Published May 19, 2019
To all of our guests, welcome to the University at Buffalo!
It is wonderful to have you with us to celebrate this joyous occasion!
While your graduate has benefitted from many academic mentors, it is you—proud family members and friends—who have served as your graduate’s life mentor.
So, before the degrees are conferred, I would like to thank all of you for everything you have done to make this moment possible.
And now, at last, here it is.
Graduates, you have reached a major milestone.
And I am so excited to be among the first to congratulate you—the College of Arts and Sciences’ Undergraduate Class of 2019—on this wonderful achievement!
It is cause for elation, and celebration.
It is the moment when everything crystallizes—your toil, your determination, your perseverance.
You are about to have that well-earned diploma in hand and, with it—I suspect—a sense of great fulfillment in your heart.
At the same time, it is my sincere hope that your UB education has reinforced our collective value of humility in public service.
As members of a public research university, we seek to discover and innovate not for self-glorification or self-aggrandizement—but so we may contribute to the greater good.
Serving many—and serving meaningfully—has always been the center-piece of UB’s mission.
We embrace service before self.
We are guided by the principle of informed, engaged citizenship as the antidote to indifference.
And when we engage with others, we’re not compelled to impose our views upon them.
Rather, we listen to each other respectfully—even when we disagree.
That is the essence of humility.
It is selfless, rather than self-seeking.
Let’s be clear: Humility does not prevent us from having lofty ambitions.
Rather, it helps us achieve lofty ambitions without having a lofty view of ourselves.
Increasingly, humility is recognized as the differentiator between a good leader, and a great leader.
Indeed, our own UB researchers have found that the most effective leaders are humble leaders.
If we appreciate that we don’t have all the answers, we’re open and eager to learn from others.
We’re intellectually curious.
We welcome the contrarian’s viewpoints.
We collaborate without bias.
With true humility, we are able to fulfill our civic responsibility.
Class of 2019, in preparing you to lead effectively—and ethically—in our 21st century world, we have seen you put this virtue and value into action.
Among many examples, you have done this by: confronting the challenge of climate change by helping companies reduce their carbon footprint; collaborating on the design of an international exhibit that will be installed at the prestigious Prague Quadrennial; and providing high-quality music instruction to refugee and immigrant children.
Like your friends and loved ones, we are very proud of all that you have accomplished at UB.
And we look forward to seeing the impact of all your accomplishments moving forward.
Graduates, with today’s ceremony, you conclude a significant passage in your academic journey.
But your journey as a learner never, truly, ends.
If we have prepared you well in your UB education, you will continue to seek answers about your field throughout your career.
And you will continue to seek a deeper understanding of the world throughout your life.
On this journey, may you put your precious knowledge to its best use.
May you be guided by curiosity, integrity and a desire to serve the public good.
As the courageous South African leader Nelson Mandela once said: “What counts in life is not the mere fact that we have lived…It is what difference we have made to the lives of others that will determine the significance of the life we lead.”
Once again, congratulations, Class of 2019—and all my best wishes on the journey ahead!