CHANCELLOR STEVE KANG: First Lady Michelle Obama, Distinguished
Guests, Class of 2009, Parents and other family members, Faculty,
Staff, Alumni, Students and Guests, it is my honor to welcome you
to this year’s commencement ceremony.
I want to set aside this special moment to ask the families and
support teams of these graduates to please rise. [gesture and
pause] We honor the sacrifices you have made to bring these
graduates to the finish line. [applause] Now you may be seated.
Today, the nation’s eyes are riveted on Merced for this historic
Commencement. You, our pioneering students, helped write the first
chapter of UC Merced’s history by choosing to embark on this new
venture. And you are part of history in the making today.
This day brims with the promise of new beginnings. I can think
of no better place for the First Lady’s first Commencement address
than UC Merced, a campus rich with symbols of great beginnings.
We have just completed the Early Childhood Education Center. It
is located near the entrance to campus as an expression of the high
value we place on preschool, the critical beginning
to a lifetime of learning. We are pleased to announce that
today we name the center’s garden as “Michelle Obama’s Garden for
Young Children” in honor of the First Lady’s visit.
In the Carol Tomlinson-Keasey Quad [gesture], named after our
founding chancellor, is a sculpture entitled “Beginnings” that
stands as a metaphor for our growing campus.
Its outstretched arms symbolically reach out to enfold and
nurture our students
and embrace the community that welcomed us here.
Class of 2009, your vision, inspiration and perseverance
culminate in today’s ceremony. We promise to honor your
achievements by continuing to build the 21st century’s first major
research university into an institution that you can proudly claim
as your alma mater.
You, in turn, will honor UC Merced by becoming successful alumni.
While it is common to urge graduates to “make us proud,” you
have already done that.
You made us proud when you formed the student government and the
first 100 clubs and chapters of academic societies. You made us
proud when you launched The Prodigy newspaper and Bobcat Radio. And
you made us proud when you envisioned your class gift,
which will be announced later in this ceremony.
The great Indian nationalist and spiritual leader Mahatma Gandhi
developed a keen eye for human behavior during his lifetime.
I want to pass on a few words of advice from his writings
that I think have particular relevance in the world you’re about to
enter. In each case, I’m going to add my personal advice on how to
respond to the issues Gandhi raised.
Gandhi warned against seeking wealth without work; to which I
would add, may work be your way to give back to the world. Gandhi
cautioned against pleasure without conscience;
to which I would add, may pleasure spring from being true to
Gandhi admonished against science without humanity; to which I
would add, may humanity’s well-being be the ultimate goal of your
scientific discovery. Gandhi disdained politics without principle;
to which I would add, may principle be the touchstone of your leadership.
I salute you, Class of 2009. God speed.