Public Affairs

Sending Off the Class of 2012

June 20, 2012
By Elizabeth Chapin

Fresno State Grads

Commencement speakers have the rare opportunity to inspire hundreds of people on one of the most important days of their lives. On this day, new grads stop to remember their college experiences and recognize their accomplishments—and they also look ahead as they begin their lives as college graduates.

Coming from campus, community and national leaders, as well as their own peers—here’s some of the words of wisdom conferred to the Class of 2012:

As I see your faces, I know that I am looking into the future of this country. You are all the new doctors, lawyers and entrepreneurs who will move us forward. Perhaps one of you will create the new Facebook, or one of you might cure cancer.

- Associated Student Body President Eric Niu at Cal State Fullerton


And now you’ve done it. You are college graduates. In addition, some of you have also completed advanced degrees. Well done. I encourage each and every graduate to feel pride and accomplishment, and great and abiding satisfaction in what you have achieved, for this is truly your day.

- President Richard Rush at CSU Channel Islands


I think you can do a lot. Changing the tone of political discourse has to start with public pressure on politicians and it has to start with you. Now that you have your degree from Cal State Monterey Bay, you can be part of this pressure wherever you are. Constructive civil discourse can start with you. Right now, today.

- Economist and member of President Obama's National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, Dr. Alice Rivlin at CSU Monterey Bay


Go out and make your own solo album. You never know who might hear.

- Cinema composer James Newton Howard at CSU Dominguez Hills


Be patient. Don’t let time be the reason that you don’t pursue what you want.

I dropped out of college my freshman year. One day a homeless man asked me why. I told him because it was too hard and said I wanted to get a Ph.D. but it would take too long – almost ten years.

He told me, ‘Dummy, ten years are going to go by anyway. You just won’t have a PhD.’

- Political commentator and social justice activist Dr. Marc Lamont Hill at Sonoma State.


Never give up.

- President and CEO of California Endowment Robert K. Ross at CSU Dominguez Hills


Now that you’re graduating, Class of 2012, the challenges and the problems of the world are your challenges and problems too. And so your next assignment, the homework for the rest of your life—I get to do this because I'm Mayor—is to run the ball a little further down the field and help make the world and your community a better place.

- San Francisco Mayor Edwin M. Lee at San Francisco State


A bend in the road is not the end of the road unless you fail to make the turn.

- College of Arts and Sciences McPhee Scholar Cristina Saca at Cal Poly Pomona


I urge you to find time do something to help others. You may not get recognized like I am today, and recognition was never my intent. But, I guarantee you will experience a joy unspeakable, when you live a life of service to your family, city, state, and to this great country of ours and the world.

- Musician Leonard "Lenny" Williams at CSU East Bay


You didn’t give up. You didn’t quit. You didn’t turn back. And today you are here. And for that we are so proud of each and every one of you. You all have the same spirit and determination that will stand you in good stead as your journey continues throughout the rest of your lives.

- U.S. Undersecretary of Education Dr. Martha Kanter at Cal State Fullerton


You cannot gain anything without giving something in return.

- President Al Karnig at CSU San Bernardino


As we celebrate this glorious day of commencement and head off our separate ways to experience what life has in store, I am reminded of words I once read which present each one of us with an eternal challenge: always remember that we never achieve success alone. There are people all around us who help make it happen.

- BA candidate Brian Peart at Chico State


You have great opportunity being given to you to create the non-existent jobs for your children. Some very wise people a decade or so ago said everything that can possibly be invented has already been invented. Over 5 ½ million patents have been issued, 39% of those have been in the last decade and nearly 20% within the last 5 years. So take advantage of the opportunity to be creative.

- Business and civic leader Richard Sherratt at CSU East Bay

Top ten list for graduates:

  • Continue to learn. Remember the 50 in 5 rule, which states that 50% of the technology you have mastered now will be obsolete or at least outdated in five years. Just think, five to six years ago there were no iPhones or apps, and a 42” flat screen TV was considered HUGE.
  • Teach a little, share what you know.
  • We are captives of our experiences. Actions speak louder than words. So Act Wisely.
  • In choosing those experiences, don’t limit yourself by them. Build in some challenges and be open to opportunities. Who knows where life may take us? If you had asked me 46 years ago in my senior year at the Naval Academy if I saw myself as a future college president, I would have thought that future outcome quite unlikely. Work in a college!!! Are you serious?
  • Experience and Celebrate the diversity in life. It will enrich yours beyond belief.
  • Cherish all living things. Life is extraordinarily precious.
  • Be involved in the life around you, extend a hand.
  • Work on giving and earning respect-- to afford others respect for who they are, no matter whether you like them or agree with their views of the world, is a mark of an educated and civilized person.
  • Be yourself. Whatever values and principles you adopt, live by them. One of the few things in life that you can truly control is your personal integrity, and it’s not always easy to do.

I have no real number one! We must all find our OWN way in life. How else can we “be ourselves”? After all is said and done, after all your friends, acquaintances, counselors, astrologers, tarot card readers and graduation speakers tell you what you should do, YOU have to make decisions, from both here (head) and here (heart) and live by them.

- President William B. Eisenhardt at Cal Maritime