President Pastides Addresses May Graduates

Prepared remarks for May 2016 Commencement Ceremony

Welcome everyone. Graduates, we are here to salute you, the Class of 2016, with pomp and circumstance, some advice, a handshake, a photo, some laughter and some music. We are here for one purpose only—to send you off with a majestic and heartfelt ceremony. 

So let this all soak in...deeply. Just like college, this ceremony will pass all too quickly. 

So take a moment now to let this start to soak in. This is a day you've anticipated and worked hard for—well, for your whole life. And this day, like only a very few others in your life—your wedding, the birth of your child and perhaps a few others, creates a major change in your status. In an instant really...when I read the degree conferral, and later, when I ask you to move the tassel on your cap from right to left. 

So let this all soak in...deeply. Just like college, this ceremony will pass all too quickly. 

I am truly proud and confident in your abilities and in your future.  Call me Cocky about that...no forget that...don't call me Cocky. But I am pleased to report that you will be entering a more receptive job market than in recent years.  The National Association of Colleges and Employers is reporting that employers are planning to hire 11 percent more graduates this year than last year. That's great news. 

But I'm also confident because I know that you are very well prepared.  You will soon have a degree from the University of South Carolina. America continues to have the greatest model of higher education the world has ever known. This is not my opinion; it's a fact that has been confirmed by the greatest educational leaders from around the world. There are many special things about higher education in the United States. First, we have a residential campus model of education and a whole lot of learning goes on outside the classroom—in internships, in clubs, recreational activities, and in the residence halls on campus or in the apartments near campus. You have learned and you have grown 24/7.  

Furthermore, American universities, unlike most in Europe, Asia and beyond, compete in intercollegiate athletics. And despite problems and criticism, no one would argue that the American college experience isn't greatly enriched by the opportunities you've had to be an athlete, a cheerleader, a member of the band or a student fan cheering for the Gamecocks. 

But the main thing that sets us apart is our curriculum. It is the liberal arts and sciences curriculum that continues to define American higher education more than anything else. Everyone graduating today with a bachelor's degree has received a broad, general education in the arts and sciences, even if your major was technical or pre-professional.  

Be the best professional you can be—as an accountant, an engineer, in business, in health care or in anything you have chosen.

Now I'm absolutely sure that you weren't always excited to look for general education electives whose relevance wasn't always obvious, but I believe you will draw on the content you studied in those courses frequently. Actually, the broad, general education you received here will make you better in your chosen career. 

Albert Einstein knew that. Of course, he was a scientific genius but you may be surprised to know that he said, "If I were not a physicist, I would probably be a musician.  I often think in music. I live my daydreams in music. I see my life in terms of music." Einstein saw relevant parallels with music everywhere. His son Hans said, "Whenever Dad felt he had come to the end of the road or into a difficult situation in his work, he would take refuge in music and that would usually resolve all his difficulties." Albert's sister said, "After playing piano, he would get up saying,'There, now I've got it.' Something in the music had guided his thoughts in new and creative directions." 

So my message to you is, by all means, be the best professional you can be—as an accountant, an engineer, in business, in health care or in anything you have chosen. But draw on everything you learned because nobody can rise to the highest levels of their profession without a broad, worldview and a broad education. Technology has become a lingua franca but it is not the language by itself that will get you where you are going. 

And one other thing, a business leader recently said that he respected competence in the STEM disciplines—science, technology, engineering and math—but he went on to say that the STEM he really sought in his employees was Sweat, Teamwork, Energy and Manners.  I like that. 

Sweat, of course, means hard work. Graduates there is simply no substitute for hard work; teamwork is vital to problem solving and to a good organization. You might go faster alone, but you will go further as a team. Energy is a key ingredient in nearly everything you will seek to do. And graduates, I remind you to get plenty of rest, that would be at night, not in the morning. Wake up tomorrow by 7 AM please! And manners. Well that's an old-fashioned word. I'm sure it was selected because it starts with an "m." But what he probably meant was the characteristic of being courteous and civic minded. That is basic and vital to your success.  

So, surprisingly, every one of you in the class of 2016 is a STEM graduate...because you will be a graduate of the University of South Carolina. You have been asked to work hard, to work as a team, to be energetic and engaged and to be civic minded and courteous. That is what we worked hard to instill in you and that is our greatest gift to you on this, one of the most important days of your life that will be matched by very few others.  

Ladies and Gentlemen, if you agree with me that these young people have come a very long way since they were dropped off as freshmen or transfer students, let's acknowledge them enthusiastically, right now, as the soon to be alumni of the University of South Carolina, the Class of 2016!