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Be the Change You Want to Achieve
President Antoinette M. Hays, PhD, RN
May 8, 2014
Good afternoon and congratulations to the Class of 2015 for reaching this significant moment in your lives, the achievement of a college degree.
It is a pleasure for me to see your parents, families, and friends here today as well, and I welcome you all to Regis, a leading Catholic university in greater Boston.
My message to you today is brief but intense.
A lot of contemporary debate in higher education surrounds the value of a liberal arts education and its relationship both to the Catholic intellectual and social justice tradition and to professional life.
But there is a relationship in liberal education both to knowledge and to values, and this helps explain why graduates of Catholic institutions are prized in industry, no matter your chosen career. It all begins with the bachelor’s degree and the liberal arts mentality that joins intellectual excellence with true and just character, that is, the values that inspire a human being to act truly and justly.
NY Times columnist David Brooks has recently published a book called The Road to Character” in which he describes the virtues that build up one’s resumé, or the achievements that inform the way one earns one’s living professionally, in contrast to the virtues people will name in a eulogy for you because you have been a true, good, and beautiful human being in your relationships and in building up society. Brooks thinks we’ve emphasized the resumé virtues almost too much and haven’t talked enough about the eulogy virtues.
But on the campuses of Catholic universities like this one, no matter the cultural trend, you are likely to find that these types of virtues actually interconnect. It’s a both/and, not an either/or, both intellectual excellence and achievement and also true and good character and decision-making, relatedness, sense of community.
Thus, if you have majored in public health, the fact that you conducted a study of the prevalence of Ebola during the winter and early spring of 2014 will help get you hired or promoted. But the motivation that drew you to use your excellent research skills to develop the study at a time when the western world was ignoring what was happening in Africa shows that you had a moral compass and cared about the world, near and far, and that you wanted to call attention to a developing crisis that need attention and care. So, too, for example, if you have become a writer skilled in business and marketing, with several experiential learning projects demonstrating your know-how for buying and selling in social media venues – a resumé virtue – my hope and that of your Regis faculty is that you have also reflected deeply and absorbed the practice of that other set of virtues called giving and receiving, which is the very exchange of human relationship with other people, and its standards influence how you market and what.
In Catholic higher education, intellectual excellence and the cultivation of a morally astute character go hand and hand. As new recipients of the bachelor’s degree from Regis, you are, therefore, stepping out now from the foundation of a western tradition with the deepest classical roots, the liberal arts tradition of relating thought to action, so you are called to be the change you want to achieve.
And that is my message to you, Class of 2015, with my warmest congratulations: Be the change you want to achieve. Godspeed!