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Commencement Address

Allan E. Goodman

May 12, 2013

Allan GoodmanIn March, it was my privilege to award Susquehanna University with the Andrew Heiskell Award in recognition of what your Global Opportunities program has done for this campus, the field of international education, and the world we share. Now it is a personal privilege to share the graduation of the first GO class. Both my wife and I could think of no more fitting way for our particular family to spend Mother's Day, since all our children have made international a part of their education. Thank you for inviting us.

What the Class of 2013 and this program represents is still quite rare. Nearly two-thirds of Americans do not even have a passport and fewer than one percent of our citizens in higher education ever take the opportunity to study abroad. Only a handful of U.S. universities today require an international experience and almost none expect that students will graduate speaking a second language. When Susquehanna was founded, every college and university in America required mastery of a language other than English in order to graduate.

So from our earliest vision of what higher education in this country should contain, there was always an element that stressed knowledge and experiences that could only come from engagement with the world beyond the campus.

A fundamental insight about the importance of travel also comes from Martin Luther's own experience as a law student at Erfurt University. Luther was a very well educated man for his time. But, in fact, it was while he was outside the university walls that he had the revelation that would change his life and Christianity. The revelation was the gift that he should prepare for the ministry and not the law courts.

The parable of the rich man, his talents of gold, and the three servants, about which Luther often preached, extended for him the meaning of his experience.

In Matthew 25:14-30, it is written that as a rich man prepared to go on a journey, he summoned his three servants and gave bags of gold to each according to their ability. Five to one, three to another, and one to the third which some scholars think was probably the equivalent of one gold Hebrew talent. Servants one and two got busy and used their master's money to earn more and doubled the amounts given. But the third servant buried the gold he was given so that it would be safe. When he returned just the amount he was originally given, the master dismissed him harshly.

Now I have always had a little sympathy for the third servant. One gold talent weighed between 30 and 36 kilograms; it was a lot of money in those days—over 1,200 ounces of gold. In today's prices, this would be worth over $2 million. It was quite a risk, I always thought, to do anything other than avoid doing anything with the money for fear it might be lost.

Luther knew this parable well. It was to him what the ministry was all about. He preached on it during the feast of St. Martin after whom he was named and made the distinction between gifts and talents. Each of the servants was given wealth and was expected to use their talents to produce more. The original gift of the use of the money was different. The gift was not from their talent but from a higher authority. As, to Luther, was the gift of the ministry. So once you received it, it was up to the minister to make the most of it.

Today is also about talents and gifts.

Your four years, thankfully, did not require an outlay of $2 million. Nonetheless, it is still your parents' and your teachers' gift. And they do expect you to make even more of it.

The GO program was part of showing you how.

Permit me to illustrate what I mean by referring to one of your students' blogs about her time in Strasbourg. As a French and K-12 education major, your GO classmate aimed high to improve her language mastery. And, for the most part, she was making good progress. As she wrote, though, "even though my skills in writing and speaking have improved and my [reading] comprehension gotten much better, I still struggle with oral comprehension... . When I received what was probably the worst score of my life, I was devastated. But my good friend Kerri taught me a valuable lesson. She said, 'Carolyn, one day, you are going to be a French teacher, and you will probably have a kid in your class who seems like a mess-up and who just doesn't 'get' it. Before you got this grade, you probably wouldn’t have understood him or her or help them to realize their potential.'"

Quite a revelation. And indeed, sometimes what you learn abroad is how to serve your community even better at home.

The Institute is also privileged to administer the Fulbright Program on behalf of the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs at the U.S. Department of State. I am very pleased to say that two of you will be Fulbright students in the coming year. Holly Belkot has been awarded an English Teaching Assistant grant to Macau, China and Bridget Burns will conduct research in Mauritius, East Africa. We hope that many who have the GO experience in the years ahead will find their way into this Program and other national programs. It is another way of transforming your life.

Many in this class will also enter the field of education. Recently, I met a Fulbright teacher alumnus who was able to exchange classrooms for a year with a teacher in Turkey and he spoke eloquently about all the things he learned. I asked him what difference he thought it would make to his students back home.

"In the New York public schools," he said, "the administration tells us to teach so that our students can be 'career ready, college ready.' What I am doing because of Fulbright is adding a third requirement: world ready."

This class is surely that.




Allan E. Goodman is the president of the Institute of International Education. He is the author of books on international affairs and previously served  as executive dean of the School of Foreign Service and professor at Georgetown University.  Goodman also was the presidential briefing coordinator for the director of central intelligence in the Carter Administration.

Goodman has a Ph.D. in government from Harvard, an M.P.A. from the John F. Kennedy School of Government and a B.S. from Northwestern University.

Note: Taken from prepared text. Actual remarks may have deviated from what appears here.

 

 



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