May 13, 2011
We’re proud of all our graduates. You bring distinction to our university. And so tonight, we celebrate you. Not only for what you’ve already achieved—your UT Arlington degree—but for your successes yet to come.
As our newest Maverick alumni, you’re now part of a rich and distinct legacy of excellence. Let me explain. Not long ago, I was talking with the CEO of a major international corporation that employs a number of our graduates. What’s striking, he said, is that graduates from other universities know what questions to ask…but UT Arlington graduates know how to find the answers. Graduates from other places can talk proficiently about their work…but UT Arlington graduates are willing to do the work.
Now, this wasn’t me saying this, although I certainly believe that our alumni are exceptional—for many reasons. This was the CEO of Fortune 500 company. And he was talking about you.
This is your legacy…
Now, there may be some people here who don’t know what this CEO knows. They don’t understand what’s so remarkable about UT Arlington alumni. (Maybe they’ve just come to see John Legend…)
Well…it’s simple. Just look at the 6,000 students who will graduate from UT Arlington this year:
- Half of them are the first person in their family to earn a college degree. Imagine the doors that they’ve kicked open with their remarkable resiliency and relentless determination. And imagine the lessons that they’ve learned about themselves and what they can achieve. Now, imagine where they’re going…
- One out of 10 of our graduates came from abroad to study at UT Arlington. Some of them will stay here and contribute to our nation in immeasurable ways. Some of them will return home and use their education as a tool to make the world a better place. And all of them will be leaders in our global village.
- Sixty percent of our graduates balanced jobs with class work, a number of them working fulltime. But they persevered…and they graduate this weekend with much more than a degree. They’ve also earned a keen understanding of what it means to work hard, discipline yourself, and follow your dreams—no matter what.
- Two-thirds of our graduates completed their
education by earning scholarships, grants, and other financial aid. More than anyone, they understand the value
of sacrifice, self-reliance, and the impermanence of any obstacle in the
face of sheer will.
So if you wonder what’s so extraordinary about our graduates, this is it. If you wonder how they accomplish such great things, this is it.
And if you wonder what the future of our nation looks like, and who will lead it, this is it. And frankly…I think that’s thrilling. In that spirit, a few weeks ago, the White House sent a personal congratulations from President Obama to all of you. I’m honored to share that with you tonight:
As the nation’s newest graduates, the President said, “it’s your turn to keep this daringly radical but unfailingly simple notion of America alive—that no matter where you’re born or how much your parents have; no matter what you look like or what you believe in, you can still rise to become whatever you want; still go on to achieve great things; still pursue the happiness you hope for.”
Class of 2011…go pursue whatever happiness you will. And take with you the lessons that you’ve learned from your professors, from your classmates, and from your experiences at UT Arlington. Use them to write your future, and ours. And stay forever connected to UT Arlington. We owe it to each other.
That’s what Mavericks do.
Speaking of Mavericks…John Legend is here.
John, it sounds like you’ve got some fans in Arlington, Texas.
OK…raise your hand if you have at least one John Legend song on your iPod.
I’ll raise mine, too.
John Legend is a remarkable musician who’s won nine Grammy awards—including three back in February. He’s sold millions of albums and is perhaps best known for his hit “Ordinary People,” which garnered his first gold record.
He even has fans in high places. Earlier this spring, he took the stage as part of the White House’s celebration of Motown.
More than just a musician…he’s also a warrior for those without a voice and a champion to those who need one most. He’s fought for a peaceful planet, a cleaner environment, and healthier communities. He worked to revitalize New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina and Haiti after that nation’s devastating earthquake. His influential “Show Me Campaign” combats extreme poverty in Africa.
His most recent work is especially meaningful to all of us—and that is that everyone ought to be entitled to a good education, regardless of where they live and how much money they have.
I should mention that John knows a thing or two about getting a good education. He started high school at age 12 and graduated as salutatorian at 16. He studied literature at the University of Pennsylvania…and even though his musical career was well underway, he graduated. (Just like you!)
John Legend is so passionate about education…and he was so moved by Waiting for Superman, the recent film about education reform, that he wrote an original song for its score. Well…we’ve been waiting for John Legend.
And here he is…our guest speaker and an honorary Maverick…John Legend.