Thank you very, very much for that warm welcome.
Members of the Board of Trustees, Dr. Qubein, distinguished faculty, honored guests, families and friends, and most of all, graduates of the Class of 2006. It is such a privilege to share this joyful, proud and hopeful day with all of you. Considering what is happening all around us, it is good for the soul to look out at all the faces in this audience, full of excitement, expectation, and of course, relief. And that is just the parents.
Having gained eight children when I married and then giving birth to four more, I am familiar with the feelings that come with seeing your child succeed at this pivotal transition in their lives. In fact, I'm quite overwhelmed by emotion these days, as my two sons both graduated this past year and one of my daughters expects to, God willing, next year. Having been privileged, therefore, to attend so many of these happy events, I appreciate the wisdom of Bill Cosby, who once said that the secret of a good commencement speech is to have a good beginning and a good ending and to have the two as close to each other as possible – a wisdom I intend to honor today.
Now this is the largest graduating class in the history of High Point University, and from what I know about the dynamic liberal arts education and multicultural experience offered on this campus, the more the High Point alum in our world, the better.
But, students, I feel the urgent need to warn you – life beyond the borders of this campus is a very different experience. There are certain things that may shock, surprise, and sadden you.
For instance, in the real world there are no kiosks dispensing free muffins and hot chocolate. There are no free car washes on Saturday. And hope is you might, there will not likely be any trucks driving around your neighborhood giving out free ice cream. No matter what organization you work for, there's a good chance they will not have a Department of Wow.
But I think you all are probably aware of all this. You've already had some experience being surprised by the outside world. After all, who could have imagined that the first decision Dean Vance Davis would make after 33 years at High Point would be to buy a Harley Davidson.
Dean Davis, I am a kindred soul when it comes to motorcycles. Some of the fondest memories I had with my late husband, King Hussein, were when we evaded his security motorcade by taking his Harley out around the town during our courtship. So I join everyone here today again in saying, Dean Davis - enjoy a safe, healthy and very happy retirement.
This must be a hard place for all of you to leave. From what I have seen of Dr. Qubein's plans for the campus and alumni programs, it may even be more fun to come back some day as an alum.
You might have heard I have a soft spot in my heart for strong leaders from Jordan. Dr. Qubein, you have been a strong and inspiring advocate for the university. But what encourages me even more today is the sight of 50 international flags and more than 40 state flags on the promenade behind you, symbols of the diversity of cultures that make this campus and your experience here so unique.
You're graduating in a digital age in which information is coming to us at a rate and speed faster than our ability to process it. Spend an hour watching the news on your television or on your computer or soon even your cell phone and it might be just enough to force all of you to double-lock your windows and curl up under the covers.
Every day we see images from around the world of conflict and discord, whether it's riots in Europe or war in the Middle East or the continuing tragedy in Darfur. Too often there does not seem to be much common ground to build on. It may even seem that all of us are further away from one another than we have ever been.
Of course, those images conflict with what you have learned at this school. The High Point experience emphasizes that learning about the world, reaching out across borders, and respect for and working with others are the fundamental building blocks of peace, that there is much more that unites us as a world than divides us, and together we can find and build common ground.
I've traveled all over the world and I've lived and worked on five continents. I've had the opportunity to listen to people from all walks of life talk about what is important to them.
What I have learned, what you love undoubtedly learned here and can help others to understand, is that all of us share values and aspirations with people across the globe who yearn for the same things we do – dignity and economic opportunity, political and personal freedoms, a world where all work together to solve the common challenges we face. If you look at opinion polls across the world you might be shocked by the commonality on all sides.
Just one example. Two years ago, North Carolina residents were asked to name the most important issues facing North Carolina. The top five answers were jobs and the economy, taxes, healthcare, education and the war on terror. Those same answers are reflected in polls taken nationwide.
Last October, Arabs in six Muslim countries across the Middle East were asked by Zogby International, what are the most important issues facing the Arab world? The top five answers were jobs and expanding unemployment, improving healthcare, combating government corruption, improving education and fighting terrorism. When asked to name the most important issues to them personally, the answers were family, work, marriage, religion and friends.
Does that sound familiar? Do those sound like the very issues you discuss with your friends, neighbors and classmates?
Too often those similarities are drowned out by extreme voices in all our cultures, which stoke the fires of conflict and dominate the political discourse and media coverage. Your generation must be the one to make sure that the voices of moderation – the majority voices – overcome extremism in all forms. Your generation can and must be the one to ensure that the voices of understanding in our world conquer the forces of intolerance.
I truly believe that in our hearts and souls, in what we fear, in what we see, in what we need and what we love, there is much more that unites us then divides us. This understanding is nurtured on this campus, and it is pivotal because it holds the key to the peace we seek in our own lives, in our communities, and in the larger world.
True peace must come from our heart's desire for our neighbors' well-being. This is the essence of the teachings of the three great monotheistic faiths that revere Jerusalem as a holy city. It is also the teachings of Buddhism, Hinduism, and a multitude of other faiths around the world.
The Judaic scholar Hillel once told a student, "What is hateful to you, do not do to another." This is the whole Torah. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus says, "All things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do you even so unto them." And the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, said, "No one of you is a true believer until he wants for his brother that which he wants for himself."
As a Hashemite and direct descendant of the Prophet Muhammad, my late husband, King Hussein, lived this ideal in every possible way. He believed he had a responsibility to reach out and support all people – Muslims, Christians, Jews, Arabs and others – to provide hope and opportunity, to help them achieve their potential and become forces for peace. He always understood his lineage and his role as king as public servant rather than absolute ruler. He risked his life time and time again to advance the cause of peace and understanding and tolerance. He had the courage to argue for a more integrated Arab world and a more inclusive Middle East. He had courage to build bridges to the West, while challenging extremists on both sides who had more to gain from conflict. In a region where one act of violence triggers another, he also understood that one act of humanity perhaps might inspire another, leading people towards a more peaceful tomorrow.
In October of 1998 while undergoing cancer treatment at the Mayo Clinic, King Hussein was asked by President Clinton for advice on bridging the gap between Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. They were deadlocked in negotiations at the Wye plantation in Maryland. Hussein left his hospital bed to help guide the parties – and he fervently hoped the entire peace process – out of stalemate. Frail and weak from illness, travel and lack of sleep, he summarized in a few words at his last visit to the White House, the lessons of a lifetime. He said, there has been enough destruction, enough death, enough waste and it is time that together we occupy a place beyond ourselves, our peoples, a place that is worthy of them, the descendants of the children of Abraham.
May his words and legacy inspire you graduates as you embark on the future, to occupy a place beyond yourselves, to imagine what a world of peace can look like, to make real the benefits of peace in people's lives.
My hope for you is that when you leave, whatever worthy career or field you eventually choose, that you will in whatever form possible dedicate your lives to contribute to this vision. What I hope for you is that you never forget that as students, as workers, as volunteers, you, too, can join and create partnerships for peace. You, too, can add your voice to the many other voices around the world calling for tolerance, justice, and equity.
Forty years ago next month in Cape Town, South Africa, Robert Kennedy spoke to students who dreamed of a better world and a better future. Sixteen hundred chairs were set out for the speech. More than 19,000 students came. Those in the audience that day heard him say, "Each time a man stands up for an ideal or acts to improve the lot of others or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope. And crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring, those ripples build a current that can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance."
Although he said it forty years ago, he could have been speaking to us here today. All of you have the ability. All of you have the preparation. All of you share the responsibility. The world waits today to see what contribution you will make. Make it extraordinary.
God bless you all.
Speech from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9bPU1e9ohKM.