Commencement Remarks by Dr. Neville Strumpf, Chair of the Faculty Senate, May 16, 2005
A Positive Force for Greatness
As incoming Chair of the University of Pennsylvania Faculty Senate, I bring greetings from the entire Faculty and our wishes for a lifetime of personal satisfaction and professional achievement. How exactly shall we consider satisfaction and achievement?
I would suggest spotting three points on the moral compass to guide us: first, integrating the meaning of community; second, distinguishing privilege from entitlement; and third, imagining greatness.
In the new book, Building America’s First University, George Thomas and David Brownlee describe Benjamin Franklin’s “transcendent notion” of a college, “setting its course toward the world of the present and the future, a place reflecting the values of the community.” In the transformation of our University over time, we have contributed to the evolution of deeply held values, including openness, honesty, courage, tolerance, diversity, and dialogue. Among all societal institutions, the university is perhaps that rarest of places where these values flourish, and where a communal and intellectual spirit is nourished. Maintain that spirit of community always.
An education from Penn is indeed a privilege, meaning “a special advantage granted to or enjoyed by you.” In contrast to entitlement, that is, “having a right or claim to something, or a guarantee of special lifetime benefits,” a degree from Penn is not a ticket to special prerogatives, lesser responsibilities, easier access, or even more money. Keep the attitude of entitlement at bay, in favor of the far more useful recognition that comes with the responsibility brought by privilege. At the time of her inaugural, President Amy Gutmann said, “A dream I didn’t know I had, has come true.” That’s a merger of privilege and responsibility in the very best sense of the words. May it also be yours.
As for greatness, you are inheriting a troubled world. Civic and global engagement will be especially crucial in the coming decades as we face what it means to be a citizen in a country where many social needs go increasingly unmet, and where we have also thrust ourselves onto a very volatile world stage. You must take your precious intellectual skills, and be a positive force for greatness in debates about what type of society we will choose to live in, and what type of society we will leave to those who come after us.
In the spirit of Benjamin Franklin’s “transcendent notions” of practical education, carry forever within your red and blue compass of life, these anchor points: Community, privilege, greatness.
Best wishes and Godspeed.
Almanac, Vol. 51, No. 33, May 24, 2005
May 24, 2005
Volume 51 Number 33