Ron Kirk delivers SMU’s 95th Commencement address

Ron Kirk

Ron Kirk delivers SMU’s 95th Commencement address

Ron Kirk at SMU's 2010 CommencementU.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.”

New graduates make the pony sign at SMU's 95th Commencement, May 15, 2010Most 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?”

> Read more about Commencement 2010 from SMU News
> Find the complete text of Kirk’s speech

See slideshows of the weekend’s ceremonies and celebrations:

> Baccalaureate slide show
> Scenes from Commencement slide show
> Post-Commencement celebration and school diploma ceremonies slide show

May 19, 2010|News|

Time to celebrate: Commencement 2010 at a glance

Candidate assembly, SMU Commencement 2009.jpg

SMU observes its 95th Commencement May 14-15 with events for students, faculty, alumni and the entire community.

U.S. Trade Representative and former Dallas Mayor Ron Kirk will speak at the all-University ceremony at 9:30 a.m. May 15 in Moody Coliseum. The University expects to award nearly 2,000 undergraduate, graduate and professional degrees.

Some major events at a glance:

  • May 14-15 – Class of 1960 Golden Reunion
  • May 14 – Honorary Degree Symposia honoring Jorie Graham, Karinna Moskalenko and Saul Perlmutter
  • May 14 – Baccalaureate, featuring an address by University Chaplain Stephen Rankin, and Rotunda Recessional
  • May 15 – Faculty Breakfast and Distinguished University Citizen Awards presentation
  • May 15 – All-University Commencement
  • May 15 – School diploma presentations

> Learn more about Ron Kirk
> Find times and locations for the 2010 Honorary Degree Symposia
> See who’s speaking at the school and department diploma ceremonies
> Read student stories from SMU News
> Visit the Registrar’s May Commencement homepage

May 12, 2010|Calendar Highlights, News|

Calendar Highlights: Commencement Week, May 11, 2010

SMU Baccalaureate 2009Save the date: Make plans now for the 2010 Staff Appreciation Day and President’s Picnic. The annual celebration takes place 11:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m. May 20 on the south lawn of Clements Hall.

Commencement Countdown 2010:

May 14-15: Class of 1960 Golden Reunion
May 14: 2010 Honorary Degree Symposia
May 14: Baccalaureate and Rotunda Recessional
May 15: Faculty Breakfast and Distinguished University Citizen Awards presentation
May 15: All-University Commencement
May 15: School and departmental diploma ceremonies

> Visit the Registrar’s Commencement 2010 website
> Read more about U.S. Trade Representative and former Dallas Mayor Ron Kirk, SMU’s 2010 Commencement speaker

May 11, 2010|Calendar Highlights|

Calendar Highlights: Commencement countdown, May 4, 2010

2009 Baccalaureate line-up outside McFarlin AuditoriumThe countdown to Commencement 2010 has begun – some major events at a glance:

May 14-15: Class of 1960 Golden Reunion
May 14: Baccalaureate and Rotunda Recessional
May 15: Faculty Breakfast and Distinguished University Citizen Awards presentation
May 15: All-University Commencement
May 15: School and departmental diploma ceremonies

> Learn more at the Registrar’s Commencement 2010 website
> Read more about U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk, the 2010 Commencement speaker

Save the date: Make plans now for the 2010 Staff Appreciation Day and President’s Picnic. The annual celebration takes place 11:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m. May 20 on the south lawn of Clements Hall.

Making art at the Meadows: SMU’s Meadows Museum hosts the second Drop-In Art event centering on its Royal Splendor in the Enlightenment exhibition. Las Manitas takes place 11 a.m.-2 p.m. May 8. Visitors are invited into the museum’s education studio to create their own works of art in activities designed for families and children of all ages. Participation is first-come, first-served and is free with museum admission. For more information, call 214-768-4677.

May 4, 2010|Calendar Highlights|

U.S. Trade Rep. Ron Kirk to give 2010 Commencement address

U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk, SMU Commencement speakerU.S. Trade Representative and former Dallas Mayor Ron Kirk will speak at SMU’s 95th Commencement ceremony at 9:30 a.m. May 15 in Moody Coliseum.

SMU expects to award nearly 2,000 undergraduate, graduate and professional degrees in the Universitywide ceremony.

Appointed by President Barack Obama, Kirk is the nation’s chief adviser, negotiator and spokesperson for trade. The Office of the United States Trade Representative develops and coordinates U.S. international trade, commodity and direct investment policy, and oversees negotiations with other countries.

As the U.S. Trade Representative, Kirk also serves as vice chairman of the Board of Directors of the Overseas Private Investment Corporation, is on the Board of Directors of the Millennium Challenge Corporation, is a nonvoting member of the Export-Import Bank Board of Directors, and a member of the National Advisory Council on International Monetary and Financial Policies.

“As Commencement speaker, Ambassador Kirk brings the perspective of one whose leadership has been local, national and now international,” said SMU President R. Gerald Turner. “As Dallas mayor he helped to establish the city as a gateway to the global community. Now, as Trade Representative, he is shaping U.S. policy and international relationships to open new world markets and broaden economic opportunities for the United States. Our graduates will be inspired by his words and the example of leadership he has set.”

In 2008, exports generated nearly $2 trillion dollars in income for U.S. workers, farmers, ranchers, manufacturers and producers – about one of every $8 earned. As many as 43 million Americans owe at least part of their livelihoods to international trade. With 95 percent of the world’s customers located outside of the United States, exports are likely to be a source of economic and job growth for decades to come. President Obama has set a goal to double U.S. exports in the next five years, an accomplishment that would support two million new jobs.

Kirk draws upon more than 25 years of diverse legislative and economic experience on local, state and federal levels. As the first African-American mayor of Dallas from 1995-2001, he expanded the city’s international reach through a range of trade programs and missions. Previously, he served as Texas Secretary of State under Gov. Ann Richards, as a legislative aide to U.S. Sen. Lloyd Bentsen (D-Texas) and as chair of Texas’ General Service Commission. He also served as a Dallas assistant city attorney.

“As mayor of Dallas, Mr. Kirk helped to strengthen our community by reducing crime, encouraging civic engagement and building the city’s capacity to attract major businesses,” said Patrick Kobler, SMU student body president. “His experience is a perfect match for the Commencement ceremony at SMU as a university that produces civic leaders who embody a global perspective.”

Before his appointment as U.S. Trade Representative, Kirk was a partner at Houston-based Vinson & Elkins LLP. He was named one of “The 50 Most Influential Minority Lawyers in America” by The National Law Journal in 2008, and one of the nation’s top government relations lawyers by The Best Lawyers in America from 2007-2009.

Kirk also has been active at SMU. He has been a member of the SMU Hart Global Leaders Forum advisory board since its 1997 inception and served as its chairman. In 2001, he was named an honorary alumnus of SMU’s Dedman School of Law. His wife, Matrice Ellis-Kirk, previously served on the SMU Cox School of Business executive board and the Willis M. Tate Distinguished Lecture Series board. The couple also served as honorary co-chairs for the 2007 J. Erik Jonsson Award luncheon honoring civil rights activist Rev. Zan Wesley Holmes Jr.

Born and raised in Austin, Texas, Kirk received his Bachelor of Arts degree in political science and sociology from Austin College in Sherman, Texas, and his law degree from the University of Texas School of Law. He and his wife have two daughters, Elizabeth Alexandra and Catherine Victoria.

After the Universitywide Commencement, SMU’s schools and departments will hold individual ceremonies throughout the day to present degrees and honor graduates.

> Visit SMU’s May Commencement homepage

April 12, 2010|Calendar Highlights, News|
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