It is my great pleasure to be here to celebrate the 2nd graduating class of the EMSL. Many of you know that this degree was created in response to demand from working professionals, like yourselves, and from our partners in industry, government, and NGOs. The message was loud and clear – in the rapidly growing field of sustainability what was needed most urgently was leadership.
Organizations then as now are looking for individuals who can formulate a clear vision, communicate it and share it effectively so that others will follow and support that vision, provide the resources and support to realize the vision, and find ways to balance conflicting priorities and interests of stakeholders in order to achieve goals.
Leadership is hard. It’s even harder when you need to practice it in a new, unfamiliar field that spans and transcends multiple boundaries. You most likely will not be leading the production of widgets. You will be convincing sometimes entrenched stakeholders that an integrated systems approach to how organizations function, that puts into practice key sustainability principles, will add value, enrich the company’s vision and culture, energize employees and clients, and move the world closer to a more desirable future.
This is an enormous challenge, but one that will surely get you out of the bed in the morning. I realize I am talking to a biased sample in this auditorium – you came here in the first place because you want to make a difference, a few simple words that are incredibly inspiring, without limits, but a goal that each of us can realize in our lifetimes.
David Brooks, the op-ed contributor to the New York Times, reminds us to think about our “eulogy” virtues and not just our “resume” virtues. We spend a great deal of time and effort trying to fill out and strengthen our resumes with job experiences and accomplishments. This is important, but when people gather in a large room like this to celebrate the end of your life, ask yourself how you would want to be remembered, and let that guide the pathways you take, and make. From this kind of reflection on what is most important, we will all benefit – this generation, future generations, and the planetary systems that provide the basis for the beautiful and wondrous thing we call life.
I urge you to make the most of the new lives you embark on today, for yourselves and for the people who will remember and thank you for the differences you make.
Congratulations class of 2016.
David Brooks, “The Moral Bucket List” New York Times, April 11, 2015. http://www.nytimes.com/2015/04/12/opinion/sunday/david-brooks-the-moral-bucket-list.html?_r=0