Remarks by New College of Florida President Gordon E. “Mike” Michalson, Jr.
Warm welcome to graduating students and your families, members of faculty, New College staff members, members of the College Board of Trustees, all of the alumni gathered plus members of the Boards of the Foundation and New College Library Association, and all the additional friends and college connections here this evening.
Graduates: my warm congratulations to you. I’m pleased to see you are looking a bit more alert than you did at this morning’s rehearsal. Special thanks on this occasion to the families of our graduates, especially to the parents. I am keenly aware that the college careers of your sons and daughters have coincided with what have likely been the roughest financial challenges many of you will face in your entire lives. Affording a college education is hard enough without having to cope with a lost job, an unanticipated career change, or a precipitous decline in your personal income. I cannot imagine the cumulative amount of worry lying behind all of your family stories taken together.
Let me take this opportunity to state emphatically to all you parents that the happy occasion drawing us together this evening clearly demonstrates that your worries and sacrifices have all been worth it. In this light and at this moment, I want to acknowledge and honor your perseverance and to thank you for your confidence in New College.
Graduates: on a more upbeat note, this is my opportunity to offer up platitudes of numbing banality with the hope that you will confuse them for wisdom. After all, one great feature of Commencement ceremonies is that you can stand in front of a large audience and say things like: “You have your whole future ahead of you,” and then watch people nod solemnly, as though they’ve just been given the inner secret of life.
Instead of sharing secrets, let me conclude by returning to the topic of platitudes and reminding you of the curious fact that platitudes attain their status by virtue of being true. So when we talk about how your liberal arts education has indeed prepared you for your future in a complex world, we’re not simply being platitudinous, it’s true. The global situation just seems to get more complicated and worrisome by the moment, yet in the years ahead, you will discover the value and importance of what we take most seriously here – critical thinking, reasoned argument, creativity, evidence-based judgments, and (not least of all) tolerance for honest disagreements.
I commend you for your own perseverance, and I thank you for what each of you has brought to New College in the form of your independent spirit, high intelligence, and capacity for fun. We will miss most of you….and we will always welcome your return to campus in the years ahead.
Gordon E. “Mike” Michalson, Jr.
President, New College of Florida