Excerpts from the SMU Commencement speech by Condoleezza Rice
Former U.S. Secretary of State tells graduating students that with education comes responsibility
May 15, 2012
Following are excerpts from the Commencement speech give by former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice at Southern Methodist University on May 12, 2012.
- "Education is transformative. . . . education has always been the key to human beings and their dreams – a force that erases arbitrary divisions of race and class and culture, and unlocks every person’s potential."
- "My grandfather and other ancestors who endured poverty and segregation, and saw that education lifted them up, understood that it was a privilege to be educated, not a right."
- "I would like to suggest to you today that that privilege (of an education) brings with it several obligations and responsibilities. The first responsibility is actually one you have to yourself, and that is the responsibility to find and follow your passion. As an educated person, you have an opportunity to spend your life doing what you love. As you work to find your passion, you should also know that if you haven’t yet found it, it might indeed find you."
- "Your second responsibility as an educated person is a commitment to reason. . . .You haven’t been taught what to think, but rather how to think, how to ask questions, how to reject assumptions, how to seek knowledge – in short, how to exercise reason."
- "There is nothing wrong with holding an opinion and holding it passionately. But at those times when you’re absolutely sure that you’re right, talk with someone who disagrees. And if you constantly find yourself in the company of those who say “Amen” to everything that you say, find other company."
- "A commitment to reason leads to your third responsibility as an educated person, which is the rejection of false pride. . . . Remember that no one really does it on his or her own. Reflect for a moment on those who have stood with you – parents, and family, and friends."
- "SMU has summoned you to the ideals of compassion and charity for those less fortunate. Now, Commencement marks your opportunity – indeed, your obligation – to graduate with both wisdom and humility."
- "The fourth responsibility of an educated person is to be optimistic. Too often, cynicism can be the fellow traveler of learning, and I understand why. History is full of much cruelty and suffering and darkness, and it can be hard sometimes to believe that a brighter future is indeed dawning."
- "I believe that all human beings share certain fundamental aspirations. They want protections for their lives and their liberties. They want to think freely and to worship as they wish. They want opportunities to educate their children, both boys and girls. And they want the dignity that comes with having to be asked for their consent to be governed."
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