Convocation

August 25, 2017

Good morning class of 2021, parents, faculty, staff, and friends,

In the words of the Miami Tribe, aya niihkaaninka (eye-ya, neek ca-ning-a).

I am delighted to welcome you to Miami University today. Among all your wonderful attributes, you are the most diverse class in Miami's history—a fact that matters for you, for us, and for our country and its future.

Diversity is a priority for us at Miami. We seek ways to engage diversity—in the classroom, in the library, in the laboratory, in the speakers we invite and the special events we host. We seek ways to learn from diversity—in performances, in dialogue, in mentoring and shared community. We seek ways to reflect diversity—as we come together today, embracing one another through unity and belonging.

Diversity is not limited to categories of race or gender or country of origin or orientation. It's about the rich tapestry in background, ability, culture, experience, perspective, and other ways that unite our campuses in ways to learn, discover, converse, and to understand one other. More broadly, diversity is the fabric of our country whose motto is "From many, one." At this university, each of us says, "I am Miami," and together we say we are One Miami.

Let me share with you how diversity will have meaning and impact you—on your life here and beyond Miami.

First—you will learn more broadly.

As we say in our Code of Love and Honor, the liberal education you receive here is grounded in qualities of both character and intellect. As you study, you will not just absorb information, facts, and skills. You will learn about the world around you by encountering the varied perspective of a diverse community. My advice to you is to boldly engage others' perspectives, beliefs, values and personal experiences. It will help you form your own identity and leadership qualities.

Second—you will understand more deeply.

Our human nature often makes us automatically suspicious, sometimes even fearful, of things that are new and different—just because they are new and different. Divisions among humans result when we cling to abstract conclusions because we don’t really know the stranger. Unity comes when we get to know them as fellow human beings deserving of respect—EVEN, as our Code of Love and Honor says, "when we disagree." In the words of Nelson Mandela, "No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love…." My advice to you is to foster personal relationships with fellow students who broaden your perspective—take a break during a study session or group project to talk about each other’s backgrounds, goals, hopes, and aspirations. Friendship, camaraderie, and cooperation grow where there is understanding and respect.

Third—you will engage more effectively.

The strength of our community depends on both the strength of individuals and the strength of their unity. As the Japanese Poet Satoro said, "Individually, we are one drop. Together, we are an ocean." Our unique personal contributions are complementary and synergistic—not redundant—to the unique personal contributions of others. We form a complex symphony, not an echo chamber. My advice to you is to recognize the great advantage of living in such a community—to find your place in harmony with others and not in isolation or hostility—so we can all flourish as a community.

Fourth—you will compete more successfully.

When you graduate, you will enter a world that has never been more diverse and connected. You might be a designer in a global company who invents a new widget. You may send the idea to India for prototyping, onto Malaysia for manufacturing, then to marketing and sales in China. Your Miami education will give you the edge when interacting with so many different people, places, languages, and cultures. My advice to you is to take a global perspective, to consider international study, to engage the wonderful students who come here from other states and other countries.

We begin this school year with reminders all around us of big challenges ahead of us. The threat of nuclear war, the resurgence of hate, division, and gap between rich and poor are at levels not seen in generations. North Korea, Charlottesville, challenges right here in Ohio—so many problems call out for solutions of peace, unity, collaboration, innovation and justice. Your holistic education at Miami will equip you to be part of the solution.

Our focus on diversity at Miami is a foundational part of our DNA. Our Alma Mater declares, "Of all races, from all nations." Our Code of Love and Honor calls us to welcome a diversity of people, ideas, and experiences." We share the name Miami with the Myaamia Native American Tribe. In the language of that Tribe, "we are diverse"—kakapaaci iišinaakosiyankwi (capachee eshenah cos e ongway)—is an action verb.

So welcome to our community that you enrich by your presence. Here we celebrate our differences; we learn by exchanging different perspectives; we grow by getting to know and understand each other. Our values are openness and inclusion. Our mission is to be a welcoming, caring, supportive community that empowers us to advance both as individuals and as a community. There no space for racism, intimidation, bigotry, or animosity. We uphold the freedom of everyone. That freedom includes the responsibility to resist any attempt to denigrate, oppress, or limit the freedom of others—that is a denial, not an expression, of true liberty. When we include others, we are included; when we welcome others, we are welcomed; when we listen to others, we are heard. Welcome, Class of 2021, to this Miami family where you are included and heard. In a moment, we will read the Code of Love and Honor together as One community—committing ourselves anew to this way of life for this new school year. Love and Honor is at the heart of everything we do at Miami.

I can promise you this: Wherever you are from here forward—if another Miamian recognizes you as a Miamian—they will say, "Love and Honor!" I guarantee it will happen to you—in places around the world—where our graduates are making a difference. You will feel an instant connection and comfort in meeting another Miamian. Each person develops their own understanding of how to live Love and Honor—they all bear a family resemblance. My esteemed colleague, Professor Rodney Coates uses these terms—democracy, community, empathy to describe Love and Honor. I like that.

For me, the Code of Love and Honor has to do with democracy because it recognizes and respects the basic equal rights and dignity of every person. It builds community because it allows us to establish meaningful connections in positive ways despite our differences. It elevates the virtue of empathy because it calls us to real, practical support and care for all Miamians.

The Code of Love and Honor will become your lodestar—it is mine. It will never mislead you. When you are challenged, remember Love and Honor. When you observe intolerance or ignorance, model Love and Honor. When you see a friend or another Miamian at risk of danger or harm, call them to Love and Honor.

So let's practice Love and Honor right here, right now, by reciting together the Code of our core values that defines us as Miamians. I would like to ask Student Body President Maggie Callaghan to lead us. Please take out the card you received as you arrived today and let us all stand.

I Am Miami.

I believe...
that a liberal education is grounded in qualities of character and intellect.

I stand...
for honesty, integrity, and the importance of moral conduct.

I respect...
the dignity, rights, and property of others and their right to hold and express disparate beliefs.

I defend...
the freedom of inquiry that is the heart of learning.

I exercise...
good judgment and believe in personal responsibility.

I welcome...
a diversity of people, ideas, and experiences.

I embrace...
the spirit, academic rigor, opportunities, and challenges of a Miami Experience, preparing me to make the world a better place.

I demonstrate...
Love and Honor by supporting and caring for my fellow Miamians.

And because I Am Miami,

I act...
through my words and deeds in ways that reflect these values and beliefs.

With a deep sense of accomplishment and gratitude,

I will...
Love, Honor, and make proud those who help me earn the joy and privilege of saying,

"To think that in such a place, I led such a life."

Miami is a place to study, and learn and discover. It is a place to live, and to live together as a community. That means it affects every aspect of our life. Our concern for each other is personal and holistic, not just academic and intellectual. All of us has something to contribute to who we are—reflecting Miami with your personal expression of our shared values.

In four years when you graduate, you will say, with generations of students before you and others who will come, "To think that in this place I lived such a life." Make the most of this first year of that life. Think carefully. Choose wisely. Act responsibly. When any of us succeed, all of us succeed.

Welcome. Congratulations. Best wishes and much success Class of 2021.