Chatham University

Commencement Address

Chatham University - Pittsburgh, May 3, 2008

Cynthia Baldwin
Former Justice of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania


DR. BARAZZONE, PRESIDENT OF THIS WONDERFUL INSTITUTION, CHAIR OF THE BOARD, MURRAY RUST, TRUSTEES, FACULTY, FELLOW HONOREES, OTHER DISTINGUISHED DAIS GUESTS, PARENTS, RELATIVES, FRIENDS AND GRADUATES, FIRST MY THANKS TO FOR THAT WONDERFUL INTRODUCTION. NEXT, MY SINCERE APPRECIATION TO CHATHAM AND CONGRATULATIONS ON ACQUIRING THE EDEN HALL PROPERTY. CONGRATULATIONS TO ALL GRADUATES AND THEIR FAMILIES. IT IS A PRIVILEGE AND AN HONOR FOR ME TO ACCEPT THIS HONORARY DOCTORATE OF PUBLIC SERVICE. IT IS A MOST HUMBLING EXPERIENCE.

SOMEONE ONCE SAID, “SUCCESS IS GETTING WHAT YOU WANT; HAPPINESS IS WANTING WHAT YOU GET; AND EXPERIENCE IS WHAT YOU GET WHEN YOU DON’T GET WHAT YOU WANT.” BY THAT DEFINITION, I AM SUCCESSFUL, HAPPY AND EXTREMELY EXPERIENCED. IT IS TRADITIONAL AT GRADUATIONS TO IMPLORE PEOPLE TO BE SUCCESSFUL AND TO GIVE BACK TO THE COMMUNITY. TODAY I’M GOING TO ASK YOU TO DO SOMETHING MUCH MORE SPECIFIC. IT TRULY FRUSTRATES ME THAT MANY PEOPLE MEASURE SUCCESS ONLY IN TERMS OF MONEY AND MATERIAL GOODS OR TITLE AND POSITION. ALBERT SCHWEITZER TALKED ABOUT SUCCESS IN THIS WAY, “SUCCESS IS NOT THE KEY TO HAPPINESS. HAPPINESS IS THE KEY TO SUCCESS.” IF YOU LOVE WHAT YOU ARE DOING, YOU WILL BE SUCCESSFUL. THE SAME PEOPLE WHO DEFINE SUCCESS IN TERMS OF MONEY AND MATERIAL GOODS OR TITLE AND POSITION ARE ALSO THE LEAST HAPPY PEOPLE I KNOW. SO I AM ASKING YOU GRADUATES TO THINK CAREFULLY ABOUT YOUR LIFE WORK AND YOUR CONTRIBUTIONS TO SOCIETY. WE NEED YOU AS EDUCATORS AND ENTREPRENEURS; AS ARTISTS AND ARTISTES; AS SCIENTISTS AND SOCIAL WORKERS; AS DOCTORS AND LAWYERS AND CEOS. YES, AND EVEN POLITICIANS. IT IS IMPERATIVE, HOWEVER, THAT WE NOT MAKE MONEY AND POSITION THE CONTROLLING FACTORS IN CHOOSING OUR LIFE WORK.

IT REALLY DOESN’T MATTER HOW LONG WE LIVE ON THIS EARTH. WHAT MATTERS IS WHAT WE ACCOMPLISH WHILE WE ARE HERE. AND WHAT WE MUST ACCOMPLISH GRADUATES IS TO SAVE THE CHILDREN. DRUGS, ALCOHOL, GANGS, THEFT, VIOLENCE WITH GUNS AND KNIVES, PROMISCUOUS SEX AND TEEN PREGNANCY ARE ALL SYMPTOMATIC OF DEEPER PROBLEMS LIKE LACK OF SELF-RESPECT, SELF-DISCIPLINE, AND POSITIVE IMAGE, LACK OF RESPONSIBILITY AND LACK OF COURAGE TO FACE REALITY. WE MUST DEDICATE OURSELVES TO TAKE AN ACTIVE ROLE IN THE REDEMPTION OF OUR CHILDREN, BECAUSE IT IS THE REDEMPTION OF OUR FUTURE. WE MUST TEACH THEM THAT THEY ARE VALUABLE. WE MUST ALSO TEACH THEM THAT THE WORLD OWES THEM NOTHING EXCEPT OPPORTUNITY AND WE MUST FIGHT FOR THEM TO HAVE OPPORTUNITIES. WE NEED TO TALK TO THEM, NOT AT THEM AND MORE IMPORTANTLY, WE MUST LISTEN TO THEM. WE NEED TO HOLD PARENTS AND SCHOOLS TO HIGHER STANDARDS, WE NEED TO TEACH OUR CHILDREN THAT DREAMS ARE ONLY ACHIEVED THROUGH INITIATIVE AND HARD WORK AND WE NEED TO BE THERE FOR OUR CHILDREN DURING THE HARD TIMES TO SAY “I LOVE YOU”, “LET ME HELP YOU.” IT HAS BEEN SAID THAT THE UNITED STATES IS THE ONLY COUNTRY IN THE WORLD IN WHICH EDUCATION IS MANDATORY AND LEARNING IS OPTIONAL. WE NEED TO CHANGE THAT. SO I ASK THAT YOU COMMIT TO HELPING OUR CHILDREN TODAY.

