Mike Bloomberg's Remarks from Stanford University's 122nd Commencement
By NYC.gov - JUN. 16, 2013
The following is the text of Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s remarks as prepared for delivery:
“Thank you, President Hennessy and good morning graduates, faculty members, family and friends.
“It’s an honor to be here at Stanford to celebrate the 122nd Commencement and to hopefully get Stepfan Taylor’s autograph.
“There’s no question that the Class of 2013 is – as Dean Julie used to say – ‘The greatest class in the history of Stanford!’
“Let me start by offering my congratulations to a very special group: all the parents who helped get you to this moment. And a happy Fathers’ Day to all the dads, who are bursting with pride right now – and hoping that you won’t be moving back into your old bedroom.
“But today is about the graduates. And as I look out at your bright, beaming faces – some of you still feeling last night at Rudy’s or Illusions; some of you dressed like Harry Potter, or the Wizard of Oz; and okay, yes, I saw the guy dressed as a Big Gulp, very funny – I can hardly believe that I, too, am part of this class.
“And for me to have gotten to this day – without having to take I-HUM like you undergrads – and without having done a beer column at Old Pro, I feel very lucky.
“To be honest, I’m also a little jealous. Look at the amazing place you’ve gotten to enjoy while you received a first-rate education: You’ve had perfect weather, though I know everyone puts on down jackets whenever it falls below 70.
“You’ve had inspiring surroundings – Sunrise over The Dish, Star light over Lake Log, charming buildings.
“You’ve had legendary fountains. President Hennessey has promised to go fountain-hopping with me later.
“And of course: You’ve had Full Moon on the Quad. Did anyone here play Full Moon Bingo?
“Stanford is such a special place you even speak your own secret language here: ‘Co-ho,’ ‘Flo-mo,’ ‘Fro-yo.’
“As the Beatles would say: I don’t know. We don’t have those words in New York City.
“We also don’t have a national champion women’s tennis team or a Rose Bowl-winning football team. Or, in the case of the New York Jets, even a winning football team. But what can we expect – the Jets quarterback went to USC. Didn’t I hear that you guys beat USC four years in a row?
“Even though Stanford and New York City are very different, I have to say I feel right at home here because Leland Stanford, in addition to being an entrepreneur, an elected official, a philanthropist, and a great supporter of higher education was originally a New Yorker.
“And 125 years ago, in 1888 he asked another long-time New Yorker – Frederick Law Olmsted, who designed our Central Park – to design this campus. It’s a stunningly beautiful campus – a place where, as the Stanford motto says, ‘The wind of freedom blows.’
“Since all of you graduates first set foot on Main Quad, you have been free to study your interests, challenge others’ ideas, explore new discoveries, develop new passions, make mistakes, and even date mistakes.
“Although I’ve been told that dating here is like paying parking tickets – almost no one does it.
“The wind of freedom has always blown strongly here at Stanford – and thanks to its graduates and faculty, that wind has helped carry our country forward into this new millennium. In fact, I think it’s fair to say that no other university in the world has so profoundly shaped our modern age.
“Without Stanford, there is no Silicon Valley and without Silicon Valley, there is no tech revolution, no information revolution, no communications revolution – at least not as we know it.
“Stanford’s incubation of Silicon Valley is fitting, because Leland Stanford was a pioneer himself. He followed the Gold Rush to California – just as so many enterprising young people are moving here, and to New York City, to be a part of the tech boom.
“Now, we had hoped that Stanford itself might help lead our tech boom in New York City. That didn’t work out – no hard feelings – but I think in the end, it will.
“Because I believe that more and more Stanford graduates will find themselves moving to Silicon Alley, not only because we’re the hottest new tech scene in the country, but also because there’s more to do on a Friday night than go to the Pizza Hut in Sunnyvale and you may even be able to find a date with a girl whose name is not Siri.
“Stanford graduates thrive in New York City – because both places thrive on innovation and entrepreneurialism. If companies founded by Stanford alumni were to form an independent nation, it would be the 10th largest economy in the world.
“And apparently every single person here has a great idea for a new tech start-up. I’ve been here for two days – and so far 27 students, 14 professors, and the checkout guy at Ax and Palm have approached me for VC funding.
“But I’m not surprised. Because Stanford is more than just a world-class university: It’s part of a community that attracts people who are trying to discover and shape the future.
“All of you have been part of that community – whether you studied physics or philosophy or film.
“Today, as you set off on a new journey, you will carry the spirit of this community with you. And as you leave this campus behind, you leave with the wind of freedom at your back and a world of possibility at your feet.
