Address to the graduates: 2018 Spring Commencement


University of Akron Commencement Ceremonies
Interim President John C. Green’s Address to Graduates
May 11-13, 2018
E.J. Thomas Performing Arts Hall

Chairman Bauer and fellow trustees, distinguished colleagues, family, friends and guests, and most importantly, graduates of the Class of 2018. 

Congratulations to you!

Thank you for the opportunity to share just a few thoughts with you today.

Until recently, I was the Dean of the Buchtel College of Arts & Sciences. I also taught political science at the University’s Bliss Institute of Applied Politics.

But when I was about to graduate, sitting in cap and gown and waiting for someone on a stage to stop talking so I could get my degree, I had no intention of doing any of that.

As a freshman I planned to follow my father’s footsteps and become an engineer. But then a course on economics captured my imagination and I changed my major.

The economics course that I liked best was on public finance — or how we pay (or don’t pay) for government programs.

I thought if I could figure out the government, I could become a great economist. So I started looking into government and ended up with a doctorate in Political Science.

I probably will never be a great economist because, after more than 40 years of studying government, I still haven’t figured it out.

Just like me, your path may have taken — and may still take — unexpected twists and turns. But I know you will thrive no matter where life leads you if you have confidence, hope, and faith.

Each generation is dealt a set of cards it must play to the best of its ability.  The hand dealt to you is one of rapid and dynamic change.

It is likely that during your lifetimes every major institution will be transformed. We are already seeing this transformation in the mass media, medicine, and education — but we ain’t seen nothin’ yet.

Rapid change is disconcerting. But you can confidently meet its challenges because you are prepared to do so.

Some cynics elbow their way into the news cycle by claiming that a college education isn’t worth its cost. That’s good for a headline, but it is not accurate.

In practical terms, there is a substantial wage gap between graduates like yourselves and your peers who do not have degrees. That gap is not shrinking, it’s getting wider, and will almost certainly continue to do so.

I have met many employers in the private and public sectors. I can assure you that your status as Akron graduates is highly valued. They say Akron graduates know how to get things done because their academic knowledge is tested by real-world experiences.

Of all the many things you have learned in college, the most important is how to learn new things — some of which no one knows about yet.

A wise fool once said change isn’t necessarily good or bad, it is just different. Different can be frightening.

This is where you can hope to make a difference, finding in each challenge an opportunity, and making good on each opportunity you find.

You can help determine if the new mass media is a source of good news rather than fake news.

You can help make the new medicine a fountain of well-being rather than a well of misery.

You can help make the new education a bright light rather than a dim bulb.

You can hope for things that have never been previously hoped for.

So you’ve got reasons to be confident and reasons to be hopeful.

You need just one more thing to thrive and that is the creative combination of confidence and hope. We call it faith.

We often think about faith in terms of religious conviction and appropriately so. But faith permeates almost every aspect of our lives.

When we have confidence and hope in our friends, we express faith in them. When we trust in our computers, we expect them to work faithfully – although with my computer, it is less about confidence and all about hope.

But faith is greater than the sum of its parts. It is commitment to things greater than ourselves – “the conviction of things unseen,” 1 and “the assurance of things hoped for.” 2

Graduates, I urge you to leave this hall today filled with faith: faith in yourselves, faith in your peers, faith in those who came before you, and faith in those who will come after you.

And know that we have faith in you.

Godspeed, Class of 2018.


1. Hebrews 11:1, New American Standard Bible (The Lockman Foundation: 1995.)

2. Ibid.