Commencement Remarks by Chase F. Robinson

Commencement Remarks by Chase F. Robinson

Commencement Remarks by Chase F. Robinson

President, The Graduate Center
June 2, 2017


For our newest graduates, it is a privilege for me to congratulate you on your standing as Graduate Center alumni. And now what stands between you and the celebrations that you’ve earned are these remarks — and so rest assured, I shall be brief.
 
Please join me in first acknowledging those present on the stage, all of whom play formative roles at the Graduate Center and the University, and in applauding the people beside and behind you today — the faculty, family, friends, and peers who helped make your success possible. Their support cannot be overstated, and we celebrate them too.
 
I would also like to thank our honorands — not merely for allowing us to celebrate them, but also for demonstrating through word and deed the values we seek to uphold at the Graduate Center. The causes you have advanced and addressed — artistic expression, social justice, the perils of climate change, and the power of the written word — affect us all. In the teeth of resistance and the turned face of indifference, you pursue your work with principled conviction. All of us at the Graduate Center extend our gratitude.
 
Arguably, at no other moment in modern times has the need for an educated citizenry been more urgent. The challenges we face require critical thinking at the highest levels. By virtue of your academic journey, you have assumed the most fundamental responsibility of all: to knowledge itself. Where it is lacking, you wield ordered and interrogated facts; when it is clouded by fear or deceit, you exemplify the value that objectivity, however difficult to grasp, must be our ideal.
 
About six weeks ago I found myself at the Beirut airport, very early in the morning, returning from a brief visit to the American University in Beirut, where I’d given some lectures and seminars. There, in the departure gate, I had the privilege of sharing an hour or so with about 70 Syrian families, all with small children: fleeing civil war, their faces bore the fatigue of their horrific experience and the hope of their deliverance to a happier future. Having seen earlier some of Lebanon’s refugee camps, I felt that sense of scale and humility that comes in the presence of those experiencing dislocation and trauma. And I will also confess to feeling a measure of ambivalence and disappointment when I learned that while my connecting flight from London would bring me back to New York, their connecting flight from London would take them to Toronto. Canada’s doors are open; ours are in peril of closing.
 
At Convocation last fall, I told our incoming students, ‘The more you understand your field, the clearer your role in advancing or changing it, and even changing what’s beyond it.’ You, our graduates, personify this challenge of change, of responsibility, democracy and open doors. The knowledge you acquired here, whether for public life, all manner of professional pursuits, or a commitment to education, is a testament to your resolve. Thank you for enriching our community.
 
On behalf of the Graduate Center, I congratulate each and every one of you. 
 
Please do join me in a final round of applause for our graduates.