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School of Sustainability Fall 2016 Convocation Address

SOS ConvocationThis has been a year of surprises. Around the world, many were shocked by the “Brexit” vote, committing the United Kingdom to leave the European Union after more than 40 years. The results of the US federal election caught many off guard. The Chicago Cubs won the World Series. And Bob Dylan received (well, was awarded) the Nobel Prize in literature.

Change can be unsettling, but it also brings opportunity. Your degrees in sustainability I firmly believe are more important than ever. While the winds of change can shift direction quickly, the commitment to sustainability in many private, public, non-profit and religious organizations remains firm. We have reached a kind of sustainability “lock-in” that would be very difficult, although not impossible, to dismantle.

Of course, this kind of experience in persuading others about the importance of sustainability – from practical and ethical standpoints – is something all of you have lived over the course of your career in SOS. As you launch into the next stage of your life, you will not always be surrounded by like-minded people. Indeed, you were not at ASU and even in the School of Sustainability. Negotiating different sets of worldviews and priorities to achieve common goals is something you are all very well prepared to do, and I am confident you will.

This century belongs to you. And to your children and grandchildren. You will be the leaders at a critical time in human history. I know you will be smart, motivated, and ethical with the decisions you make—individually and with others—to design and build the future we want and need.

In January of 1964, a very young Bob Dylan (about the age of most of the undergraduates here today), released the song “The Times They Are A-Changin’”. Any one of the verses from that song are as relevant now as they were 50 years ago. Here is the first verse (feel free to hum along):

Come gather ‘round people
Wherever you roam
And admit that the waters
Around you have grown
And accept it that soon
You’ll be drenched to the bone
If your time to you is worth savin’
Then you better start swimmin’ or you’ll sink like a stone
For the times they are a-changin’

Congratulations to the class of 2016!