Commencement Address 2010

"I’d like to claim a moment of privilege here to share a few remarks with you. But, first, be assured that I know what the main question on your mind is: which will end first – my speech or your attention? So I will keep this short. Second, I know that your future is awaiting, so I will try to keep this relevant. And, third, I know that you’ll probably not remember anything that I say anyway. Well, maybe you’ll remember that line.

"But, I hope that you will remember, fondly and appreciatively, the time that you have spent here in our and each other’s company. And I hope that you’ll remember that it was here that you acquired a deeper sense of serious daring in your lives and that you found joy and purpose in that discovery. That it was here that you came to realize that the essence of education is self-discovery, that education’s critical role is the nurturing of human freedom in the service of human community, and that neither discovery nor service occur without intention and resolve, without sacrifice and sweat.

"People do not just stumble upon themselves. Rather, they find and create themselves through their actions and then facing the consequences of them.

"We discover who we are and why we are here only by making decisions that require forethought, intention, and, at times, courage. You must look beyond what is known and tried to what is, as yet, unknown and untried. You must search out alternatives, consider their consequences, and then confront these choices. In a practical and provocative sense, for example, half the jobs for the mid-21st century haven’t even been invented yet. You must anticipate them and prepare for them if you are to fill them.

"To face these tests, I urge you always to seek the truth. To do otherwise may mean that you will become enslaved to falsehoods. And those who know the least are the most willing to obey shallow signs and to follow dangerous deceptions.

"I urge you always to seek meaning in your own life. This may require an act of faith when faced with the chaos and complexity, and even the insane brutality, that exist in parts of our world today and which sadly and tragically even visit our campuses occasionally. Whether far from here or in our own community, we mourn the goodness, creativity, joy, intelligence, and potential lost when lives with so much promise are cut short by accident, alienation, violence or despair. But stay close to your family and friends, find comfort in nature, be kind to one another, and recognize that your spirit, no less than your body, requires nourishment.

"I urge you to build a life of virtue, grounded in hope and service with justice informing all of your actions. Practice charity and compassion in your daily life. Embrace the example of the many among you who have helped with the Hurricane Katrina and Concow recoveries, who engineered the January Blitz Build for Catalyst Domestic Services in Chico, who have raised funds and hopes for the children victims of cancer at St. Jude, who have devoted countless hours of service to the Chico Boys & Girls Club, Habitat for Humanity, the Torres Shelter, a cleaner environment and a sustainable future, who have tutored the less fortunate, provided company to the lonely, and fed the hungry. Examples like these not only reflect a generous community, but also reveal that you and I, and all people, even the weakest and least advantaged among us, share a common humanity and potential for goodness.

"In these matters, I urge you to understand the dignity of human aspirations. The audacity to hope, to dream of a brighter future, underscores what it means to be human. We cherish this quality in ourselves. You must see to it, then, you who are equipped to know better, that the dreams of others are not destroyed by prejudice and discrimination, by poverty and ignorance. And never doubt that you can change the world.

"I urge you, especially, to champion reason, respect, and civility when facing divisive and contentious issues. Lord knows, we have enough of them. But they cannot be resolved through drive-by debates characterized by screaming and demonizing or through a hyper-partisan political prism where scoring points with one’s narrow political base is more important than solving problems through compromise and dialogue.

"As citizens of our state and, in a few moments, alumni of the California State University, I encourage all of you to continue to support the university, its promise and its mission. Let your friends, colleagues, legislators and community know how important the CSU has been to you – and how earning a college degree can be such an important step toward a brighter future for you, our state, and nation.

"And, finally, I urge you to think kindly of this place – this community of purpose and service – which has equipped you and encouraged you for the daring journeys ahead – whether they be brief ventures or deep commitments, whether they test boundaries or cross borders, whether they are intellectual or attitudinal, spatial or spiritual.

"We hope you leave us more autonomous, more tolerant, more curious, more imbued with habits of the heart, than when you first joined us. And we hope these qualities will always mark you and define us.

"We are a better place because you have been with us. We will become even better as you stay in touch with us as an active member of the Chico State Alumni Association and that you will share with us your journeys and decisions always, we hope, on the side of the true, the beautiful, and the virtuous.

"Congratulations and best wishes."

—Paul Zingg, President