IN CONCLUSION, I QUOTE TWO VERY DIFFERENT MEN. ONE IS A MAN WHOM I NEVER THOUGHT I’D BE QUOTING. HE IS NOT A PHILOSOPHER OR A POLITICIAN OR A POET. HE IS GEORGE CARLIN. IT IS NOT FUNNY; IT IS THOUGHTFUL; AND THERE ARE NO CURSE WORDS.

“THE PARADOX OF OUR TIME IN HISTORY IS THAT WE HAVE TALLER BUILDINGS BUT SHORTER TEMPERS, WIDER FREEWAYS, BUT NARROWER VIEWPOINTS. WE SPEND MORE, BUT HAVE LESS, WE BUY MORE BUT ENJOY LESS. WE HAVE BIGGER HOUSES AND SMALLER FAMILIES, MORE CONVENIENCES, BUT LESS TIME. WE HAVE MORE DEGREES BUT LESS SENSE, MORE KNOWLEDGE, BUT LESS JUDGMENT, MORE EXPERTS, YET MORE PROBLEMS, MORE MEDICINE, BUT LESS WELLNESS.

WE DRINK TOO MUCH, SMOKE TOO MUCH, SPEND TOO RECKLESSLY, LAUGH TOO LITTLE, DRIVE TOO FAST, GET TOO ANGRY, STAY UP TOO LATE, GET UP TOO TIRED, READ TOO LITTLE, WATCH TV TOO MUCH, AND PRAY TOO SELDOM.

WE HAVE MULTIPLIED OUR POSSESSIONS, BUT REDUCED OUR VALUES. WE TALK TOO MUCH, LOVE TOO SELDOM, AND HATE TOO OFTEN.

WE’VE LEARNED HOW TO MAKE A LIVING, BUT NOT A LIFE. WE’VE ADDED YEARS TO LIFE NOT LIFE TO YEARS. WE’VE BEEN ALL THE WAY TO THE MOON AND BACK, BUT HAVE TROUBLE CROSSING THE STREET TO MEET A NEW NEIGHBOR. WE CONQUERED OUTER SPACE BUT NOT INNER SPACE. WE’VE DONE LARGER THINGS, BUT NOT BETTER THINGS.

WE’VE CLEANED UP THE AIR, BUT POLLUTED THE SOUL. WE’VE CONQUERED THE ATOM, BUT NOT OUR PREJUDICE. WE WRITE MORE, BUT LEARN LESS. WE PLAN MORE, BUT ACCOMPLISH LESS. WE’VE LEARNED TO RUSH, BUT NOT TO WAIT. WE BUILD MORE COMPUTERS TO HOLD MORE INFORMATION, TO PRODUCE MORE COPIES THAN EVER, BUT WE COMMUNICATE LESS AND LESS.”

THE SECOND IS A PHILOSOPHER AND A PLAYWRIGHT. HE IS GEORGE BERNARD SHAW WHO SAID THIS IN HIS DEDICATORY LETTER TO MAN AND SUPERMAN, “THIS IS THE TRUE JOY IN LIE, THE BEING USED FOR A PURPOSE RECOGNIZED BY YOURSELF AS A MIGHTY ONE; THE BEING A FORCE OF NATURE INSTEAD OF A FEVERISH, SELFISH LITTLE CLOD OF AILMENTS AND GRIEVANCES COMPLAINING THAT THE WORLD WILL NOT DEDICATE ITSELF TO MAKING YOU HAPPY. I AM OF THE OPINION THAT MY LIFE BELONGS TO THE WHOLE COMMUNITY AND AS LONG AS I LIVE, IT IS MY PRIVILEGE TO DO FOR IT WHATEVER I CAN. I WANT TO BE THOROUGHLY USED UP WHEN I DIE, FOR THE HARDER I WORK, THE MORE I LIVE. I REJOICE IN LIFE FOR ITS OWN SAKE. LIFE IS NO “BRIEF CANDLE” TO ME. IT IS A SORT OF SPLENDID TORCH WHICH I HAVE GOT HOLD OF FOR THE MOMENT, AND I WANT TO MAKE IT BURN AS BRIGHTLY AS POSSIBLE BEFORE HANDING IT ON TO FUTURE GENERATIONS.”

TRULY WE NEED TO REDEFINE SUCCESS FOR OURSELVES AND FOR SUBSEQUENT GENERATIONS OR WE WILL ALL LOSE. THANK YOU.