Susan Collins

Commencement Address at Husson University – May 11, 2019

Susan Collins
May 11, 2019— Bangor, Maine
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President Clark, trustees, faculty and staff, parents, family, friends and in most of all, the class of 2019—what a great pleasure it is to join in this celebration. Congratulations to the members of this outstanding class. You did it and you deserve to celebrate—wisely, of course.

Congratulations also to the outstanding individuals receiving honorary doctorates today, Carol Kanar and Larry Shaw. They exemplify the Husson spirit of accomplishment and service.

Speaking of Husson spirit, please join me in thanking Julie Green for the39 years of dedication and contribution to this great school. Since Julie started here in 1980 enrollment has grown from 700 students to nearly 1,300. She says it's just a coincidence, but those of us who are aware of her many contributions to Husson University know the great difference she has made.

And 1980 must have been a very good year, because it was also the year that Prof. Dewey Martin joined the Husson faculty. He has been recognized, but I just want to add a couple of words myself. Dewey Martin is a legendary educator who has inspired generations of students with both his knowledge and integrity to the lasting benefit of our great state. We will miss him.

This university has a history that is truly inspiring. It began 120 years ago as the Shaw School of Business on the second floor of a building in downtown Bangor. Since then, Husson University has grown tremendously, both in the size of its beautiful campus and of the range of courses and degrees offered. It has grown because throughout all those years, Husson has remained true to its founding principles of responding to students' needs, seizing opportunities and delivering real value.

Husson's commitment to providing opportunity and value is demonstrated by the facts. In 2018, US News and World Report recognized Husson as having the lowest tuition price of all of New England's private colleges and universities. That's something to be proud of.

Many of the graduates we celebrate today are the first in their proud families to earn a college degree—and that too is something to be very proud of.

And despite a decade-long decline in the number of high school graduates throughout of Maine, this year's entering class at Husson was the largest in its history.

Students, I want to tell you that your Husson education will deliver real value for you your entire life. It will be the gift that keeps on giving.

Husson is unusual in its dedication to preparing its students for successful professional careers and to be lifelong learners. It is a quality that I saw every day during my time at Husson, at the Center for Family Business.

Now, this would not be a true commencement speech if in addition to offering you my heartfelt congratulations, I did not present to you with a challenge. So here, graduates, are two.

Please say in Maine. Our state needs your energy, your enthusiasm and the education that you worked so hard to achieve at Husson. If you are going out of state or back to your native land, consider it to be a temporary assignment until you return to the great state of Maine.

Whether you are going to be an entrepreneur or a physical therapist, an accountant or a pharmacist, a nurse, a journalist or someone who works in our criminal justice system, Maine needs what you have to offer.

So here's my second a challenge to you—help us to restore a sense of community, civility and unity in our great country.

We live in a time of ever-worsening divisiveness, a time in which the bonds that have characterized it and strengthened our country are not just in danger being lost, but far too often deliberately discarded. From government to social media—perhaps "anti-social" would be the more accurate term—to the 24/7 news cycle, hyper-partisanship, insult and accusation are poisoning our discourse, turning us against one another and preventing us from coming together to solve real problems.

This phenomenon is weakening our sense of community and undermining our willingness to listen and learn from one another. This modern-day tribalism divides society into us versus them, and increasingly we isolate ourselves from those who aren't just like ourselves, wanting to talk only to those who mirror our political viewpoints and listen to the same media sources that we do.

A recent academic study titled "Mass lethal partisanship" produced some alarming findings. More than at 42% of both Republicans and Democrats said that they viewed the opposition as downright evil—not just wrong on policy but apparently in the league with the devil.

Roughly one in five in both parties describe their political adversaries as less than human and admitted to thinking on occasion that the country would be better off if large numbers of them simply died. About the same number of them believed that violence—violence!—would be justified if the 2020 election did not go their way.

This polarization is contrary to the foundation of our society that values experience and expertise, the centrality of fact, humility in the face of complexity, the need for study, and a respect for differing perspectives.

Your Husson education strengthens that foundation. You have surrounded yourself with people of diverse views. Your respect for knowledge, experience, and opposing ideas is the first line of defense against the splintering of our society.

Bringing people together is crucial but it's not easy. The forces of polarization are strong and entrenched. Those who seek compromise are often in vilified and even threatened.

It doesn't have to be this way. It is within our power to rekindle a spirit of community and I am counting on you, graduates, to lead the way.

Among people of good will, our strength is the sum of our differences as well as our similarities.

So my challenge to graduates is to spread that message wherever the future takes you. I hope—I so hope—that the next phase of your life keeps you right here in Maine, but wherever you may be, you can help to restore that sense of community that our nation needs.

Congratulations, class of 2019. I'm so proud of you. Good luck to you. Thank you.

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