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UT Arlington Diversity Recognition Awards

April 22, 2015

Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. It’s a pleasure and an honor to be with you this evening recognizing the tremendous individuals who will receive Diversity Recognition Awards later in this ceremony, and celebrating the rich environment that you are nurturing at UT Arlington.

As I look out into the audience, I am reminded of the words of John Hume, noted Irish politician and winner of the 1998 Nobel Peace Prize and the 2001 Gandhi Peace Prize, who said, “Difference is the essence of humanity. Difference is an accident of birth and it should therefore never be the source of hatred or conflict. The answer to difference is to respect it. Therein lies a most fundamental principle of peace: respect for diversity.”

As president, it is of tremendous pride to be able to say that this fundamental principle is enshrined at UT Arlington. The respect for diversity is not just something we talk about, but rather it is something we believe in fervently—it is how we live.

To the awardees this evening, and to all in the audience, let me extend my sincere appreciation for all that you have done, are doing, and will do in the future to promote the values enshrined in the UT Arlington principles of community. Your commitment makes the difference in students’ lives, in the way we positively impact our community, and in how we seek to influence our and the world’s future.

The Diversity Recognition Awards, as they exist today, were first given out in the 2007-2008 academic year to honor the student leaders and organizations that envision, plan, produce, and implement programs contributing to the rich multicultural environment that defines UT Arlington. These awards take on a special emphasis this year as we implement our Strategic Plan 2020: Bold Solutions: Global Impact and focus our academic, research, and community service endeavors not just around academic themes but around Guiding Aspirations and Maverick Imperatives built on a foundation of six specific principles of community:

  • Mutual Respect,
  • Effective Communication,
  • Collaborative Relationships,
  • A Supportive Environment,
  • Leadership and Service, and
  • Inclusion and Diversity

Your active involvement through the year not only celebrates the diversity we so cherish but also reflects these very principles of community. Over 3,000 students participated in over a dozen events through the year hosted under the aegis of Hispanic Heritage, Asian Heritage, and Black History Months. Social justice programming hit a new high this year through the hosting of the inaugural Ubuntu Social Justice Conference on campus in fall. The Women in Leadership program, now in its eighth year, welcomed its largest class, and the Pride Peers held the third annual Pride Week as well. And this is just a glimpse of the activities that all of you sponsored, organized, hosted, and were engaged in. Your programs and events have attracted more than 10,000 participants this year, a bold reach that should fill each of us with pride. This is involvement at its best—depth of commitment and breadth in participation.

It is no wonder that we are known as a welcoming campus for all, the fifth among national universities for undergraduate diversity for the second year in a row, and one that routinely earns plaudits for inclusiveness.

Each of you has contributed to this by actively participating in the hard work that it takes to enable such an ethos through programs, special emphasis weeks, and leadership initiatives—all the events that contribute to our multicultural tapestry.

You have fostered a University community in which each individual can feel validated, valued, and celebrated for who they are—where each person knows that they are a part of a single family—the Maverick family. Years ago, Eleanor Roosevelt exhorted, “Pit race against race, religion against religion, prejudice against prejudice. Divide and conquer! We must not let that happen here.”

And you are ensuring that it does NOT happen here. Your example has given a voice to your fellow students, and you have helped ensure that UT Arlington is an inclusive and welcoming place for all. Occasions like this allow us the opportunity to take in all that you have accomplished and to show our appreciation for what you have achieved.

It is an honor to be with you tonight. Thank you for all that you are doing—for yourselves, for UT Arlington, for our community, and for our collective future.

Thank you.