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International Week Opening

April 4, 2016

In the words of Maya Angelou – “Perhaps travel cannot prevent bigotry, but, by demonstrating that all peoples cry, laugh, eat, worry, and die, it can introduce the idea that if we try and understand each other, we may even become friends.”

Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen. I can think of no better way to celebrate the beginning of the week than by welcoming you to the inauguration of one of the longest standing traditions at the University of Texas at Arlington.  Initiated in 1978 and now in its 39th year, International Week has grown both in stature and reputation with the Parade of Banners serving not just as the first in a series of events that will continue through this week, but as a symbol of the global nature of the University of Texas at Arlington. 

As many of you have heard me say before, UTA is blessed by a unique geographic position.  Located between Forth Worth and Dallas we not only serve as the center of a growing Metroplex that brings together the distinct cultures of the East and West of the United States but we are also closer to one of the largest and most active airports in the world than either of our sister cities.  We have an opportunity, and a responsibility, that comes from this location—seeing ourselves as a university with a global perspective.  Indeed our new Strategic plan focuses on this very aspect and is titled “Bold Solutions – Global Impact.” 

We are a global university home to students from almost every state in the nation and over 100 countries across the globe.  We serve more than 38,000 degree-seeking students resident in the state of Texas for the purposes of education and over 52,000 when we include our global population that includes online degree-seeking students.  From students who come physically to UTA from all corners of globe to those in China, and Central and South America who link to our campus through digital means for online instruction, UTA represents the future—a future that holds significant promise and one that is sorely needed in today’s climate of distrust, that is creating chasms between peoples of the world in place of love, peace, and harmony.

Perhaps political leaders from across the globe should stand where I’m standing today looking over a gathering that emphasizes unity and mutual respect—banners and smiling faces representing distant corners of the world. Each of you brings an international dimension to the University, and each of you provides hope for the future.

As author and global citizen, Pico Iyer wrote, We travel, initially, to lose ourselves; and we travel, next to find ourselves. We travel to open our hearts and eyes and learn more about the world than our newspapers will accommodate. We travel to bring what little we can, in our ignorance and knowledge, to those parts of the globe whose riches are differently dispersed.”

How very true – and so fitting with the theme for this week “Wanderlust: Where do you want to go?”  I hope that each of you wants to travel widely, go to the far corners of the world, see cultures you didn’t even know existed, learn the customs of people you’ve only read about, and understand that irrespective of geography and politics there is a commonality—we are at the end of the day all one—members of the human race. 

Indeed years ago, in 1869 to be exact, Mark Twain wrote “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of humanity cannot be acquired by vegetating in one’s little corner of the earth.”  Little did he know that those words have even more meaning today than they had 150 years ago.

You, our students, represent the future, irrespective of where you were born, or where you grew up. While International Week on the surface represents a series of events, it also represents something far deeper and profound—the power that you have individually and together to change the world—for the better.

So as you take part in activities through this week get to know one another better, learn a few words, or more, of another language, understand new customs and cultures, and remember that together there is nothing that you cannot do, no problem that is insurmountable.

Today as we gather, I am confident that among you are the leaders of tomorrow, leaders that internationally will make this world smaller – and better, and for that I thank you—because in a world filled with strife, hate, and worry—we need hope and you provide that hope—of peace and love for ones fellow man—and by bringing that hope you bring the promise of a better tomorrow.

Thank you, and good luck as you lead the way to transforming not just UTA but the world into a true global community.