Jeff Lehman at Commencement 2020
Members of the Class of 2020.
When you joined us back in the summer of 2016, the world seemed more stable, more safe than it is today. During the past four years, while you were living in an academic community with roommates and classmates from other lands, while you were expanding your minds and your hearts, two new destabilizing forces began to threaten the quality of life on earth. We are now endangered both by a new strain of infectious disease and also by a new strain of infectious xenophobia.
Humanity has overcome these kinds of threats before, and it can defeat today’s versions as well. COVID-19 can be defeated by science. Nationalism and bigotry can be defeated by humanism.
In these troubled times, when fear and anxiety are clouding people’s appreciation for the benefits that science and humanism have brought, we are truly fortunate that you, the newest graduates of NYU Shanghai, are ready to serve as beacons of enlightenment.
During the past four years, you have strengthened your scientific capacities for rationality and reason. During this time you have also deepened your humane capacities for empathy and cooperation. You unite science and humanism under an umbrella of cosmopolitan virtue.
Now the time has come for you to go out and be yourselves. Please be the people that we have come to know and love, people who create and innovate in respectful, productive partnership with others who grew up in different cultures, in different nations.
You have the knowledge, skills, and virtues that are needed to sustain our planet, to nurture natural and human environments where every child and every adult can enjoy a fair opportunity to flourish.
Members of the NYU Shanghai Class of 2020, I would like to conclude by sharing a few hopes that we, your teachers, hold for you as you venture forth into new lives of satisfaction and service:
May you be both brave and careful, so that you can enjoy influence and impact without falling prey to danger or risk. May you be blessed with good luck, and also with the wisdom and humility to appreciate when you have been lucky rather than skillful.
May you keep inventing new ways to energize video conferences, virtual chorales, and webinars – and may you soon be reunited in person with your family, classmates, and colleagues.
May your thirst for understanding, and your passion for exploration, never be diminished.
And may your journeys lead you often back to Shanghai, back to Pudong, back to our university. For you will always be part of the NYU Shanghai family. And we will always be happy to welcome you home.