2005 Commencement Remarks

President Scott S. Cowen
Tulane University
May 21, 2005

Finding the Passion

On behalf of the entire Tulane University community, it gives me great pleasure to welcome our graduates, and their families and friends, to the commencement exercises in the 171st year of this distinguished university.

Let me take a moment to tell you all about the class of 2005.

There are 2,563 of you—1,302 women and 1,261 men—representing all 50 states as well as 54 countries.

The top five states represented, after Louisiana, are Texas, California, New York, Florida and Illinois.

The top five countries, behind the United States, are China, Taiwan, Chile, India and Colombia.

The youngest member of your graduating class turned 20 this January; your "most well-seasoned"—I won't say "oldest"—is 70 years old.

Of the degrees awarded today, they are just about equally divided between undergraduate, and professional and graduate degrees.

And, finally, 12 of you are celebrating birthdays today. I hope you'll always remember this as one of your biggest and best birthday parties ever, with a few thousand of your closest friends and family.

Individually and collectively, you are a most impressive group. Your academic accomplishments, as represented by your degrees, and network of relationships formed at Tulane should serve you well the remainder of your life. I have no doubt that you can and will accomplish whatever you set out to do, and I offer no advice today other than to share one observation that has been a guiding light for me throughout my life--to pursue opportunities and avenues throughout for which you have a genuine love and passion.

“Following your passion” is not a new idea and, in many ways, it sounds like trite saying; yet, I cannot stress how important it can be to how you live your life. However you decide to make your way in the world—you will spend a great deal of time and energy focused on it. Hopefully, it is something you truly enjoy, giving you personal and professional satisfaction. At some point in the future, you will look back over your days and either be enriched by the passion you have felt for your endeavors, or you will feel regret for the lack of it.

As simple as it sounds, following your passion isn’t always easy for it often involves a journey of discovery and a willingness to take risks. It also takes faith, patience and courage to identify your passion—that avocation that engrosses your heart and mind, that very special thing of which you never tire and for which your enthusiasm never fades.

Over the years, I have worked with extraordinary people from all walks of life—artists, physicians, faculty, athletes, business people and other avocations too numerous to mention. What these people have in common is their passion, their commitment—their “calling.” Not surprisingly, they never refer to what they do for a living as a “job” or “work”; rather, they have a personal dedication and commitment to what they do and it shows he how they live their life.

In my case, unforeseen circumstances and a latent love for learning led me to a career in the academy even though I never originally envisioned such a path. And, thirty years later, I can attest to the fact that this “calling” has resulted in a life of deep fulfillment and satisfaction, where virtually every day is met with anticipation and enthusiasm. In particular, on a day like today, I consider myself so fortunate to do what I do and I can’t imagine doing anything else with my life. I found my “passion” and these are the feelings I wish for you as you leave this place today.

I hope that your years here have formed a rich time of discovery that will help point you toward your own “calling”. But don’t just take my word for it—throughout this ceremony you are going to hear from and about people who have accomplished remarkable things in their life and share the common characteristics of passion and true commitment to what they do. Yet, one is just starting her journey well the others are already on the path. Listen and learn from their stories.

Apropos to this occasion, we start with one of your peers—Melody Baham.

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