“That, graduates, is the essence of the American Dream. To feel that wind of freedom – to know that world of possibility – is the dream that brought my ancestors here and yours.
“It’s the dream that millions of Americans have fought and died to protect. And it’s the dream that billions of people around the world carry in their hearts.
“Today, I’d like to spend a few minutes talking about that dream – and what I hope you graduates will do with it.
“At its most basic level, the American Dream is simply the idea that anyone – from any background – of any means – can achieve anything through ability and hard work.
“It is a dream about an opportunity – not an outcome. Those who think they are owed something just because of who they are or who their parents are or because of their gender, their orientation, their ethnicity, or religion are badly mistaken.
“And so are those who think the American Dream is about getting rich quick – or getting their tech start-up bought for billions. Most people who dream of dollar signs can never quite get rich enough while those who do what they love often find more riches than they ever imagined possible.
“That has certainly been true in my case. I was an electrical engineering major in college who somehow ended up working in finance.
“I started as a clerk at a Wall Street firm worked my way up to partner and loved every minute of it – right up until the day I was fired.
“But getting fired was one of the best things that ever happened to me. I had tried to convince the firm to develop new technology to deliver financial information faster and more efficiently.
“But companies, governments, unions, and schools tend not to like disruptions to their business models. And that’s exactly why new technology is so important.
“Technological disruption drives innovation. And the more disruption there is, the better markets perform and the harder it is for monopolies to survive.
“The idea that you can find a way to do something better, faster, and cheaper has driven American innovation for centuries.
“And the freedom to pursue those innovations is part of the American Dream.
“When I was fired, I did what so many young people are doing now in Silicon Valley and New York City: I started my own technology company.
“That was in 1981, at the dawn of the computer age. And I can assure you that back then, no one called us a ‘start-up’ or a ‘tech company.’ They just called me crazy.
“And I will admit: There may be nothing more frightening than starting a company based on an untested technology with the possible exception of becoming a parent.
“But I had a dream that I believed in. And thankfully, I had the courage to follow it.
“There will be many times in your life when you have to decide whether to play it safe or follow a dream. Most people play it safe – because it’s easier and the older you get, the easier it becomes.
“But if you won’t risk failure, you won’t fulfill your potential. And the opportunity to fulfill your potential lies at the heart of the American Dream.
“You’ve got that opportunity – and it’s the most valuable thing you’ll own in your life. Don’t waste it. Don’t let complacency eat away at it. And don’t walk away from it when things don’t go your way.
“If you don’t encounter setbacks in your career, if you don’t have doubts and disappointments, you’re not dreaming big enough.
“It’s like never falling when you ski. Get over it – and go try a black diamond and stop with the ‘baby’ slopes.
“Now, for those of you who don’t yet know what dream you want to pursue, don’t worry. You will.
“And for those of you who think you’ve got it all figured out – let me tell you, you don’t. You can’t.
“If someone had told me on my college graduation day that I would end up working on Wall Street, starting a computer company, becoming Mayor of New York and a philanthropist – I would never have believed it.
“And I can assure you my professors wouldn’t have believed it.
“So don’t worry too much about the future.
“Whatever you find yourself doing next – work harder at it than anyone else and if you do, you’ll find opportunities you didn’t know existed.
“I always give the toughest jobs to the busiest people on my staff – because they’ve earned the right to do it.
“The reward for great work is more work – but that’s where the opportunities to grow and succeed are. And if you love what you do, you’ll want to be the first one in the office in the morning and the last one to leave at night – even if you’re working for yourself.
“A friend recently told me a story about his son – a college graduate who moved back home and is starting a tech company in his house.
“Every morning, he wakes up, showers, and puts on a suit and tie because he wants to start his day with the mindset of: ‘I’m going to succeed.’
“That’s just harder to do when you’re in your pajamas trying to pat down your bed head. True, many of you are going to work at companies where – if you wear a suit, you’ll feel like your grandparents at a Daft Punk concert.
“But just wait until your second or third job: Hello Brooks Brothers! Regardless of whether you wear a suit, or a skirt, or a hoodie roll up your sleeves every day and get down to work.
“Work hard. Take risks. Follow your passion. Embrace innovation.
“The secret of success isn’t much of a secret. It’s just that many people look for an easier way, a shortcut to be found because they mistakenly think of the American Dream as a destination to be reached.
“The American Dream has no shortcuts – and no end point. It’s is the freedom you have to chart your own journey – and through hard work, to find professional success and personal fulfillment.
“It’s up to you to embrace that opportunity for yourself and to extend that opportunity to those who, right now, are being denied it.
“Some of you know about this denial first-hand. About 30 percent of you graduates are here on student visas.
