May 11, 2012
By C. L. Max Nikias

Good morning, and welcome to the 129th Annual Commencement of the University of Southern California!

Today, we confer nearly 14,000 degrees—at the undergraduate level, at the graduate and doctoral level, and at the professional level.

Today, we confer degrees on graduates from 50 states and from more than one hundred nations. We confer them in hundreds of fields and specialties. We confer them on women and men from every walk of life.

Today, we also confer honorary degrees on a number of international icons in the areas of innovation and industry, in humanitarianism and philanthropy, and in communications and social entrepreneurship.

And today we confer degrees on nine members of the Japanese-American Nisei generation whose studies were interrupted by the tragic events of World War II.

It is too obvious to say that our world is changing. It is more accurate to say that our world is accelerating, quite literally: Studies show that human beings walk faster, and talk faster, than they did even a decade ago.

In our own day, a meaningful tradition can rise up within one generation and become quickly be forgotten by the next one. Yet today, we have the rare privilege of participating in something truly enduring.

Since the high Middle Ages, the earning of an academic degree has marked a chief landmark along the journey of an educated citizen. It is a moment of paradox. It is a culmination, but it is also—quite literally—a commencement, a fresh beginning!

Today, this tradition finds new life, within one of the most talented and ambitious student bodies in America, within one of the most dynamic and forward-thinking student communities found anywhere. It is our pleasure and privilege to unleash your talents and your energies upon our world.

Yes, you, the Class of 2012, are graduating into times of uncertainty, uncertainty that affects every person on our planet. But what is uncertainty? Uncertainty is the beginning of adventure!

To the bold, uncertainty is a fountain of infinite, creative possibilities, pouring itself out richly for those who are ready to meet it.

As the Roman poet Virgil observed more than 2,000 years ago, to be a Trojan is to be an adventurer. Trojans are forever spawning new worlds and re-inventing old ones.

The Trojans’ will was so strong that it could even bend the will of the gods toward their favor. The Trojans always seized destiny. That is the adventure, the Great Journey, that now calls you by name.

But here is the key: You do not go forward alone. You go forward as a member of a global Trojan Family.

This is the greatest and most dedicated community of its kind: Hundreds of thousands of women and men who serve as leaders from Southern California to San Francisco, from Tokyo to Hong Kong, from New York to London, to Dallas, to Mumbai and beyond.

Earlier, USC’s Half-Century Trojans were introduced. All of them graduated at least 50 years ago. These distinguished persons serve as powerful symbols that to be a Trojan is to be a Trojan for life!

These Half-Century Trojans were lifted up and mentored by previous generations of Trojans, and they have given of their own time and talents to support younger Trojans such as today’s graduates. And I am confident that, as our newest alumni go out into leadership positions in our world, they too will support one another and future Trojans.

So, standing shoulder to shoulder, from this morning to many decades from now, let the Great Adventure continue! Go forward as a beloved member of the Trojan Family. We shall always be at your side.

Thank you.