2009 Commencement Remarks

Welcome to NJIT’s 2009 commencement. As president of Newark’s hometown university, I’m very pleased to say that Mayor Cory Booker has been able to join us today as our Commencement speaker and the recipient of one of the honorary doctorates that we will confer this morning.

This is a great day for all those who will receive their degrees, and I congratulate each of you on your academic achievements. But in the words of the novelist and poet Robert Louis Stevenson, this is also an occasion to acknowledge the support of those “who do not judge each day by the harvest that they reap, but by the seeds that they plant.” Please join me in a round of applause for the family members and friends who planted the seeds of your success, and who nurtured them with the encouragement that has helped you reach this milestone in 2009.

When today’s ceremony is over, you will travel many different paths. As a graduate of NJIT, you have experienced the unique educational environment at New Jersey’s science and technology university. Yet our graduates are applying the unique perspectives gained in such an environment to an increasingly diverse range of careers in commerce, education and public service.

The opportunities before you are great ― and so are the challenges. In 2009, it is not a cliché or an exaggeration to say that the challenges ahead of you compare with those faced in the past by young women and men who were most tested by national and global events. In rising to these challenges, do not hesitate to take decisive action when it is warranted. The wryly eloquent British prime minister David Lloyd George said “Don't be afraid to take a big step if one is indicated; you can’t cross a chasm in two small jumps.”

As students at NJIT, you have also been encouraged to be leaders in making decisions and taking action to promote the well-being of our country and people around the globe. You have gained your specific skills and knowledge at a university that brings together individuals from many cultures and ethnic backgrounds. You have learned that the desire to build a positive future for all nations is a bond that is far stronger than any force that might threaten to divide us.

Lastly, whatever paths you choose to follow in the years to come, I know that it will be an exciting and fulfilling journey. Pursue every goal with enthusiasm and energy. Be willing to accept every challenge, and do so with careful thought, realistic optimism and the utmost consideration for all those affected by your decisions.

As the great American writer Mark Twain said, “Years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”

Robert A. Altenkirch, President