Greetings, on this wonderful evening! Asalam Alaikum. It is my privilege to be here to celebrate with you and to congratulate the 78 baccalaureate and 88 master’s graduates at NYIT-Amman.
We salute you all.
We also salute the many people who helped you get here today: from your parents to your professors, loved ones and others who supported, nurtured, and encouraged you to help you arrive at this point. It is a fact: none of us got here alone.
During this high season for commencement addresses around the globe, I got to thinking, what is the shortest commencement address?
So, in this age of Twitter, I crafted one myself... Ready: "Go forth! Prosper! Make us proud!"
I know ... it's not very profound. But it does get to the heart of the matter in fewer than 140 characters.
And while I could indeed stop my remarks right there, it would not do justice to your accomplishments or reflect the significance of what today represents.
So let me elaborate by sharing something remarkable. Just last month, an article by New York Times journalist Thomas Friedman highlighted how start-up companies are springing to life in Jordan, fueled by Oasis500, an Arab-owned high-tech accelerator looking to nurture 500 new startups here. The driving force behind this effort, the former chief data officer at Yahoo, came home to Amman convinced that the “raw material” was here to create an Arab "Silicon Wadi." You, our graduates in Amman – with your expanding scientific engagement and eagerness to contribute — are the talent, the “raw material” if you will – that Oasis500 and the global knowledge economy are seeking. For NYIT, this is our greatest reward.
It is noteworthy that, since Oasis500 started in 2010, it has received 2,000 applications and has invested in 49 companies, including an Arabic portal that provides course packets for undergraduate college classes; an online market for local artisans; a company that makes Arabic internet content for kids; and another that makes Arabic how-to videos on parenting, beauty, and health. There’s even an online Arabic music school.
This remarkable list makes one wonder. Where did the ideas and creativity come from?
A growing consensus has found that intellectual breakthroughs do not spring from the mind of a thinker who sits in solitary contemplation. The opposite is true: Good ideas are far more likely to emerge gradually, over time, as part of a slow accumulative process – one that most often takes place in environments that promote collaboration.
As it turns out, the most effective structure for generating good ideas may be a group of human beings, talking, in what science writer Steven Johnson calls "spaces of innovation."
Spaces of innovation.
That would be anywhere that people come together to connect, share ideas, agree on some things, argue about others, hash it out, and ultimately -- innovate. It could be the cafeteria. A Facebook page. Anywhere at a university, where we celebrate the life of the mind.
When you work alone, in an office or laboratory, staring at a computer screen or some other apparatus, you can get stuck in yourself.
As Johnson says: "Chance favors the connected mind."
And, as you prepare for the next stage of your lives, the lesson is clear.
Regardless of your academic discipline and professional aspirations, to succeed in a complex, rapidly changing economy, you must cultivate an interconnected mentality. The faculty and I hope we have helped you do just that.
Graduates, you know that all around us there is much important work to be done. We need business models that can keep pace with economic and social change ... digital systems that are more connected and more secure ... cures for diseases. The list is challenging and formidable.
In the near future, we may even reach a point known as singularity, when we have created intelligence that is smarter than human beings. Then the Siri's of tomorrow can help us take on these challenges ... plus, I trust, continue to tell us places nearby where we can grab a bite to eat and connect.
Siri is only a year old. The iPad? Just two years old. And Angry Birds, the consistently most downloaded app on the web, it's just 3.
The fast-forward speed of transformations is extraordinary and often disorienting.
And you, Class of 2012, are prepared.
NYIT as a global university has grown a great deal in the past 51 years, adapting itself to a world that is constantly evolving.
The NYIT degree that I will confer on you is respected the world over. It is your business passport to the 21st-century global economy. It works in every country of the world. NYIT currently educates students from 106 nations – that means you have classmates in 106 countries. Use your NYIT passport well.
You are also part of an international network of more than 92,000 alumni. Our new alumni director, Jennifer Kelly, traveled here today to celebrate your accomplishments.
At NYIT, you are the beneficiaries of American-style higher education, prized the world over, that promotes experimentation, accepts failure, rewards creativity, and breeds innovation.
Today, I congratulate you on making a terrific investment in yourself. A college degree and an advanced degree are the single greatest financial investments you can make. And let's not forget those non-financial returns on your investment, those about being happier, healthier, more in synch with society's responsibilities -- and you'll live longer
In every field, demand is increasing for a new class of designers, engineers, technicians -- for people who can perform specialized tasks, yes. But also -- and more importantly -- for people who can synthesize ideas and create solutions to address real-world challenges.
And that, graduates, is your opportunity.
In addition to what you know, you will be rewarded for your ability to think, to leverage technology, and to apply your ideas.
And so I urge you today to follow my Tweet -- "Go forth! Prosper! Make us proud!"
Critique, clash, conflict, collaborate, connect, and create spaces of innovation where you can openly share your ideas for the betterment of all.