I offer my sincere congratulations to the members of the Class of 2010. I know that I speak for the entire Loyola University Maryland community when I say that I am very proud of each and every one of you. Your achievement on this fifteenth day of May, 2010, represents the culmination of many years of study and hard work. You have given yourselves wholeheartedly to a rigorous program of study at Loyola and I pray that you will enjoy the fruits of those labors for many, many years to come.
I want to thank Ambassador Harry Thomas for his presence with us today and for his thoughtful and inspiring remarks. His distinguished career, characterized by his extraordinary service to his country, his commitment to enacting positive change in our world, and his abiding concern for the wellbeing of men, women, and children in all corners of the globe are vivid illustrations of the impact his Jesuit education has had on his personal and professional life. I am delighted to welcome him into the honored ranks of Loyola alumni, and I hope that today’s graduates are able to apply the knowledge and experiences they’ve gained at Loyola in ways that that are just meaningful and fulfilling.
I extend my congratulations and thanks to David Ferguson, Mary Mangione, Dr. Hans Wilhelmsen, and John Palmucci. In them, we see commitments to scholarly excellence, philanthropy, ethical leadership, and service to those at the margins of our society that mirror the core values of Loyola University Maryland. It is fitting that we honor them on this special day, for their lives exemplify those virtues this community holds most dear.
Today’s celebration marks the end of one of the most exciting and significant years in Loyola’s history. During the course of this academic year, Loyola marked its official designation change to University—a moment that signaled not a change in character or direction, but certainly a realization and acknowledgement of the expectations and responsibilities associated with the distinguished name, “university.”
In the months that followed, we came together to demonstrate, in thought and action, our commitment to this identity. We launched a School of Education, one with a dedicated focus on improving teaching and schooling in urban settings. We welcomed speakers with backgrounds and viewpoints as varied as Congressman Ron Paul and filmmaker Spike Lee. We united as ONE Loyola to support relief efforts following January’s devastating earthquake in Haiti. We dedicated our long-anticipated Ridley Athletic Complex, a first-rate home for our first-rate lacrosse and soccer programs, and already a popular gathering place for members of the Loyola community as well as our neighbors throughout Baltimore. On a related note, among our many athletic highlights this year, we cheered on our men’s lacrosse team as it reached its third NCAA Championship tournament in four years. The team is in New York today, preparing to face Cornell as I speak, and I know all of us are united in our enthusiastic support for the Greyhounds.
In these endeavors, the Loyola University Maryland community embodied the diversity of ideas, the vitality of spirit, and the engagement with the world around us that characterizes the finest universities, and richest centers of learning. I look back on this past year with pride, and look forward to equally inspiring experiences in the years to come. I thank each of you for the part you played in this extraordinary year.
A common theme in many commencement remarks is a reflection on “lessons learned,” and, as a long-time teacher, I cannot resist the opportunity to impart perhaps my final lesson to the graduating class of 2010. In my work as a professor of Christian ethics, one of my goals was to convince my students that moral norms or rules and the principles from which they were derived are not thought up by middle-aged priests and other similarly dreary types in order to ruin their fun. Rather these norms reflect shared human experience about attitudes and actions that undermine human well-being and so are to be avoided; as well as those attitudes and behaviors that are conducive of human flourishing both as individuals and communities and so are to be encouraged. The moral life is a good life -- it represents our best chance for happiness. It is in this spirit that I would like to say a few words to the graduates of 2010 about the great Catholic moral tradition known as concern for the common good.
The notion of the common good reminds us that our individual flourishing depends on a healthy communal life and that a community cannot be good and healthy unless it is concerned with the well-being of all its citizens, particularly those who are poor and marginalized. Advancing narrow or selfish interests, especially interests that ignore the needs of the materially and spiritually disadvantaged, isn’t wrong in some abstract sense then, but rather it is a bad choice because such a program actually undermines our own safety and security. It reminds us that the [quote, unquote] “security” provided by higher walls, better gates and louder alarms is ultimately illusory and distracts us from the dangerous and widening gap between the affluent and the economic underclass. The real solution, according to Catholic social thought, is not found in isolating ourselves from the poor but in seeing that our prospects for a good life are intimately tied to theirs. Pope John Paul II has famously labeled this understanding as solidarity and has charged Catholic universities with the promotion of a well-grounded sense of this solidarity.
I hope that your education at Loyola has provided you with a sense of the importance of the common good and your responsibility toward it. I hope that a commitment to the common good will influence you to vote and influence how you vote. I hope that a sense of Christian solidarity will determine how you commit your time and your personal resources.
One expression of a commitment to the common good is service. Many of you have been involved in the programs of the Center for Community Service and Justice or the Campus Ministry service programs. You will miss the friendship and shared vision of the communities that form in Cohn Hall. Some of you may regret not taking part in these programs during your years at Loyola. The good news is that the opportunity to make a real difference is always readily available. You have the opportunity to do this wherever you happen to be living by making and keeping a commitment to promoting the common good. You can do this by supporting the cultural and intellectual resources that serve to humanize our communities -- by finding time to coach little league or by tutoring the young; by recognizing the poor and those at the margins of your community as your sisters and brothers; and, as alumni, you actually have the opportunity to continue your involvement in service through Loyola. I know that you will find that this concern for the common good will be rewarding for you, your families and the wider community.
Finally, I want to thank the Loyola University Maryland graduates of 2010. Francois Mauriac once wrote, “we are, all of us, molded and remolded by those who have loved us, and although that love may pass, we remain, nonetheless their work….” You have invested your love and your talent into this community of scholars and we are better for your presence among us. We are committed to keeping Loyola a university that you will be proud of, just as we are confident that you make this University proud of your accomplishments in the journey ahead of you.
I pray that you will experience every blessing, and I wish you Godspeed.