever before-if you don't learn, grow, and make measured progress every day-then you will be passed by. Surviving in our world means adapting, adjusting, and thinking ahead-and leading it means you must do even more.
My friends and fellow Mavericks, I sincerely congratulate you on this important and extraordinary day. Earning a degree from The University of Texas at Arlington is something to be proud of. And I'm proud of you. So is everyone back in Texas.
I know that your future is as bright as China's. And I know that you'll make a real difference, not only for your nation...but for our world. Keep learning, keep growing...and keep running faster.