President Scott S. Cowen
May 19, 2007
It is a real pleasure for me to welcome our graduates, families and friends to the 173rd commencement of Tulane University.
Today is a great day for all of you, for the university and for New Orleans — it represents not only another important step in your lives but also a major milestone in the recovery of our wonderful university and beloved city.
As graduates of Tulane University, I have no doubt that you will build on the extraordinary legacy of those who preceded you. I also believe and hope that you will be forceful and persuasive ambassadors for New Orleans so others do not forget what happened here just 20 month ago, how it impacted your life and those of tens of thousands of others.
As alumni, make your voices heard wherever you go, especially in Washington, D.C., where even today our federal government has not delivered on the promises made to this great city.
As alumni, make sure that people around the world understand that New Orleans is recovering and remains an iconoclastic city. Yes, we have our challenges, but this city has much more to offer than the latest sensational headline.
As Tulanians, New Orleanians and Americans, you have a responsibility to ensure that New Orleans is not forgotten and that what happened here never happens again to any other city in America.
You are a truly remarkable group of people, and I proudly say here and now that there is not another student body in the world that I would trade for you. You have overcome adversity, displayed character, demonstrated resiliency and shown dedication to this university and city. These are attributes that will serve you well the rest of your life, no matter what you do.
In recent weeks, I have gotten a number of e-mails from graduating students and parents thanking me for what Tulane has done for them, and for ensuring that Tulane survived and recovered after the storm.
I am always appreciative of these e-mails noting that we recovered so successfully because we have a wonderful group of people at the university. Our faculty and staff are extraordinary and deserve all the credit for our recovery.
I would like all the faculty, staff and administrators in attendance to please stand up so you can be recognized for your heroic efforts in a time of crisis. Without these people, we would not be here today.
As I have been reading these congratulatory e-mails in the last few weeks, one particular message really touched my heart. It was from the mother of a student who had transferred to Tulane a few years ago after being at a university that just didn’t work for her. Unfortunately, the student’s initial experience with college left her despondent and feeling like there was no place for her anywhere. Through a circuitous route, she found her way to Tulane. Initially, she felt like a misfit here, but with the encouragement of her parents and her own perseverance she stuck it out and is graduating today.
Her mother went on to describe how the Tulane experience transformed her daughter from a fearful, self-doubting person into an extremely confident, accomplished young woman. She believes this would not have occurred without Tulane and said she was forever grateful for the opportunity we provided her daughter.
This parent’s e-mail made my day and gave me a sense that we are truly making a difference in the lives of many of our students. This is the most satisfying feeling a university president can experience.
However, as I reread this e-mail several times, it dawned on me that I owed that parent and her daughter—as well as all of you in attendance today— at least three acknowledgments of thanks on behalf of those of us who work at the university and live in New Orleans.
First, thank you all for coming to Tulane University in the first place. At the time of your arrival you represented the best and brightest that America had to offer, and I know there were many other universities you could have attended. I'm grateful that you chose to come here. You are America’s future, and I feel confident that you will do a superb job of securing that future without making the mistakes of the past.
Second, thank you for coming back to Tulane and New Orleans in January 2006. Your commitment and loyalty helped save this university and this city. Your actions were noted around the world as examples of character, strength and loyalty.
Finally, thank you for your efforts to rebuild the city since you have returned. In the last 18 months, Tulane students have been nationally recognized on three occasions for their commitment to community service and civic engagement. No other college or university student body has gained the national recognition and visibility than you who are in the audience today.
As students, you have contributed well over 100,000 hours of service to the community to do whatever is needed to help others reclaim and improve their lives. This is an unbelievably impressive legacy that defines our community and you as individuals.
As a New Orleanian, I thank you from the bottom of my heart for what you have to done for our city. You are our inspiration, you are America’s hope, and you are my heroes.
I now would like to ask all our guests to give this year’s class a thunderous standing ovation for who they are and what they have accomplished during their years at Tulane.
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