2011 Commencement Remarks

Scott CowenPresident Scott S. Cowen
Tulane University
May 12, 2011

Why I am So Proud of You

It is with great pleasure that I welcome everyone to the 177th Commencement of Tulane University. I am particularly delighted to share this special day with our 2011 graduates.

Let me give you a quick profile of today’s class:

  • 2,300 students are graduating.
  • The youngest graduate is 20 years old; while the senior member of the class is 64 years young. And, believe me, this is an age that gets younger with every passing year.
  • The states with the most graduates after Louisiana are Texas, New York, California, Florida, Maryland, Massachusetts and Illinois.
  • The five countries outside the U.S. with the most graduates are: China, Peru, Colombia, Chile and Panama.

These are the statistical facts. Now, let me tell you what makes this class so special.

As president of Tulane, I travel the country speaking about our university. I am often asked what I am most proud of at Tulane. My answer is always the same — the academic quality, character and values of our students.

This is what I tell others, but on a plane ride back from a speech recently I thought, "How often do I tell that to the students themselves?"

So as you are about to graduate, I thought it was high time to tell you how proud I am of you and why.

I am proud of you because you enrolled at Tulane as the most accomplished and sought after students in the country. While at Tulane you grew intellectually and personally as your Tulane education empowered you with the skills, knowledge and desire to build a better world. You could have gone to school anywhere, but you chose Tulane despite the fact that the university and New Orleans were still recovering from Hurricane Katrina.

I am proud of you for giving of yourself while you were a Tulane student, helping to transform New Orleans and, indeed, the world.

I have looked on with pride as you got involved in the community and made a difference in the lives of so many.

I saw you tutor local schoolchildren, teaching them not only how to read better, but to dream bigger. I saw you design and build safer, stronger and smarter homes to replace those destroyed by Katrina. I saw graduates like Tim Rinaldi, lead fellow students on mission trips to Honduras to build health clinics. I saw graduates like Caitlin Ditta travel to India to work with Tibetan refugees and teach them English. I saw graduates like Lac Nguyen, the daughter of a shrimp, volunteer at health fairs as the BP oil spill threatened our way of life and, in particular the New Orleans’ Vietnamese community in which she was born.

I smiled with joy when I learned how many of you are joining the Peace Corp, Teach for America, the military, and pursuing careers focused on making the world a better place.

To demonstrate my point, I want to ask the three students I mentioned — Tim, Caitlin and Lac — to stand and be recognized. I would now like all graduates who participated in significant community engagement in New Orleans or in the world during their years at Tulane to also stand and be recognized.

Now everyone in the audience understands why I am so proud. Our graduates are engaged citizens who will remain agents of change and forces for good for the rest of their lives.

When you came to Tulane we knew you were intelligent. But what I have seen develop during your time here is your emotional IQ. This IQ, which includes compassion, understanding, respect and empathy, cannot be taught in a classroom. These qualities evolve over time through the depth and quality of one’s experience and through one's capacity for caring.

It is this emotional intelligence that differentiates Tulane graduates from others and accounts for their successes in life.

I am proud that you are our hope for the future. The lessons you learned and the experiences you had at Tulane and in New Orleans will have an impact on communities where you live and work in the future. You have been empowered to positively change the world. As you continue your life's journey, I look forward to applauding and celebrating your achievements.

This is why I can always state with pride that there is no other student body in the world with whom I would rather be associated.

Would the audience now join me in a thunderous round of applause for the 2011 graduating class.

Office of the President Emeritus, 1555 Poydras St, Suite 700, New Orleans, LA 70112 504-274-3638