An invitation to learningThe following remarks were excerpted from President William M. Chaces address to members of the Class of 2003 during Opening Convocation, held in Glenn Auditorium on August 24.
As president of the University, I open to you the gates of Emory; they will never shut behind you. I open for you the storehouse of knowledge; it never will be empty. And I place at your disposal all the ennobling resources of this extraordinary place. We are glad you are here.
Let me offer some reflections on this moment.
First, this is one of those times in life when you can start all over. You are being given an opportunity, here and now, to shed whatever you want to shed. The place is new, the faces are new, and the situation is new. Seize this rare chance to put aside whatever you have long suspected is unnecessary baggage in your habits, your personality, your way of going about things. Start afresh. Chances like this do not come often.
Second, you are going to meet some very smart and talented people at Emory. No matter what your own gifts are, no matter how successful you have been, you will encounter people who have done more and seem quicker and more knowledgeable than you. Relish that fact. Bring those people to your side, study their strength, watch their moves, and unite with them. You will make yourself stronger thereby.
Third, you will encounter bitter moments in the days to come. They cannot be helped. At some point, you are going to feel deeply embarrassed or awkward about a situation you have misunderstood. At times you will feel very lonely. This, too, is unavoidable. There is much you do not know about this place, the people surrounding you, and most importantly, yourself. You are not here because you have figured everything out. You are here to learn, and learning at times is painful.
Fourth, this university is strong, rich with resources of every kind, experienced in the ways of learning, supple and responsive. But it is imperfect. It is made up of imperfect people. People like you. And that is the reason you should get to know them. Do not yield to your shyness; dont pass up the chance to greet someone you do not know. Immerse yourself fully in the world of human beings, who will provide the substance of the world that is now yours. We are building a community here, and it, like all communities, is frail and vulnerable. It will need your strength and understanding if it is to work.
Fifth, I speak in behalf of time present and not time future. Time present is the only opportunity you will have to do certain things, to read certain books, to study certain issues, to pursue certain mysteries. So settle in, slow down, sink deeply into all the experiences this place can offer. The future will come in due course, and you will face it more strongly because of your present work.
And thus I speak against the advice that some of you have received from parents, from peers, and from much of our culture. You have heard that everything you do should be preparation for something else, that tomorrow true meaning will come and you will at last be fulfilled. I speak a word contrary to the spirit of the age. Here and now, Emory today and tomorrow, this life now and not the life to come in a few years, is the province of your most important tasks.
And so, in a moment, it will begin. An adventure unlike any you have ever experienced before will be yours. Savor it. Draw meaning from it. Let it surprise you. Let it overcome you. If you rise, we will meet you. If you fall, we will catch you. And everywhere you go, we will be there to teach you.