Greetings on this wonderful morning! It is my privilege to be here, in this wonderful country, to celebrate and to congratulate you, the 17 master's degree graduates and 50 baccalaureate graduates at NYIT-Abu Dhabi.
We at NYIT are grateful and honored by the recognition and support of the people and government of Abu Dhabi and the United Arab Emirates, especially the minister of higher education and scientific research, His Excellency, Sheikh Nahayan bin Mabarak Al Nahayan. We also honored to have Douglas Greene, deputy chief of mission Embassy of United States, here with us today.
As a not-for-profit institution of higher learning, our rewards at New York Institute of Technology are not measured in money, but rather in the creation of human capital. Our students and graduates are those rewards, so, thank you, graduates.
Fifty years ago, before we commonly spoke of globalization or the information highway, or even multinational corporations, Winston Churchill foresaw that “the empires of the future are the empires of the mind.” He foresaw this day.
Today you take your place as citizens of that empire of knowledge. Your years in at NYIT have included a massive upheaval in the global economy. And now it is time for you to face or reface the challenges of the world…and you really lucked out -- the world has never been so challenging.
Your NYIT bachelor’s or advanced degree will help you weather downturns and in fact will pay enormous benefits. You are sure to see financial returns. But you’ll also be healthier, happier, and longer-lived. You'll buy more wisely and manage your property better. Your children will get a better education. Your diploma also has value to those around you. It helps you contribute to society through your daily activities and beyond.
You know as a student here that technology—and all the communications and inventions that it enables—has made the world smaller. It has also supported the economic expansion of emerging economies. And it has made the prosperity of all nations more tightly intertwined than ever in this modern digital era.
One of the great innovators of this digital era is Douglas Engelbart, who had a sharp insight about the propagation of ideas decades ago when he was walking near the beach in Venice, California.
That day, he spotted a bunch of skateboarders -- yes, early skateboarders -- doing things that did not seem possible. They pumped and glided down the street, heading straight for the sidewalk curb. He found himself tensed as he watched, waiting for them to crash and go flying. But before they hit, they would go airborne: the boards would lift off from the street; the skaters would twist or spin in the air, and their feet never left the board – like Aladdins on flying wooden carpets. Old stuff to us 2010ers.
Watching them, Engelbart realized that whoever invented the skateboard -- the simple design of wheels fixed to the bottom of a narrow plank -- could not have predicted this use. You simply could never have engineered the sequence of physical changes and reactions.
So it is with our education. What we know today is not constant. Some things we know will remain true. But many will be edited, added, footnoted, paraphrased, or simply deleted.
That editing will be done in collaborative hubs that span the world. They are being built as we speak, with transformational tools -- the sharing apps -- that create pathways around the earth in an instant. We are living in a global public commons of the intellect.
Now, Doug Engelbart, who stopped to watch those skateboarders, may have more experience than anyone alive with how inventions can take off. He holds Patent 3.541.541 for the “X_Y position indicator for a display system.” We know it today as the computer mouse. Back in the 1960s, he envisioned a “position indicator” -- alias, the mouse -- that would point to the linked file and open it. And then imagine: computers in one place -- say, Abu Dhabi -- could speak to others, for instance, in New York City.
These were the cave paintings of the digital age: the first lines of hyper-linked language, the roots of the Graphic User Interface, the fundamental ways we communicate with our computers and with the Empire of Knowledge.
My hope for you—my challenge to you: apply the perspective, knowledge, and skills that you have acquired with us—in our classrooms, hallways, laboratories, studios as well as online—to a global landscape. Solve… through technology, as well as intelligence and compassion …problems that exist on a global scale. And that you will accomplish this by nurturing and continuing to stay close with your family at New York Institute of Technology: professors, colleagues and, yes, the international network of 85,000 NYIT alumni you are about to join.
Commencements are celebrations, yes, but they are formal occasions marking a great tradition and signaling a transition and a new journey. Today is not about an ending; we must recall that commencement by definition is about a beginning … a fresh start.
The future empire of the mind will be a different one from today’s. Knowledge is the currency that crosses epochs, borders, and oceans … it enables solutions to civilization’s most complex challenges. We cannot imagine, we cannot dream, we cannot invent without knowledge. We cannot be ourselves, let alone our future selves. You, here today, are the bearers of that currency.
So get on your metaphorical skateboard and go out and explore. Create. Lead. Remake the world. Do make us proud.
Congratulations and best wishes to the Class of 2010. Mabrouk.
Edward Guiliano, Ph.D., is president and CEO of New York Institute of Technology (NYIT). Since 2000, he has led NYIT to broad recognition as a distinguished institution of higher learning with a firm national, global, and digital footprint in a wide range of forward-thinking academic programs at the undergraduate, graduate, and professional levels.