|Mr. President, Graduates, Families and Friends.
To the Graduates: tonight the honor is yours. You have overcome
the myth--the myth that UNF stands for You Never Finish.
Now a question: how many graduates anticipate going on for an
advanced degree? Perhaps one never does finish!
Hopefully, that's true. If we as a faculty at UNF have been successful--along
with your previous teachers and other special people--if we have
been successful, by now you should be in the mode of LIFELONG
LEARNING. You have realized that the more you learn, the more
there is to know.
Lifelong Learning operates on at least three levels. On one level,
it is fundamental to most careers. What computer scientist can
rely on the technology of five years ago? What teacher of science
can neglect ongoing discoveries in physics, biology, chemistry
or astronomy? What historian today can tell the story of Christopher
Columbus the way it was told a generation ago, Platform Guests,
UNF Faculty colleagues, before we acknowledged the existing cultures
of native Americans?
Business and professional people continually update their knowledge
and skills through seminars and workshops. Lifelong Learning is
fundamental to one's work.
It is also fundamental to one's citizenship. What health care
system should Americans develop to include all of us at a reasonable
cost? What kind and cost of defense does America need with the
end of the Cold War? How do we balance the environment with economic
growth? We must continue to learn in order to make intelligent
choices for our nation's future.
Finally, Lifelong Learning is fundamental to our "pursuit
of happiness". Thomas Jefferson personified this habit as
well as any American, and of course included it along with life
and liberty in our Declaration of Independence: ''Life, Liberty
and the Pursuit of Happiness".
Pursuing happiness in the large sense extends beyond immediate
gratification. It has intimations of lifelong involvement; satisfaction
with what one has done; expanding one's horizons through music,
art, theater and books; and continuing to grow in mind and spirit
through all the days of one's life. We might consider the ultimate
goal of Lifelong Learning to be the a continuing growth of mind
If Lifelong Learning is fundamental to one's pursuit of happiness,
so too is a lifetime of Volunteer Service. Everyone in this Coliseum
has been the beneficiary of someone's volunteer efforts: caring
for us as youngsters, enabling us to become better adults, censoring
us in a myriad of ways. Elie Wiesel, (Ellie Weizel) survivor of
the Holocaust and Winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, wrote recently
in Parade Magazine that we are the sum of what others have done
for us: family, teachers, employers- -mentors of all kinds.
Now with your degree soon to be in your hand comes the time for
payback. We never can re-pay many of the people who have enabled
us to be here, but we can pass along our caring to someone else.
Many of us already do, volunteering through church and synagogue
or other community organization.
In this regard, I have been particularly pleased by the opening
of the UNF Volunteer Service Center this past year under the direction
of Eduardo Castellon-Vogel. Even more, I am pleased to hear about
Sean Nelson's distinguished record of community service here tonight.
On a national level, our history shines with the volunteer service
of Americans down through the centuries. Alexis de Tocqueville,
that great French observer of American customs, wrote in the 1830s
about the generosity of Americans forming groups to help one another;
and of the importance of volunteering in making our nation work.
Our Judeo-Christian heritage also teaches that service to others
gives meaning to our lives. I am not alone in my conviction that
our lives are enriched by sharing our time and talents with others.
Having said that, and recognizing that many, if not all, of you
already do share time and talents, I want to go a step further
and suggest there are different kinds of volunteer service, some
of which you may not yet have considered.
First, the most common kind of volunteer service involves you
and me with people we already know, such as our family members,
and in our neighborhood or community. We may already volunteer
in programs that enable youngsters--perhaps our children or younger
siblings--to play soccer, become a scout or attend Sunday school
classes. We take part in our PTA neighborhood association, church
or synagogue. This is the most popular form of volunteering because
one sees direct results through family and friends one already
A second more challenging form of community service is with people
you don't know, people who do not have someone able to care. This
kind of service might include tutoring an inner city child, helping
an adult learn to read, building a Habijax house, enabling a handicapped
person to have a fuller life, assisting an AIDS victim, or visiting
a nursing home resident on a regular basis. Sometimes this volunteering
is more than just one on one. Sometimes we work with small groups
of people such as eight or ten inner city kids, or perform musically
for a group of patients.
Volunteering to help disadvantaged people is both more difficult
and more rewarding, for both them and you. It also is a service
desperately needed in our society.
A third kind of volunteer service involves a person creating
institutional change to assist needy people. Last year, a handful
of young people secured a Jacksonville Community Foundation grant
to build bridges between the privileged students at Bolles School
and underprivileged children at the YWCA Royal Point Family center
for homeless single parents with children. These young people
built better bridges than they ever anticipated. They involved
their teachers, parents, other classes and the commitment of the
entire school to continue to work with Royal Point youngsters.
They also involved the Royal Point children and their mothers
in a partnership of caring people.
Involving institutions in community service multiplies the resources
available for assistance. The person or persons who persuaded
the Barnett Bank to partner with Matthew Gilbert Middle School
in Jacksonville helped the teenagers at that school, but they
also helped change the corporate culture at the bank toward the
ideal of community service.
The person who persuaded Scotty's Hardware to rebate a portion
of their sales for Habijax housing not only helped build homes,
but raised the consciousness of customers who saved their sales
slips to do their part. The list of institutional involvement
could go on: schools, churches, businesses, law firms, medical
practices, and neighborhood groups. In each case, someone, or
some people were the motivating force. There are a lot more institutions
that need to become involved, or more involved in this kind of
Volunteer service has many faces. Like Lifelong Learning, it
also is important in your and my individual fulfillment as human
beings--in our pursuit of happiness. It is crucial in confronting
our social, environmental, educational, cultural and health care
problems. As we prepare for the 21st century, we must confront
and eliminate our racial prejudices; we must lessen our environmental
pollution; we must reduce the number of school dropouts; we must
eliminate discrimination against women and minorities.
We need to do these things for global economic competition,
Many reasons: to meet our to prevent social anarchy in our cities,
and because they are right!
Am I over dramatic? Perhaps. Can you and I change the world?
Not alone. But we can do our part--through our families, churches,
synagogues and mosques, schools, businesses, volunteer associations
and other civic groups. We can enable other people to live full
lives; we can reduce some of the social strife; and we can create
a better world for our and coming generations.
Lifelong Learning and Volunteer Service. When you wake up tomorrow
after tonight's celebration, remember both. Make Lifelong Learning
and Volunteer Service lifetime priorities. Do that and you will
lead full lives. Your community will be the better for you. And
the University of North Florida will be even prouder to be your
Congratulations and Godspeed.
James B. Crooks,
Professor of History