May 1
May 1, 2013
New Penn Essay
May 31, 2013

Commencement

On Monday, going to work in College Hall meant being part of the tangible excitement of Penn’s Commencement. Penn President Amy Gutmann and Vice President Joe Biden addressed graduates, families, faculty, and staff that morning.  Many students returned to College Green for pictures and to remember their undergraduate years.

Now, on the other side of graduation, we listen and reset.

At the start of his speech, Vice President Biden intoned, “Few enter [history] at a point when they genuinely have a chance to write a new chapter, to bend history just a little bit. I suggest your class has that chance.” The Vice President continued, noting reasons for this moment of opportunity.

I want to now step back and consider how these two sentences relate to each of us personally, regardless of our graduation year. I ask: Are we doing enough to positively impact the structures by which we live? An equally vital question: Why should we think outside convention? Finally: How do we get to a point of action?

The most comprehensive and compelling answers to these questions are those that you generate (and that we read in application essays).  Do not let go of what inspires you to act—whether it’s healthcare reform, the creation of sustainable communities, economic renewal, or something else.  Your education (and I use that term broadly) will allow you to thoughtfully and steadily move towards renewal and action.

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