Bob Andres /

Opinion: Remain open to possibilities, needs throughout life

Nelson Mandela once said that, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”

Education — the life of the mind — is fundamental to human rights. It is the key to equality, to fighting poverty, to creating health and well-being for all, including for our planet.

Graduates, use your education. It is the most powerful tool you have to change the world – your world, the one close to home, the one far away, and the world of the future, a better world that we cannot even begin to imagine today… .

Today, we honor all that you have achieved … with a ceremony you have earned.

So let’s take a moment to reflect.

Your years at Emory were filled with outstanding accomplishments.

You demonstrated an amazing dedication. You were driven by intellectual curiosity and motivated by high ambition.

I will always remember our conversations about … how to get the most out of your Emory experience, how to finish your work on time so that you would graduate, how to hold onto the friendships you developed, how to believe in the future and how to achieve your dreams.

I also admire the difficult questions you asked: What matters most for my life?

What matters most for all of our lives? How do I reconcile those two?

Those are not easy questions, nor questions with only one correct answer.

Graduates – Some of you also shared experiences and feelings that come when everything in your life is up in the air … not quite knowing what comes next. And I know that some of you can relate to that.

Others among you were pleased to tell me that you have the future all planned out – not just planned out, you’ve got it planned out perfectly.

But no matter what your plans are, the path ahead of you will remain open to possibilities and, yes, that openness requires courage as well as imagination.

I see observe that courage and imagination among Emory’s alumni. Their sense of purpose and meaning is inspiring, as is their shared commitment to making the world a better place.

Graduates of 2019, you have already demonstrated many of those qualities: your eagerness to discover, your sense of purpose, your commitment to positive transformation.

Indeed, the future is unpredictable. But — I can tell you this: I am convinced that you – the class of 2019 — will find your way.

Continue asking yourself “what matters most?” Have confidence in yourself.

Years ago, when I completed my degree in the Netherlands, I thought that I knew enough, I actually thought I knew everything. That I was ready for everything.

But as I began putting my education into practice with people who were sick, with people who were devastated by poverty and illness, I realized that my education was just the beginning — that learning never ends.

I still feel this way. We will never know all the answers. We always will need others in our lives. We will continue growing if we remain open to being transformed by our encounters with the world.

Graduates, you may have noticed that around commencement time, just about everyone has a piece of advice for you, right?

But you don’t need more advice. I have such deep confidence in you!

You will do more than survive; you will flourish. And the journey is all yours.

Claire E. Sterk is president of Emory University.

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