President Robert L. Caret Inaugural Address: Nov. 1, 2011
The following is the text from President Robert L. Caret's Inaugural Address Speech held at the JFK Library at UMass Boston on Nov. 1, 2011
Governor Patrick, Mayor Menino, Lt. Gov. Murray, Chairman Karam and distinguished Trustees ... Chancellors of the five campuses, colleagues, guests, friends and family - and my old friend and colleague Chancellor William "Brit" Kirwan from Maryland: I cannot tell you how happy I am to be home - back in New England and here at one of this nation's great public institutions, The University of Massachusetts.
It is an honor for me to have this ceremony here, in the library of the president who inspired me as a young man in Maine, John F. Kennedy. In 1960, I had pictures of then-Senator Kennedy on my bicycle, a moving billboard for that campaign. I rode it all over town, day and night. I am quite confident he inspired many of the men and women in this room who, like me, moved from childhood to adolescence when he was our president. One of the things he showed me was there was absolutely no limit to how far a young person could go.
"Our progress as a nation can be no swifter than our progress in education. The human mind is our fundamental resource."
That is President Kennedy, and his words speak directly to us here: Massachusetts does not have vast resources of coal or oil or farmland. It does not have diamonds or rubies or gold coming out of the earth.
Instead, we have vast resources of thoughtful, determined, hard-working men and women who change the world and enrich our Commonwealth with their minds. As President Kennedy said, those minds are our fundamental resource, but as President Kennedy knew, and we know, those minds remain only raw material without access to education.
There is a point you reach as a young man or woman when - in a mill town like Biddeford, Maine, let's say or - and, I am thinking of Governor Patrick now - in a struggling neighborhood in Chicago - where you say to yourself: "I think I can do more." You think ... and maybe you don't tell anyone else, maybe you keep it to yourself, but you think as you lay your head on your pillow at night ... "I will dream no small dreams," perhaps not with those words but definitely with that desire.
For many of us and many of our students, it is a thrilling moment: that moment when you realize that even though your parents did not go to college - that quite possibly no one in your neighborhood went to college - that you can. And will. You realize the world is there for you, and you can go far -- as far your determination and talent and work will take you. You do not have to settle on that close horizon at the edge of your neighborhood or city limits. Instead, there is a long and fascinating journey ahead, a journey you must embark upon.
And you know what?
No one takes that journey alone. Gov. Patrick and Mayor Menino didn't. I didn't. Our Chairman, Jim Karam, whose father labored in the Fall River mills, didn't. And for the thousands of children from Massachusetts - and from around the globe - who right now are having that moment, that moment when it dawns on them that they will 'dream no small dreams,' we are here today to say, 'Let's make that happen. Take my hand. We are here to help. To show you a path to achievement.' We are here as faculty, staff and leadership of one of the best public university systems in the world to help. Because, in my experience, the influence that we can have on a young person's future can be exponential. And we enjoy being part of that growth and development.
It can be hard. For a first-generation college student, a minority student, or a student from a place where few go on to college - it can be hard to keep that determination alive. Low-income minority students drop out of college in the first year at a rate four times that of other students. At Towson University, I decided we could not abandon those kids - we had to take their hands and help them realize their dream. I am proud to say that under my tenure, Towson became one of only 11 universities in the country to wipe out that graduation gap between black and white students. My commitment as President of the University of Massachusetts is to let all students know: We are here to fight for you and to provide you with the education you want and need. We are here to help you be successful.
And we will fight to make sure that as you follow that path to achievement - you will succeed. A Nobel Prize is not something people win somewhere else - it is something people win right here at the University of Massachusetts. Right here is where ambitious and purposeful journalists have been trained to go on and win the Pulitzer Prize. Right here is where faculty have earned the most prestigious honors - like the American Book Award, the Fulbright, and the MacArthur and Mellon fellowships. Where students win Marshall, Fulbright, Goldwater, Truman and other prestigious scholarships. Right here is where the seeds of achievement are sown for successful entrepreneurs, legislators and public servants, artists, astronauts, thespians, musicians and writers. Right here quite simply is where you find one of the best universities in the world, according to the prestigious Times of London; 19th in the world. And right here is where we will educate more and more citizens of Massachusetts - and the world - to take on the challenges of the future.
