President Monaco, distinguished faculty and trustees, honored guests, most important people, members of the Class of 2015, families and friends: good morning.
I want to begin by thanking Tufts very, very much for this honorary degree. And I know I speak for my fellow honorees in saying how grateful we all are, and I am so honored to be with all of them, because they are a remarkable group of people.
As the Class of 2015 well knows, a degree is a very precious thing.
It is very satisfying to work hard and earn one.
It is an utter delight to receive one simply for showing up.
But that is not the only reason that I am excited to be here.
Although I didn’t attend Tufts, I feel a personal connection to this outstanding university.
Back in the 1960’s, this is where I met one of my heroes, former Secretary of State Dean Acheson, after he delivered a speech.
I never, ever, imagined then that I would one day be appointed to Acheson’s job.
It’s not that I lacked ambition; it’s just that I had never seen a Secretary of State in a skirt.
As a professor and mother of three college graduates, I have to confess that I just love commencement ceremonies.
They are a unique milestone in our lives, because they celebrate past accomplishments and future possibilities.
To the parents of the Class of 2015, I can only say the moment has finally come.
Having once been in your position, I expect that you’re thinking with some amazement about how short the interval is between diapers and diplomas.
To the students, I say congratulations.
In order to reach this day, you had to pass one of the most difficult tests of all: surviving a truly wicked Boston winter.
Now that you’ve all thawed out, you will soon realize that graduation is one of the five great milestones of life; the others being birth, death, marriage and the day you finally pay off your student loans.
Today is a time for celebration, and for looking back and admitting that all the hard work of reading and writing, and studying and cramming before tests was indeed worth it.
In future years, you will recall this ceremony and you will understand that today, May 17, 2015, was the day you first began to forget everything you learned in college and graduate school.
But as the names of dead European kings and the body parts of dissected animals begin to fade, the true value of your days on the hill, in Boston, or in Grafton will become more and more apparent.
For by studying here at Tufts, you alongside students from more than 100 countries, have gained a global perspective – and that’s true whether your degree is in economics or veterinary medicine, whether you studied the art of diplomacy or the science of engineering.
This outward orientation is vital because the Class of 2015 will live truly global lives. You will compete in a global workplace, shop in a global marketplace, and travel further and more often than any prior generation.
To succeed, you will require the kind of knowledge that extends way beyond mere facts to knowledge of self.
I know from my own experience that such wisdom can be hard to obtain.
I arrived at Wellesley College about halfway between the invention of the Apple Watch and the discovery of fire.
I had one basic goal – which was to be accepted.
As an immigrant, I didn’t want to stand out; I wanted to fit in.
Fortunately, in the 1950’s, conformity was encouraged – though we were also in a period of transition.
Women were finding our voices at Wellesley, but we were also expected to be young ladies – except perhaps during that occasional outing to Boston.
In college, I learned much about Renaissance composers, and Shakespearean plays and the periodic table; but I also learned an awful lot about myself – that I wanted to use the fine education I had received for something more meaningful than table conversation; that I wanted to test – not simply accept – the limits and boundaries of the life I was preparing to lead; and that I wanted to give something back to this country that had given so much to me.
I suspect that the same is true for you and your experience here at Tufts.