Dear friends – and students – and new Bronco alumni!
Today was our summer graduation ceremony, and I had the privilege of watching some of my students cross the stage in caps and gowns. (And I got hugs too). I’m so proud of these wonderful young people, and I truly believe they’re going to enter the world and accomplish great things.
The commencement ceremony marks a rather strange moment in time – it’s an ending, and a beginning. It’s a time of accomplishment, but also a launching pad into the unknown.
During the ceremony, students are told (and this language will also appear on their diplomas) that they are granted their degrees “with all the rights, privileges, and responsibilities pertaining thereto.” The rights and privileges are pretty easy to understand, but the responsibilities? A degree comes with responsibilities?
Yes, it does.
A degree from our institution marks you as a public intellectual. It’s a public statement that you have received instruction in a variety of subjects, and have attained a certain level of proficiency. One of my professors in grad school explained it this way: It means you now have a responsibility to take part in your community, to use your knowledge for the betterment of your world, to speak out. Having a degree gives you credibility, with institutional backing. You abdicate your responsibility to the rest of us if you take your new knowledge, and go hide in a cave.
I hope our new alumni will embrace this responsibility, along with the rights and privileges that come with those brand-new degrees. Congratulations! Now go and take part in your world.