Office of the President
Dr. Patrick T. Harker is the 26th president of the University of Delaware. He also serves as professor of business administration in the Alfred Lerner College of Business and Economics and professor of civil and environmental engineering in the College of Engineering.
Twilight Induction Ceremony: Class of 2017
August 26, 2013
Is it a great day to be a Blue Hen?
Is it a great day to be a Blue Hen?!
That’s right: Every day is a great day to be a Blue Hen.
I’m Patrick Harker, president of the University of Delaware, and it’s my privilege to welcome you to UD, to invite you into this community of thinkers, dreamers, innovators and trailblazers.
This is the first time all of you are gathered together as a class. The next and final time will be four years from now, in Delaware Stadium, when I’ll congratulate you as UD’s newest graduates, and wish you luck and resolve as you face new challenges and opportunities ahead.
Tonight, I want to talk about what comes in between—what happens tomorrow all the way through to May 27, 2017. What you build with each other, and what you individually and collectively build with this University.
This is the start of an incredible journey, one in which you’ll have the space and time and freedom to pursue the passions that enrich you, and to become more fully the people you want to be. You’re not alone on this journey. We’re in it together. You and your classmates are in it together.
And that’s going to make the days and months and years you spend here among the most
memorable—the most special—of your lives.
You’re Blue Hens now. You’re connected to something bigger than yourselves. You’re tethered to the University’s mission and ideals. You’re part of a community that values excellence, that develops potential and that works for change.
If I didn’t think a group of 3,827 smart, driven, passionate young people could change the world, I wouldn’t be in this job. Because I’m here—and your professors, advisors and mentors are here—to ensure that you have everything you need, the knowledge and skills, opportunities and resources, to make the change you want to see.
In return, I’ll ask you to uphold this University’s most deeply held principles, and to make the most of this extraordinary experience.
I’ll begin with the principle of diversity, because it’s elemental to who we are.
This is what you need to know about our commitment to diversity and inclusion: Every single one of you is special. Every single one of you has value. And that means that everyone here tonight is
special—and everyone here tonight has value.
At UD, we respect each other, we reject exclusion, we find unity even when our voices aren’t unified, even when our views diverge. Because it’s only when we include the full range of human experience and expression that we create the kind of environment that inspires rigorous thinking, that lends nuance to our perspectives and depth to our understanding.
And I say without reservation that we cannot be the University we want to be—we cannot be a truly great University—unless everyone here contributes to our greatness. That means each of us is responsible for practicing tolerance and civility, and being open to those whose backgrounds, opinions and ideas are unlike our own.
Before you graduate, I guarantee you’ll hear me say this again: You’re part of a community that’s going to thrive not despite its differences but because of them. So get to know those differences now. Start tonight. Start over ice cream.
I ask you to value action—to put your minds and your hard work into addressing the most compelling challenges of our age: issues of human health, social justice, humane policy, resource equality, environmental sustainability, peace and security.
Your education isn’t an end unto itself. It’s an instrument. Because you’re not just students; you’re citizens. You’re citizens of this world, and you have a responsibility to it—a responsibility to be interested, involved and invested.
Woodrow Wilson—our most scholarly president—said, "We are not put into the world to sit still and know. We are put in it to act." So act. There’s no one else to do it. No one else who’s better equipped or better resourced; who’s smarter or more talented.
Because you have the resources and smarts and talent of a whole community to draw on. You have 3,826 classmates, 17,483 fellow undergraduates, 21,855 fellow students. Add in 4,155 faculty and staff. And then consider 158,000 alumni living all around the world.
That’s 184,000 people. They won’t all join your cause, or sign onto your project. But what if just a few of the right ones did?
Profit from the brilliance that will surround you here. Feel the fire in many minds working together. And take every opportunity to join your talent to someone else’s, to find that space where your interests click, your work intersects and you tap into something really powerful.
Finally, I ask you to start thinking now about what sort of legacy you want to leave. A legacy of honesty, integrity, curiosity or creativity. A legacy of friendship, service, academic excellence or unassailable character.
We’ve gathered tonight on the South Green, around Mentors Circle—a Circle honoring the faculty who have dedicated themselves to you, to the students who came before you, and to those who will come after. In the center of the Circle is a sculpture honoring our first faculty member, our founder, the Rev. Francis Alison, who was committed equally to scholarship and to teaching—to acquiring knowledge and sharing it.
On the left-hand page of the sculpture’s open book are the symbols of knowledge that guided Francis Alison and framed his learning. The right-hand page of the book is left blank. That’s for your legacy, not yet written and with everything still possible. Yours is an enviable place to be. Your future is a gift.
This community you’ve just entered—this family—is a gift. Because, together, we have absolute faith in the proposition that we hold the power to re-cast what we believe—and what we believe is possible.
It’s all potential energy right for you right now. It’s all in the future. This is your chance to dare and, in the words of our fight song, to shine.
You’re one of 3,827.
You’re one of 17,484.
You’re one of 21,856.
You’re one of 184,000.
You’re a Blue Hen now. And it’s terrific to finally meet you!