At the University of Massachusetts. 70,000 students, 16,000 faculty and staff, 400,000+ alumni, 13,000 new graduates each year - we are a force in Massachusetts. In many ways we power Massachusetts.
As I looked around at this astonishing university system I thought, I need to meet the people not just in Amherst, Lowell, Worcester, Boston and Dartmouth, but the people around those great schools. People from all over the state.
So I got on a bus that took me from one end of the state to the other.
From the Berkshires to New Bedford... from the New York border to the waters of Buzzards Bay... and I saw a state where people are not only depending on us - depending on us for an affordable, quality education - but where people said:
We need you!
In Springfield, I met with business leaders who see us as the key to helping them prosper in this new economy; and in Holyoke at the Massachusetts Green High Performance Computing Center, to be run cooperatively by UMass, Northeastern, Harvard, MIT and BU -- I saw that dream becoming a reality. And it is no small dream.
In Worcester, I saw how our medical students, some of the brightest young men and women in this or any other state, were giving their time and attention to North High School, where 79 percent of the kids are low income and 50 percent call a language other than English their native tongue. You don't take this journey alone; and I am very proud of the work we are doing in Worcester to volunteer our time to help these students make that trip, to live that dream, the dream of a college education.
In Lowell, Chancellor Meehan and I toured the unfolding Emerging Technologies and Innovation Center -- a $70 million facility that will become the hub of nanotechnology, plastics engineering, biomedicine and electro-optics research for an entire region.
And, I sat in on a town hall forum with students, many of whom were the first in their families, like me, to go to college. In a crowded hall, the dean of students asked a series of questions. Stand up if you are the first in your family to go to college or if you are working while you go to school...and many of the students in the room stood. Then he asked: Stand up if UMass Lowell was your first choice for college...and maybe half the students in the room rose. Then a final question: Stand up if knowing what you know now, you wouldn't have gone to school anywhere else: And the room erupted and every student was on his or her feet. And I thought: we would see the same outcome on all of our campuses. And I thought: Me, too. I wouldn't want to be anywhere else in the world. This is home. This is where I started my journey. This is where I need to be.
In New Bedford, I had breakfast at the Green Bean Café with a welcoming group of civic and business leaders and toured the revitalized downtown - a comeback fueled by our Star Store arts college -- Chairman Karam then took me to Fall River to see the SouthCoast Life Science and Technology Park, the region's first biopark. There, I saw the future for that region being built right before my eyes. It is a future where the University is again leading the way, this time in serving the biomanufacturing and workforce development needs for this important region and economic sector.
And at UMass Boston, I participated in a roundtable discussion at the school's Venture Development Center with companies that are dreaming very big dreams there. A place they view as welcoming and supportive. A place where they can achieve their dreams. A place they call home. UMass Boston has given them a home; a supportive home.
Across the state, I witnessed the talent and dedication of our faculty and staff, the passion of our students and the enthusiasm of our business leaders, our elected officials, and our communities.
The stakes have never been higher and institutions like ours never more critical. My own life vividly illustrates the transformative power of education. I know most of you can say the same. In a single generation, you see the son of a man who was never able to go beyond the 8th grade because of his family's economic needs have the chance to serve as president of three major universities. That is because I was able to make the most of the educational opportunities that were presented to me. That's because people like you fought to make sure that if I was willing to do the work, you would fight like hell to make sure I could afford it. To make sure I could get there. All the way to the presidency of the public university of the greatest state in the nation, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
I have worked all of my life in education because I want to make those same opportunities available to all those kids who, right now in North Adams or Fall River or Dorchester or Worcester or Lowell, are dreaming big. Let's help make those dreams come true.
The road that lies ahead is full of challenges, but our cause is so important. As I look ahead, I think of the values instilled in me in a little Maine mill town...I think of the parents and family who worked so hard and gave me so much...I think of the faculty who guided and counseled me...and I tell you:
I mean to deliver.
And together we will deliver for Massachusetts.
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