Good morning! I’m pleased to welcome you to Northeastern’s 113th commencement exercises.
Graduates: savor this moment! Today, we honor your impressive accomplishments.
Parents, families, spouses, partners, and friends: we are celebrating a tremendous day for your graduates.
You have supported them through a journey that culminates here.
Thank you for helping them reach their destination.
Graduates, please rise and thank your loved ones.
Trustees, faculty colleagues, and staff: today we also honor your guidance and mentorship to our students.
I invite you to celebrate the fulfillment of your hard work.
Thank you for all you have done.
To our commencement speaker and honorees, welcome to the Northeastern family.
We are delighted to have you with us.
Our Provost is concluding seven years of service to the university. Please join me in thanking him for his great leadership.
Graduates, think back to when you first arrived at Northeastern.
Think of the lessons you learned, and the stories you shared. They have transformed you into the brilliant women and men you are today.
Before you leave, let me share a personal story.
When I was growing up, many around me believed that to be successful, you should go into medicine, engineering, law, or finance.
Of course, these are wonderful professions.
But I grew up multilingual, and my passion was the mysteries of language.
So even though my friends studied to be doctors, engineers, lawyers, and business leaders, I made another choice.
No one ever told me that you could have a successful career by becoming a linguist.
In fact, my parents were fretting a little bit about this choice.
But I decided that I didn’t want someone else to define my path to success.
I followed my passion, and studied linguistics.
It was a decision that took me from my native country to Europe, and then the distant shores of America.
I never looked back.
I went against the grain, and I never regretted it.
Graduates, sometimes you will find that the established wisdom is unwise for you.
Sometimes you will find that choosing the road less travelled makes all the difference.
In these moments, go against the grain.
Go against the grain to follow your passion and take a risk.
Go against the grain to learn from the whole world.
Molly Runkle, who is graduating today, did that.
She went on co-op to Bumi Sehat, a famous women’s health clinic in Indonesia.
Molly is driven to help victims of abuse and violence, starting here in the U.S.
But to learn the true depth of the issue, she traveled to a faraway place.
She wanted to see she how this renowned clinic deals with these situations under the toughest conditions.
She learned powerful lessons.
And she will use them wherever she goes.
From Nepal to Baltimore, our human family needs those who can help us heal.
Molly went against the grain to learn from the whole world.
And go against the grain to improve the world.
See opportunities where others see obstacles.
We’ve all heard about the national imperative to recruit more women into science, math, and engineering, and more people as well.
Shivangi Shah, who is also graduating, confronted these challenges with her company, Genius Box.
It delivers science kits for children directly to their homes.
Where others saw challenges, she saw solutions.
Shivangi went against the grain to improve the world.
And go against the grain to expand the world.
Another graduate today, Neel Shah, joined our Computer Architecture Research Lab.
He wanted to pursue research on facial recognition.
Many software platforms and models already existed.
But Neel created new computer algorithms to design a better technology.
Today, researchers around the globe use his code.
Neel was not led by the thinking of others.
Now others follow him.
Neel went against the grain to expand our world.
Finally, go against the grain to help the world.
Shores Salter, graduating here today, did this two years ago at the Boston Marathon.
When the bombs went off, the crowd ran away from the blasts.
But he ran toward them.
Seeing the carnage, he sprinted to help.
He took off his belt and used it as a tourniquet.
He made the choice to go forward when most people ran back.
Thanks to Shores, a woman whose life would have bled away on the pavement is alive today.
Shores went against the grain to help the world.
All these students made a difference by going against the grain.
But don’t do it just for its own sake.
Doing things differently won’t guarantee a happy result.
Do things differently for the sake of happiness, fulfillment, and impact.
Those who go against the grain sometimes change the world
Many ideas started as counterpoints to established beliefs.
The world is round.
The earth revolves around the sun.
The universe is curved.
All these ideas challenged the conventional wisdom of their times.
They set off firestorms—and forever altered the way we think about reality.
Graduates, the challenges and opportunities before us are immense.
Our reality is the omnipresence of information and the Internet of things.
Soon our technology will know enough about us to predict our questions before we even think to ask them.
This is wonderful and exciting.
However, remember that we are more than mere data points.
We are more than the sum of our Google searches.
In our world of instant communication, the lure of the herd mentality is growing stronger.
When an idea is forwarded to enough people, it gains a luster of intelligence.
When hundreds of people click “like,” we feel drawn to click in common.
Graduates, I urge you to resist the pull of groupthink.
The actions that spring from our deepest impulses to laugh, cry, love, and help are so much more powerful than clicks.
No matter how big the crowd, you can always choose to go against the grain.
In doing so, seek to transform yourselves, and transform the world.
Now, graduates, it is time to deliver my charge to you.
Our honorary degree recipients are impressive role models.
They embody the value of global, entrepreneurial experience.
They prove the value of going against the grain.
They have worked to make the world wiser, healthier, and more just.
Now it is your turn.
Class of 2015, this is my charge to you.
Go against the grain.
Think for yourselves.
Don’t mistake popularity for truth or beauty.
Take risks in pursuit of your passion.
Explore the world.
Be entrepreneurial and define your own path to success.
Northeastern has shaped you, and it will always be your home.
Now it is up to you to shape the world.
We are in your hands.
Graduates, I salute you!