I was walking to school, feeling good, as you do with a fresh haircut and a cone of frosty gelato on a hot day. Like so many countless times before, I strolled beneath the shade of Bologna's porticoes breathing deep the millennium of wisdom trapped beneath their frescoed hoods. I would soon see my fellow students in the library. All their smiles, although begrudged by last minute term papers, would glimmer none the less. My mind whisked me back those earliest of our days here: the joyous confusion, the endless introductions, the excitement of learning new things among new friends. We scrambled to get up to speed in economics, but only if it left enough time for aperitivos under the balmy August sun. Ample celebration; convivial beginnings; good times indeed.
And so, as the cioccolato and nocciole waltzed their creamy pas de dieux across my taste buds and the church bells rung their charming peal, I was reminded of something the first time I stood here that we should never lose sight of: we live in ghastly and terrifying world.
Over the horizon, a foaming sea churns, poised to engulf our coasts in determined angry swirls; roaring wild fires, perfect storms and a sinister tag team of torrential flooding and global desiccation threaten to hurl our civilization back to the time before tool making - all this rage of nature educed and unleashed by collective shortsightedness.
The global economic machine rattles on, but the teeth of its gears have rusted to brittle nubs like those of some woebegone child's long forgotten music box, playing a more pallid and disharmonious dirge with every cycle of its crank. And the vexed, swelling and increasingly armed hordes of the jobless will no longer be lulled its tune.
And in terms of security, don't be fooled by the recent spate of justice. There still are many who wake up in the morning, put on their bathrobes and, before brushing their teeth glare at their reflection in the mirror and say: There can be no peace. Although we've extinguished the pilot light, the embers of transnational terrorism smolder on.
Perhaps the only speck of contrast visible in the dark days ahead will be all the white knuckles, clinging to hysteria as we spiral downward toward perdition.
Perhaps not. Because then again, there's you.
This summer you will travel to all corners of this Earth. In the developing world, you will pitch in your sweat to wrest the weak from the muzzle of poverty. In your homelands, you will channel your intellect into the public sector so that your people will know greater freedom tomorrow. You will bolster the clout international organizations, working to transform tenuous peace into permanent order. You will learn mysterious tongues that will allow you to build bridges of trade, culture and friendship across disparate civilizations. Your ingenuity in energy may one day liberate us form the bondage of smog. By applying your hard work and talent to the private sector, you will indeed call forth the phoenix of commerce from its ashy bay. And this all of you will do for free.
So my appeal? Arm yourself with the skills and sagaciousness of this first year, and charge into the gloom; beat back to the rising sea, extinguish the inferno, build concord anew. And see to it that the villains have a very, very bad day, indeed. Classmates, this is a commencement gathering. It is a beginning. A time not for reflection, but for projection. And so hence forth, project your luminescence unto the world. You are the heroes. You are the light, BC Class of 2011. You are remarkable in so many ways. It’s an honor to learn alongside you. Thank you.