Vol. 19, No. 16
Jan. 13, 2000
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Mr. Chairman, members of the board, faculty, family, friends and, most importantly, graduates, thank you for inviting me to share this celebration with you. It is a great honor to address such a distinguished group.
When I first told my wife that I had been asked to speak at Commencement, she gave me two bits of useful advice: "Be brief; and be funny." My students from last semester would tell you that I'm neither of these things. But, I'll try my best to be brief.
As you might imagine, I have been to quite a few graduations, and I have sat through my share of commencement addresses. So, I know from personal experience that the chances of you remembering anything I say this morning are about the same as the chances that any of us will ever get too excited about the Y3K bug. Such is the lot of commencement speakers. So, I will not be so foolish as to stand here and ask you to remember what I have to say.
What I will do, however, is ask you to not forget something you already know. There is something in particular that all of you already know, that I want to urge you to not forget. That something is Delaware. Don't forget Delaware, and the good thing we've got going here.
The opportunities available to a freshly minted University of Delaware graduate are practically unlimited. And, wherever you take your degree, you're very likely to find other UD alums there as well. But, wherever you go-my message is the same: Don't forget Delaware, and don't forget to recognize and cherish the charms of this state.
What's so special about Delaware (I mean, aside from this first-rate University)? A very small list would include, in no particular order: our strong economy; our beautiful towns and cities; our world-class beaches and museums; and the fact that, if all of this isn't enough for you, we are located so conveniently to almost everything else. Delaware is also special because of our diverse population, with a racial, religious and cultural composition reflecting that of the nation as a whole. Of course, we also have no sales tax. In many ways, Delaware is truly a microcosm of the country. We have nearly everything there is to have-and we have it on a manageable, and easily accessible, scale.
I think the virtues of Delaware are so much on my mind these days because they are so evident in my present work: the practice of corporate law.
Corporations can choose to obtain their charters from any state, and therefore to have their practices governed by the laws of their chosen state, and to have their disputes resolved in the courts of that state. For more than a century, the result of this freedom to choose has been that more corporations have chosen to incorporate in Delaware than in any other state. Today, more than half of the companies listed on the Fortune 500 are Delaware corporations.
As a result, if you want to understand the rights of shareholders, the duties of a board of directors, how a corporation is permitted to respond to a merger proposal and countless other issues relating to how corporations operate in today's world, you need to understand what the legislature and the courts of the state of Delaware have to say about these matters. For this reason, lawyers, law students and judges around the world devote careful study to the corporate law developed right here in Delaware.
I admit, when I was a student at the University, I didn't know anything about Delaware's global prominence in the field of corporate law. And these days I frequently run into Delawareans who are amazed to lean that international corporate disputes of the greatest magnitude are decided in the relatively tiny and nondescript courtrooms of Wilmington, Dover and Georgetown, Del.
The fact that Delaware's importance is not so well known among many of the people who live here reflects the abiding small-town charm of this state, which I hope never changes. But at least part of this lack of awareness can also be attributed, I am afraid, to a less positive phenomenon: our tendency to blind ourselves to the good that is around us.
As a society, and as individuals, we spend much of our time focused on problems, and trying to solve them. The University has helped train you to identify deficiencies and drawbacks, errors and inefficiencies, and to devise ways to fix, or at least ameliorate, what is wrong. That process, of course, is crucial to the betterment of humankind, and I have no quarrel with it.
But also crucial to the human experience is to notice what is right. To see the good things in life and to take the time to enjoy them. In our zeal to make the world a better place, we must not overlook those plentiful ways in which the world is already a good and beautiful place.
Well, you might rightly ask, why am I telling you all of this now, as you are about to commence your post-University of Delaware lives? Isn't it too late to begin to recognize what makes Delaware, and our lives here, so special? I think the answer to that is "no." It's never too late.
It's never too late to identify what it is about your life that is good and special, and to preserve, protect and enjoy those things. It's never too late to reflect on the blessings and beauty that are a part of your everyday life. Today is not too late to recognize who and what you love.
Thus, of course, it is more than just Delaware that I am encouraging you not to forget. I am also telling you not to forget that you are each unique human beings who deserve to be happy. Do not forget to take time out of your busy lives to figure out what makes you happy, and what would make you happier still, and how to make-or keep- your life what you want it to be. Don't forget to tell those who are fortunate enough to share your lives with you how much they mean to you. Don't forget that there is no rule that says you must wait for tragedy or loss to notice those things and those people who you love. Don't forget that you are entitled to enjoy and cherish who and what you love, now, while you can. Don't forget what it is that makes your life special, unique and fun.
Cherish what you have, and strive to improve yourself and your world, but don't forget to recognize, and enjoy, what is already good in your life. Hopefully you will count your years here at the University, and your time here in Delaware, among those good things.
Congratulations, and enjoy today. You deserve it!