Doctoral Commencement remarks December 2014

How wonderful to be with you on such a beautiful day and for such an important occasion. As you can already see and hear, this Hooding has great ceremonial trappings and a lot of pomp—due to the circumstances we are celebrating. It is my great privilege to congratulate you as you mark what is the biggest academic milestone of your life. You will soon have conferred upon you the highest academic recognition of this or any American university and your accomplishment cannot be overstated.

I am also aware that the road leading to this day was neither easy nor quick. (I see many of your families agreeing.) Doctoral work tolerates few shortcuts. And it is so satisfying to understand that it has been maintained this way for centuries. It is particularly satisfying, I believe, that it remains so in today’s “I’m faster than you and louder than you,” world.

Of course, I wasn’t so joyful when, after four years of graduate study at Yale University, my Ph.D. advisor said that I wasn’t ready to defend my dissertation. She said that it would take me another semester or maybe a year and even then, she and my committee would have to decide if the work was ready for publication. I didn’t know how that could be since I had already filed for graduation, accepted a university teaching job, and worst of all told my parents-in-law to be that I could help provide a good life for their only daughter, Patricia Jean Moore. I didn’t understand, but I did comply. And Patricia, by the way, thank you for supporting us financially for one extra semester. I’ve been meaning to thank you for that for some time!

Aristotle said, “Excellence is never an accident. It is always the result of high intention, sincere effort, and intelligent execution; it represents the wise choice of many alternatives – it is choice, not chance that determines your destiny.”

That is why you have arrived at this place, at this time. You are not here by chance but because you made a hard choice—a choice of high intention. And because of your choice, the title of “doctor” will soon be conferred upon you.

You represent the fulfillment of the University's mission and the Carolina spirit throughout the world. We are delighted to welcome you into the family of more than 270,000 living Carolina alumni.

We will continue to need your involvement, support, and insight as we have needed the support of all our graduates since our founding in 1801. As you leave Carolina for a life of good work and great adventure I ask you to remember the University’s motto, “Emollit mores nec sinit esse feros. Learning humanizes character and does not permit it to be cruel.” The statement implies that the more education one receives the more humane one becomes.

I look to you to use this degree to bring about positive change in our world and civility and truth back to the public square.

Congratulations and Godspeed to all.