U.S. Trade Representative and former Dallas Mayor Ron Kirk told nearly 2,000 new SMU graduates never to underestimate their power to change the world.
“Don’t play small,” Kirk said in his address to SMU’s 2010 Commencement May 15. “One way or the other, commit to making a positive impact on people’s lives by opening your eyes, your ears, your minds, your hearts and your hands to the world.”
He also urged students to be active and engaged citizens of their communities, their nation and the world. “Most of you probably feel that your SMU diploma is the most important piece of paper you’ll get this year, but I want to encourage you to think about two more documents today: your voter registration card, and a passport,” he said.
In addition, Kirk stressed the importance of reading for both education and inspiration. “In Washington, you can tell people’s politics by the papers they read and by the news channels they watch. But it shouldn’t be so,” he said. “Our political discourse would be far richer if people took five minutes to see what the other guys are saying, where they’re coming from, and why.”
Most importantly, graduates should appreciate their ability to bring about change, Kirk concluded. “When I graduated from law school, the Soviet Union was still one of the most powerful and repressive forces on the Earth,” he said. “Apartheid was the rule of law in South Africa, and many people around the world lived under governments that dictated their freedoms, their employment, their dreams and their aspirations.
“All of those circumstances have been changed radically since then, because of the faith, inspiration and power of people who engaged, and agitated for change. They weren’t always the richest people, or the most powerful people, or sometimes even the smartest people in the room. But they saw a chance to make a difference, and they acted. Why shouldn’t that be you?”
See slideshows of the weekend’s ceremonies and celebrations: