President's 2018 Commencement Address
Congratulations on this special day to all the wonderful women and men of the class of 2018. Earning a degree from Queens College is a splendid achievement, and you should be as proud of yourself as we are of you. You displayed the patience, dedication, and intellectual drive to earn a Queens College degree. Your professors and I well know that this was not an easy journey and so you are all to be commended, admired, and applauded.
You are a very special Queens College class as you are graduating during the college’s yearlong celebration of its eightieth anniversary, a time when we remember the past and look forward to the future. As we look back, we ask ourselves if we have remained true to our mission of offering the finest education to people from every economic and ethnic background. Your diligence and your accomplishments speak eloquently to the fact that, yes, we have remained true to our mission, and we can now look forward confidently to a promising tomorrow.
You are also a very special class to me because, just like most of you, I started at Queens College in the fall of 2014. So I knew you-- and I have known many of you quite well--from your first classes in your freshman year to your day of graduation. And for those of you who transferred in from other colleges, you crossed the finish line with us here at your college, Queens College.
I hope that both today and in the coming days you remember to thank all the family and friends who supported you and encouraged you to reach your goal. I hope you will also thank the faculty and staff you have met here. I know that they will deeply appreciate it because your family and friends have you for a lifetime, but we have the pleasure of your company for only a few brief years... though we expect you will be back as active alumni enjoying events and activities.
For in that spirit, as remarkable and accomplished as you are, you are about to become part of an even more remarkable and accomplished group: the alumni of Queens College. I know you have heard the story of many of them over your time here; you have seen their names on some of our buildings and athletic facilities and watched them on television shows. They began their road to success carrying the same degree you will now receive. Most of them succeeded because they had big dreams, so make sure that your dreams remain big, too.
I know it is sometimes easy to think that major events of the past were inevitable. The Roman Empire had to fall after its spectacular rise, the American colonists had to defeat the British, and the Allied Army was destined to defeat the Axis Forces. But as an historian, I can tell you that absolutely nothing is inevitable.
The world can be shaped by women and men with strong beliefs and the willingness to take action to implement their values.
The world is yearning for progress, but change can be slow. So you, class of 2018, must become agents of progress.
To be an agent of progress, you must know your own skills and what gives you satisfaction, what make you feel whole. You must know and honor your heritage, honor your family, and yourself. This will give you a foundation from which you can go anywhere and do anything you want.
To be an agent of progress, you must focus your energies on the present. Don’t be sidetracked by the trendy or by hollow promises of wealth and fame. And do not be frightened of challenges or of failure. Failure is often the world’s way of saying keep going, you’re getting close. Keep your eyes and mind open and you will succeed.
To be an agent of progress, you must hold nothing back. You want to know that fifty years from now you gave the world all your ideas and every ounce of your energy, and that the world is a better place because you did.
And perhaps most important, to be an agent of progress, you must never listen to anyone who tells you can't succeed or that there is nothing new under the sun. Why? Because you are new under the sun, you have never happened before, and you have the ability to help make our planet a better world. When you first arrived at Queens College, we reminded you of our motto, "Discimus Ut Serviamus"--We learn so that we may serve. Carry our motto, your motto now, with you, as you go forward meeting all challenges and enjoying all opportunities.
So, class of 2018, thank you for spending some of the most important years of your life here at Queens College. We will keep a close eye on what you do with your lives, as well as keep a warm spot in our hearts for you.
President Félix V. Matos Rodríguez