Lisa Baker – ESU Commencement

I am honored to join President Borland, trustees, administrators, faculty, staff, family and friends to express my congratulations to the Class of 2008.

No matter how hard we try to say something of Great Quotations quality, chances are most of you will remember what the weather was like. Ask someone about their graduation, and you probably will hear that it was hot outside, or hot inside the fieldhouse. With all due respect to our speaker, ask who spoke, and the answer is along the lines of: a bunch of people in caps and gowns.

My own graduation was a warm, sunny day, but for the life of me I still can’t think of our speaker’s name. However, I do recall that she was long winded – a lesson that I will apply for today.

I hope all of you have been so immersed in your textbooks and research and finals that you have not concentrated too much on the front page news. On the surface, it looks like a real mess out there.

Rising gas prices. A credit crunch. Mortgage foreclosures. Business closings. Jobs shipped to places many Americans cannot find on a map without Google’s help.

You may be wondering: “What does this mean for me as I prepare to graduate?”

I felt the same way when I graduated from Shippensburg University in 1983. My classmates and I were facing similar economic challenges. We didn’t know how we were going to find a job, let alone pay rent, student loans or keep a car on the road.

The good news is that the world is not grim, grimmer, and grimmest, as it may seem.

Technology advances rapidly, ingenuity expands, faith increases, public participation is on the upswing – all vital signs that our democracy is not disintegrating.

Despite many people’s wistfulness about the good old days, the education you have received from East Stroudsburg University is decidedly better in a variety of ways.

Programs are better-connected to the real world, as academic institutions have become less insular in outlook and more involved players in partnerships.

And there are more practical experience opportunities available for you to test your interests, to define your skills, and to acquire tricks of the trade from people who perform successfully every day.

The good work of ESU’s faculty, administrators, trustees and fellow students in cyber crime and forensics, the business accelerator program, and the construction of a research and technology park are the proof.

Technology connects you instantly to a universe of information, research and scholarship we could not even dream about previously. Today, we can peer to the reaches of the cosmos or inspect microscopic mites of matter. On YouTube, we can endlessly watch the pinnacles of human achievement and the depths of mind-boggling stupidity.

Best of all, there is broader recognition and respect for the academic rigor and value added of East Stroudsburg University.

Some of you played collegiate sports or intramurals. Others played on the intellectual fields. But wherever you played, you learned that competition – the exercise of body and mind – is quite healthy.

Competition is healthy for our political system and our economy too. It may not always be immediately apparent, but the fresh ideas, perspectives, and enthusiasm you bring are badly needed.

Chances are, you will not have Bill Gates or Warren Buffet calling you in for consultation your first week on the job. Then again, you will not have Donald Trump firing you on The Apprentice, either. But you will have the chance to make your mark, perhaps in your chosen field.

If we were to summarize higher education, it is a fascinating balancing act. At the same time we convince you of the merits of sound science, reliable research, and topical truths, we also encourage the healthy skepticism needed to question and expose the mythology frequently painted as fact.

We can pass on all sorts of good advice and good wishes in your direction, but we cannot give you a GPS device to map the direction your life and your professional career should take. That requires a collaboration of heart, mind, and backbone – All of this must be YOURS.

One of the best observations on the importance of effort is this: “Amateurs wait for inspiration. The rest of us just get up and go to work.” Said another way, the more experience is gained, the more knowledge is garnered, the more results are produced, all through endeavor rather than by contemplation.

So keep those action verbs front and center. Explore, invent, participate, engage, challenge, contribute. Do those things, and you will realize the high value of the quality education you have received from East Stroudburg University.

Have the courage to, in Paul Harvey’s words, write the “rest of the story.”

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