“If those in Washington had any sense at all, they would be begging you to stay here in the U.S. But instead – our immigration laws may force some of you to leave in the months and years ahead.
“Just think about what that means: We invite foreign students to study here, we subsidize the universities they attend with research funding and other aid, and then after those students have mastered the material, we tell them to go somewhere else and work for one of our competitors.
“It’s the most backwards economic policy you could possibly come up with.
“I call it national suicide – because we are destroying our future by turning our back on our history and we’ve got to stop it.
“Every international STEM student graduating here today should have a green card stapled to his or her diploma – so they can help our economy grow.
“Every child brought to this country illegally should have the opportunity to apply for financial aid and go to college – they have done nothing wrong.
“Every entrepreneur who wants to come here to start a business and create jobs in this country should have the chance to do so. They are the future leaders of major corporations that will employ millions of Americans.
“And every American business with job openings that can’t be filled should be able to hire an immigrant who wants to work hard.
“American immigrants built the world’s most innovative economy – and if it is to keep growing, if we’re going to keep the American Dream alive, we need those in Washington to fix this broken system – and fix it now.
“A few years ago I helped form a coalition of mayors and business leaders – called the Partnership for a New American Economy – to press for immigration reform. I’m glad to report that we’re now getting real traction in Washington – and our coalition continues to grow.
“Many university presidents – including President Hennessy – have spoken out on this issue and the tech community here and in New York City has been very vocal. That includes Stanford alum Reed Hoffman, and also Mark Zuckerberg – who dropped out of a university often called ‘The Stanford of the East.’
“They – and other tech leaders – are pushing for immigration reform through a new group called ‘Forward.’
“We now have a real chance at passing comprehensive, sensible immigration reform this year – and I hope all of you will make your voices heard, too. If we’re going to win the future, we’ve got to keep the future here by allowing more immigrants to come here and pursue the American Dream.
“At the same time, it’s not just our immigration laws that are denying too many people a chance at the American Dream.
“This month, the Supreme Court will rule on two cases involving same-sex marriage: The Federal Defense of Marriage Act, which denies recognition of same-sex marriages, and California’s Proposition 8, which prohibited same-sex marriage.
“In the whole history of the United States, no law limiting the rights of a particular class of people has ever stood the test of time – and neither will these.
“I’m glad to see that Stanford professors have testified and filed briefs opposing Prop 8 and two professors at the Law School – Pamela Karlan and Jeffrey Fisher – are the lead attorneys in the Defense of Marriage Act case.
“They are representing a woman named Edith Windsor, who is a New York City resident. That’s only fitting, because our City was the birthplace of the gay rights movement and I’m proud to say that New York State passed marriage equality in 2011.
“No matter how the Supreme Court rules in these two cases, there is no doubt in my mind that both laws will soon be history. It is not a question of if; only a question of when.
“The advance of American freedom and equality can be slowed but it cannot be stopped.
“Every generation of Americans has expanded the rights of full citizenship to an ever-wider circle of people and I have every confidence your generation will do the same.
“Marriage equality is the civil rights issue of our time – and I believe that it will become the law of the land in all 50 states if not in my lifetime, certainly in yours.
“Stanford has a strong connection to the civil rights movement, including the Martin Luther King Research and Education Institute.
”This year marks the 50th anniversary of two of Doctor King’s most important works. In June 1963, his ‘Letter from a Birmingham Jail’ was first published in various outlets – after the New York Times declined to run it.
“Later that summer, on the Washington Mall, Doctor King delivered what may be the most inspiring speech the world has ever heard. In both, he reminded us that the American Dream is not only an individual ambition that lies within all of us, it is a national aspiration that calls us to honor our nation’s highest ideals.
“Those two elements of the American Dream have been present since our conception. We are a country founded on truths that were self-evident – but not self-fulfilling. ‘That all men are created equal, endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, among these are life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness.’
“All of American history can be understood as the struggle to live up to those ideals.
“Today, that struggle continues – and now it is your turn to lead it.
“When Doctor King visited Stanford in 1964, he told students here: ‘Human progress never merely rolls in on the wheels of inevitability. There is always a right time to do right and that time is now.’
“That time is now, graduates. So tonight, have one last beer at Illusions and tomorrow, with the wind of freedom at your back, go out and pursue your American Dream and help make it a reality for others.
“Congratulations, and best of luck.”
Mike is committed to improving education in America by supporting a number of efforts to drive important reforms and improve student outcomes.
IN MIKE'S WORDS
Nothing is more important to our nation’s future – and to spreading equality and opportunity – than improving education.