President Rev. Dr. Paul Haidostian, Faculty, Class of 2018, Dignitaries, Parents, and Guests:
My commencement address here today is a surreal experience. It was exactly 45 years ago, in 1973 , that I, a skinny young man with long, black hair and beard, stood on this very platform wearing a cap and gown, just like you, to receive my Bachelor’s degree from Haigazian’s founding president, Dr. John Markarian. This campus was also my high school. A teenager struggling with puberty, I resented everything having to do with formal education –homework, classwork, exams, assemblies, you name it. Naturally, my parents were deeply concerned about my future. Probably some of you, at least, have gone through the same emotions. However, just like me and many others, you’ve made it, and that is what counts in the end.
At this time. I have a kind request of you, the graduates: please try to remove yourselves from your physical bodies, take a few steps back, put on a new pair of eyeglasses, and look at yourselves from the outside in. What would you see?
Are you someone married to your smart phone? If yes, not a good choice, because you are smarter than your “spouse.” Are you someone who is subscribed to the view that artificial intelligence could or would eventually hijack your real intelligence? For example, the late Stephen Hawking believed that “The development of full artificial intelligence could spell the end of the human race…. It would take off on its own, and re-design itself at an ever increasing rate. Humans, who are limited by slow biological evolution, could not compete, and would be superseded.” I respectfully disagree, because “a year spent in artificial intelligence is enough to make one believe in God” and His creation (Alen Perlis). Therefore, the sooner you regain your independence from excessive use of technology, the quicker the freedom to imagine and create again will revisit you.
Do we see the world in the palm of our hands because of these inanimate objects? Have we lost our identity with our core values and traditions in blind pursuit of globalization, which serves visible and invisible forces with selfish agendas? There is no doubt, as George Soros has opined, that “there is a lot of merit in an international economy and global markets, but they are not sufficient because markets don’t look after social needs.” Author and anti-globalization activist Kevin Davahler elaborates further: “There are two globalizations…. The elite globalization represents minority forces… and is about money…. The people’s globalization, the democratic mass globalization is about life values.” Always try to side with the latter, or to at least maintain a balance between the two. Also remember that you are not simply a number in the larger scheme of things; rather, you are unique and dignified. Hold your heads high and let people notice you.
Have you assigned yourself as the guardian of your environment to keep it clean, unblemished, healthy, smog free, and pleasing to the eye? Is that something that you want to be bequeath to the generations yet to come?
Do you entertain political ambitions but with the determination to save politics from being the second oldest profession in human history? Would you be able to keep your promises not necessarily to us but to yourself and be the man of your own words? Or, would you be another Machiavellian Prince justifying the end with any means, thereby trampling on and shattering others’ lives? Greatness is achieved when the impossible is made possible. Can you be that game changer?
Are you someone who can crack a joke and laugh at yourself observing imperfections along the way yet striving for excellence? Can you criticize yourself in the strictest manner possible, and then treat others around you with more compassion for their human shortcomings?
Are you the type of person who can surround himself with capable and powerful people without the fear of losing his status at the highest rung of the ladder? Would you rather tolerate mediocrity for the sake of floating on the surface, or would you catapult yourself together with a supportive team meaning nothing but good? Henry Ford has underscored the fact that “Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success.” To put it differently, basketball legend Michael Jordan has said: “Talent wins games, but team work and intelligence win championships.”
Do you portray yourselves as accountants counting your blessings day in and day out? Life can never be miserable if you discipline yourselves to see the brighter side of things and the advantages that you have. The Cape of Good Hope is not just at the tip of the African continent. It is ubiquitous and omnipresent, all you have to do is raise your eyes and look around you.
Are you an imitation Rolex, fake, superficial, and vain? Or are you the real deal, genuine, ticking to perfection, reliable, valued, appreciated, and even envied? Don’t you want to be a fashion statement impacting others who want to emulate you? Be the latest design that suits and beautifies all shapes of humanity–tasteful, colorful, radiant, attractive, original, imaginative, ingenious…
Are you thinking about yourself critically right at this moment as to who you are? But what is critical thinking? Are you constantly reminded to use concepts, theories, and paradigms outside the box to explain situations, find answers, or arrive at truths? From now on, forget about many of the things you were told. Instead, use your mind as a sling shot sending salvoes in every known and unknown direction, which in turn will respond with signals coming from unexpected corners. It is this unbridled, fun journey riding on infinite imagination that will liberate you from the shackles of servitude to clichés and ancient ideas.
Last but not least, if you have accumulated a number of credits just to obtain a degree, then you have not learned much. But if you consider those units as stored seeds with which to feed the hungry, assist the less fortunate, give hope to the dislocated and the homeless, elevate peoples’ self-esteem, and or ennoble mankind in general, then you and true education have embraced each other inextricably.
Haigazian University is a highly regarded optometrist that has given you 20/20 vision to be used for introspection, extrospection, hindsight, and foresight. May you always seek and see the truth as you embark on a new journey towards a brighter future. Congratulations. Mabrouk. Shnorhavor ella.