Do you remember the first time we met, back in 2010?
Under a certain giant whale?
Right from the start, I knew you were something special. But I’d almost forgotten about that welcome reception at the American Museum of Natural History until we asked you a few months ago to share some of the highlights of your college years.
Then a few weeks ago, I was sitting on a plane, reading those highlights.
And I was surprised at how many of you recalled that Night at the Museum and the whale – four years and 120 credits ago!
As I continued to read, I was struck by an avalanche of thank-yous.
You thanked your family and your friends.
You thanked your teachers.
You thanked your advisors.
You thanked the staff at Macaulay.
One thing you may not know about me — I cry very easily.
So you shouldn’t be surprised that what struck me next was literally a shove on my shoulder from the stranger sitting next to me, who was starting to worry about me as he watched me wipe away tears.
We got to chatting and he asked,
What’s so special about this Class?
What’s so cool about this College?
Macaulay, I answered proudly, is the most interesting AND the most IMPORTANT student body in America.
And here’s why.
Class of 2014, you were born into a time of extraordinary change and you have harnessed the energy of that time in extraordinary ways.
For you — Google has always been a verb. Kindle, always a book. Quidditch always a real game — GO MACAULAY MARAUDERS!
Many of you are first generation Americans, and many of you are first in your family to graduate from college.
And now, four years later, you are cancer researchers and playwrights and teachers.
You are future doctors and lawyers and bankers.
You are linguists — fluent in Chinese and you are also fluent in geopolitics — thank you Professor David Petraeus!
You are championship athletes — runners, and swimmers, weight lifters and fencers.
As students, your values were shaped by CUNY — where the student next to you might have been a single mom, a returning veteran, or someone juggling several part-time jobs.
It was no surprise that when Hurricane Sandy hit, Macaulay students reached out immediately to help those in need.
For you, community service has always been a commitment, not a cliché. An amazing 22,000 hours of community service were done by this class.
You interned at technology start-ups, investment banks, museums, media companies, Congressional offices, accounting firms, and hospitals.
All that is true. But here’s why I think you are the most interesting graduating class in America:
YOU ARE MAKERS, you are DOERS, you are BUILDERS.
MACAULAY Messenger — our newspaper, started by students. The magnificent Macaulay Triplets – you heard them tonight – started by students. Clubs for entrepreneurs, for future lawyers, and doctors, and psychologists. FoodFest. Arts Night. CUFF. Macaulay Marauders, The Macaulay Olympics. The Global Medical Brigades. The Macaulay Musicians Collective.
All built by Macaulay students.
When you went abroad, which most of you did, you weren’t just academic tourists — you kept building.
Kindergartens in Ghana. Plays and performances in Edinburgh and London. Agriculture in the Dominican Republic. Health care in Panama, Peru, and Liberia. Education in India and Thailand.
As I look at the awards won by this Class, your career choices, and the roster of your graduate and professional schools — it is nothing short of breathtaking.
And for those of you who don’t know exactly what comes next — and I’m sure there are one or two of you out there — just relax.
After all, you CAN afford to make choices, because you are here, today, at the finish line, at your commencement, without debt.
That’s not exactly true for the rest of America’s Class of 2014.
You heard about what some graduates wrote on top of their mortarboards?
GAME OF LOANS.
But Macaulayans – you smarty pants – you found a way to get a world class education and Opportunities Fund for free.
We all know, of course, that really, there IS no free lunch.
So please take a minute to join me in a round of applause for those who made it possible: our Chancellor and presidents, alumni and parents, and the Macaulay Foundation and its generous donors represented today by Bill and Linda Macaulay.
I think I told you that first day under the whale — free is nice, but free is also short-lived.
FREEDOM, on the other hand, lasts a lifetime.
When you chose Macaulay, you were liberated from whatever path you were expected to travel, and encouraged to find your own way.
You have done so…and you have traveled in the company of a remarkable community of peers — your classmates — who were just as energized, ambitious, and poised for success as you were. That’s the priceless network you have built.
As an alum, you are now a permanent part of our community. Don’t forget to pay it forward. Give us your ideas, your experience, your encouragement and your support.
Hold the door open for the next Macaulay graduates, the new makers, builders, and doers.
Now I also said you were the most important graduates.
Class of 2014, you are the living embodiment of the American dream, alive and well right here at The City University of New York.
That is our message —
This is America.
This is New York.
This is public education.
This is Macaulay.