Commencement Address at the University of San Francisco
Good morning. Thank you, Dean Johnson for your warm welcome. Father President Privett, trustees, faculty, staff, and families and friends of the graduates, especially to graduates: it is an honor to join you today to extend congratulations to the Class of 2007 of the McLaren School of Business at the University of San Francisco.
Father Privett, may I thank you publicly for the honor you extended to me by offering the invocation at my swearing in as Speaker of the House. We could not have been more inspired by his words. That day he challenged us to pursue the common good of all the people of this great nation of ours especially of those who need us the most.
Almost 150 years ago, a brave group of Jesuit priests came to this place to found San Francisco's first institution of higher learning. They envisioned it to be a place for students to study the past, question the present, and build a bright future. Today, those pioneers would see in the class of 2007 that their mission has succeeded.
Today, you join a long line of USF graduates who have and are contributing to the betterment of our nation, and indeed the world. 52 years ago, Leo McCarthy sat where you sit now. He went on to become one of the most respected public figures in our country. Art Agnos spoke of him so beautifully -- what you should know about Mayor Agnos is that what he said about Leo he did himself. When Art was in the State Assembly he would encourage his employees to go out into the business world and bring their sense of social responsibility with them.
Both Art and I were mentored by Leo. Simply put for me, without Leo's guidance over the years, there would not be a woman Speaker of the House. Leo was a great patriot and he was proud that he was a veteran. Let us salute the men and women in uniform, our veterans. They are our heroes. They make us the land of the free and the home of the brave. True to the challenge, he was here to promote patriotism and was an advocate for social justice.
Thank you, Jackie, Niall, Conna, Sharon, and the rest of the McCarthy family for sharing Leo with us. What you should know about Leo that is especially appropriate today, is that as Speaker of the California State Assembly and as Lieutenant Governor, Leo made promoting California's economy a high priority.
He saw how important globalization was. Indeed he was an inspiration for the new Congress's Innovation Agenda -- our commitment to competitiveness to keep America #1. He knew that innovation begins in the classroom and was an advocate for research and development, and good paying jobs.
Another one of his former staffers, now Congresswoman Anna Eshoo, is taking the lead in the House as the Congresswoman from Silicon Valley. His influence continues to be felt. The business world, into which you will enter, is a result of his tireless work to shape the future.
We know that America's world leadership will be secured by those who operate on the frontier of knowledge and discovery. From the beginning of our nation, that frontier has been aggressively expanded by young people, who are not wedded to old ways of thinking, or daunted by the encumbrances of the past or the present.
That entrepreneurial spirit led our founders to be magnificent disruptors of the status quo. Their optimism, confidence, and hope has been passed on from one generation to the next. The eternally young spirit of America has been a source of strength all of you bring forth today and has been a beacon of hope to the world. That optimism, faith, and confidence in our country, has made our country young.
In my travels as Speaker, I have met with presidents, prime ministers, and kings. But what impressed and inspired me the most were my encounters with young people. At a time when some world leaders question the value of constructive dialogue with our adversaries, young people are engaged in their own international dialogue, on campuses and through email and instant messaging and blogs. I need not tell you gathered here today. They are talking about their hopes for a brighter future -- of their desire for peace and prosperity.
The young people I met in my travels are weary of war. They want an end to violence whether in Iraq, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, or the genocide in Darfur. They want to know if their leaders have the political courage to make the difficult decisions necessary for peace. They want a future and want to know if their leaders can produce economic opportunity, health care, and education for a better future. They want to stop global warming and preserve the planet -- God's beautiful creation.
That's what I heard in the Middle East, and that is what I hear from young people here at home. That unwillingness to accept the world as it is now -- the impatience of youth -- is why I have such faith in the future and in the class of 2007.
The philosopher Hannah Arendt once observed that nations are driven by the endless flywheel of violence believing that one last, one final violent gesture will bring peace. But each time they sow the seeds for more violence. Words, not weapons, are the tools of a new civilization.
The university is where words reign. The college campus is permanently the place where argument, debate, research, and articulate speech are and should be prized and maintained.
The University of San Francisco has given you these tools to understand the world, to clarify your values, and to enter into dialogue with others so that you can help promote better understanding for freedom and peace.
Pope Paul VI said, 'If you want peace, work for justice.' And today, you will go forth as the USF vision statement says, 'as the leaders who will fashion a more humane and just world.'
My message to the graduate today is: 'Know your power and follow your passion.' The power and passion that springs from the beauty of your dreams, the depth of your imagination and the strength of your values. I have confidence that you will succeed because of the magnificent education you have received at USF. I want to extend my congratulations to the class of 2007, wish you well and let you know you have a friend in the Speaker's office. Thank you and God bless you.