At commencement 2018, we celebrated the academic, athletic, civic, and campus achievements of the newest Wagner alumni. I am so proud of their openness to new ideas and diverse cultures, and their intellectual and leadership skills. They are well prepared for the next steps in building their personal and professional lives.
Like every generation before them, this generation faces its own special advantages and challenges. We are living during a time of remarkable technological change, where virtually everything ever written or performed sits on a smartphone in your pocket; a time of unprecedented medical breakthroughs; a time of many other exciting advances providing this generation with dramatic emerging opportunities.
But there are also very dark clouds looming. Intolerance, bigotry, and human cruelty are on the rise. Deep social divisions threaten the very foundation of our human advances. We are seeing a sustained attack on scientific thinking, with assertions and accusations substituted for sound, evidenced-based arguments. (I hope you will read Donald Stearns and Utteeyo Dasgupta’s “Reflections” essay addressing this problem.)
Unless we regain our sense of empathy and respect for others, our hard-earned progress around human rights and the rule of law will slip from our grasp.
Unless we regain our individual and collective sense of empathy and respect for others, our hard-earned progress around human rights and the rule of law will slip from our grasp. The generational challenge of the class of 2018 is to restore social confidence in this republic’s founding values. As Dr. Martin Luther King said so eloquently 55 years ago, our national aspiration remains to “live in a nation where [each of us] will not be judged not by the color of [our] skin, but by the content of [our] character.”
How has Wagner College prepared the class of 2018 for this challenge? They have been engaged in an innovative model of liberal education, the Wagner Plan for the Practical Liberal Arts. Harkening back to ancient Greek and Roman philosophy, liberal education liberates you as you transcend your own experiences to see the world wide and deep and become cosmopolitan citizens of the world.
At Wagner, we have joined this classic form of learning to “learning by doing,” joining liberal-arts assets to real-world contexts. Through the Wagner Plan, these students’ Wagner biographies are rich with examples of a full education, where they have learned to marry the habits of their hearts with the power of their hands and intellects.
The class of 2018 has acquired the arts of democracy — namely, cultivating empathy for others, building reciprocity with others, forging cooperative teams in solving problems, using new technologies to build coalitions across the ethnic, racial, and personal identities that make up our diverse communities. In short, they have learned to move into action in making meaningful and sustainable change.
I have so much faith in them to advance all the innovations in human progress that I have enumerated. They are part of a new generation capable of healing our social divides and building a fair and just social order.
Congratulations and best wishes, class of 2018!
— Richard Guarasci, President