2003 Commencement Address

Commencement 2003
Friday, May 23, 2003, 10:00 A.M.
Radio City Music Hall

Congratulations, class of 2003!

This is your own very glorious day.

As I look around you, even into the distance of this great hall, I see only beaming faces, the happy faces of your families, friends, and members of our faculty and administration, all of whom share in this special moment, all of whom take pride in your accomplishment.

I want to welcome all of you: families, friends, our faculty and administrators, SUNY and FIT trustees, honorees and distinguished guests.

Your presence here today adds to the joy of this moment for our graduates.

It inevitably falls to a college president to provide a piece of parting adviceperhaps even wisdomas we launch you into what is called "real life."

However, yours is an unusual class, one that has had more so- called "real life" encounters than one might expect during the course of a college career.

Indeed, your past two years at FIT have coincided with extraordinary and consequential times for our nation and the world: the terrorist attacks of 9/11...A seriously troubled economy...And of course, the war in Iraq.

I think that is really "real life" enough.

Then, in February of this year, just before the first bombs fell in Iraq, we faced another "real life" event: the loss of the shuttle Columbia and the astronauts who were aboard.

In the midst of these upheavals, and as we struggle with the gloom of this global picture, I find it inspiring, and even instructive, to consider those astronaut: seven men and women who enthusiastically embraced risk, knowing they had a "high and noble purpose in life," as President Bush said in memoriam.

Who were these people...These two women and five men circling us in the vast distances of space?

Like a mini-UN, they came from all over the world: India, Israel and the United States.

In their various colors, religions and ethnicities, they reminded me of fits own richly diverse student body.

Together, they represented the best of us, and our ideals.

Together...They were on a mission of discovery...And, of course, a mission of peace. As the Israeli astronaut, Ilan Ramon, said: "There's no better place to emphasize the unity of people in the world than flying to space...We are all the same people, we are all human beings, and I believe that most of us, almost all of us, are good people."

Like so many of you, each astronaut had a dream...And the dream took on the force of a jet- propelled engine.

Michael Anderson, from Plattsburgh, New York, was so determined to become an air force pilot like his father that as a child, he wore goggles to protect his eyes whenever he was sent to mow the lawn.

Rick Husband, from Amarillo, Texas, so much wanted to fly in space that years after he had already become an accomplished air force test pilot and engineer, he kept building credentials in order to qualify.

He applied tenaciously and interviewed four different times before NASA finally accepted him into its program.

Then there was Kalpana Chawla.

Imagine her spirit! Imagine her life: born and raised in India by conservative, hardworking parents with a limited educational background....Raised, too, in a deeply traditional society, a society that often devalues women.

Determined to reach the stars, she defied the traditions and stereotypes of her native land to earn a PhD at the University of Colorado in aerospace engineering, and become, of all things, an American astronaut

Theirs was the first shuttle mission in three years committed entirely to on-board science.

Nothing glamorous like spacewalks.

Just old-fashion scientific experiments...88 of them...On dust- clouds and combustion...On fire- retardation...And even on fragrances.

Think of it, all you cosmetics and fragrance graduates: enclosed in their capsule, these engineers and pilots and physicians collected and recorded scent molecules in microgravity...To help you, one day, as you make and market perfumes.

They took delight in discovery...And in the fruits of their own discipline, curiosity and creativity.

In that, they also reminded me of you.

As FIT students, you too have the gift of creativity.

Without it, you would not have sought your future at FIT.

Without the discipline you have developed and your own sheer delight in discovery, you would not now be here...About to receive your degrees.

In these past two years, you have been severely tested.

You have been asked to pursue your studies, learn new skills, complete complicated projects...In the midst of this dramatically changing, confusing and even fearful new world...In the midst of "real life."

You did it, class of 2003!

You did it, fueled by your own fierce determination and creativity.

With these precious gifts, you now have the power to build, to discover, to take risks. Like the astronauts, you are now poised to follow your dream.

When we send you out into the larger world today, we know that you will succeed. But when, in the years ahead, you run into a bump in the roadas you surely willremember the legacy of Columbia's brave astronauts.

Remember the words of flight surgeon Laurel Clark, as she examined budding roses and a newly-hatched moth 200 miles up in space: "life continues in lots of places," she said, "and life is a magical thing."

Cherish it.

Be grateful for it.

Grab it.

Live your "real life" with a dynamic and vigorous spirit committed to the "high and noble purpose" of truth...Dedication...And discovery... That so deeply represents the very best of us and all of you.

You make us proud, graduates.

I wish you a long life...A healthy life..A productive life.

Good luck and Godspeed.

Now I am pleased to introduce you to our guest speaker, Anna Wintour.

Talk about determination...About following a dream.

Anna Wintour always knew she wanted a life in fashion and she aimed high.

As a very young woman, she joined the fashion department of Harpers & Queen in her native London.

Over the next three decades, her discerning eye, creative editorial skills and laser-sharp sense of the future sent her to the very top of her profession.

She has been editor-chief of vogue magazine since 198815 years, in which she has taken this publication from strength to strength.

Always the symbol of dynamic high style, vogue has enjoyed unprecedented success under her command.

Of course, Ms. Wintour is herself a symbol of high style admired internationally for her years of influential vision and fashion leadership.

In recognition of her contributions, she will receive the Council of Fashion Designers of America's Lifetime Achievement Award this year.

However, Anna Wintour is not one to leave well enough alone.

In the midst of her hectic life, with its incessant deadlines and decisions, she has done what I always urge fit students to do: she has found the time to reach out her hand to others in need.

She has been actively involved in numerous charitable efforts, particularly for aids research.

She spearheaded the CFDA/Vogue initiative, through which she has helped to raise more than 11-million dollars.

In addition, she has co-chaired five fund-raising galas for the Metropolitan Museum of Arts Costume Institute, which together has also raised millions of dollars for the museum.

In 1998, the museum named her an honorary trustee for her work. Please welcome Anna Wintour.