• I am so pleased to be with you today to talk about the importance of diversity and inclusion in higher education, diversity and inclusion as values and how diversity and inclusion are critical to each of you as you create your pathway to greatness.
  • And as graduates of the University of Missouri St. Louis, you are well-prepared to someday wear that mantle of greatness.
  • In preparing my remarks, I couldn’t help but think about how much the world has changed – and continues to change – since I completed graduate school here 35 years ago.
  • What strikes me most are the advances in technology.  These advances have spurred globalization.  And globalization has made the world a smaller place.
  • Thirty-five years ago, we didn’t have the Internet, or email, or Facebook, or texting.  It took time to share information with people in your own community – and certainly a lot of time to share information with people in other states, not to mention in other countries.
  • But even though the world has gotten smaller, the opportunities to include the values of diversity and inclusion as part of everyday life have gotten broader.
  • I have experienced this phenomenon first-hand – not only through technology, but also through visits to many different countries.
  • Some of my greatest learnings have come from engaging in discourse with people who were different than me.  I have gained a respect for other cultures, other religions, other lifestyles through these exchanges and have gained a sensitivity that helps me in my work and in my life.
  • These experiences have allowed me to absorb and reflect upon global diversity, to integrate these new understandings into my work and to design Monsanto Fund programs that take into consideration the important geographic, social, cultural, racial and ethnic differences of our stakeholders.
  • In a South African school, I had a chance to see a true respect for education.  The children from the shanty town – in their clean, pressed uniforms – gave the teacher their undivided attention.  You could hear a pin drop in the classroom.  They have a genuine hunger for inclusion – to have the opportunity to participate in the economy – and they believe education is the way to get there.
  • In Brazil, so many families especially, Afro Brazilians--can’t afford to pay for school uniforms, transportation to and from school, or even school lunch during the school day for their children, the ability to go from elementary school to middle school is a real luxury.  In many ways, Brazil is where the United States was 50 years ago in terms of diversity and inclusion, and Brazilians are working hard to improve their opportunities.
  • In India, where I’ve traveled to many times--you have the caste system —which basically means that no matter what you achieve you are always viewed through the prism of where you came from...   That just proves to me that wherever you are in the world, diversity and inclusion – or lack thereof – are in-your-face issues – global issues.
  • I believe that for you to be a true citizen of the world and to participate in overcoming these issues you must really consider what the demographic landscape looks like and you must listen to more than one voice.
  • And today it is so easy to access more than one voice.
  • Thanks to social media tools like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, and 24-hour news, you can have these global experiences in a matter of seconds.
  • I think about how the rest of the world recently watched the students, young people and citizens in Egypt and other countries engage in peaceful demonstrations and revolutions that literally helped to change their governments and their countries.
  • They used their incredibly powerful voices to drive inclusion – they so want to be part of the way their countries are run, to improve their economic situations, and to have opportunities for a better life.
  • Inclusion is so important to them that they took real action – gathering in the streets and demanding it – proving that if you embrace an idea and make it a value, you can positively affect your own path and change your community for the better.
  • And that is why inclusion and diversity – themes for this graduation weekend – are so important, not only in education, but also in society overall and in our individual pursuits of greatness.
  • Diversity and inclusion are critical in academic institutions because academic institutions influence students, and students can become change agents, and change agents can improve our communities and the lives of the people in those communities.
  • Through diversity and inclusion in education, we actively encourage everyone to create economic opportunities for themselves and to have a better life – to achieve greatness.
  • I know that everyone in this room today has the potential for greatness.
  • Greatness can be measured in many ways – by how much money you earn, where you live, what kind of car you drive.  But more importantly, I believe, greatness can be measured by how you positively impact your community and how you serve others.
  • What also is important is your path to greatness – how you get there and the values you embrace along your journey.
  • As a proud graduate of UMSL, I know this institution has embraced values that have made it one of the best in the nation, that have lifted its stature and status among universities, and that have made it a more welcoming environment for all people.
  • By creating this environment of diversity and inclusion, UMSL has better prepared you for this very connected smaller world.
  • When you leave UMSL, you have the responsibility to reflect the values of this institution by creating that inclusiveness and diversity in your own lives.
  • In your pursuit of greatness I would ask that you embrace diversity and inclusion as values  –  that you live these values everyday – that they become a part of you...like everything else in life to become good at it you must practice it is the same with diversity and inclusion.  Therefore
  • I encourage you to engage in discourse with someone not like you, so you can broaden your thinking.
  • I encourage you to realize that agreeing to disagree can be a positive outcome.
  • I encourage you to make a friend who is not like you, so you can grow.
  • I encourage you to take risks because inclusion and diversity are about moving from a safe place to an unknown.
  • I encourage you to do all these things because inclusion and diversity can propel you forward if you embrace them as values.
  • And they can be critical factors in your professional life.  When you leave this safe and protected university setting, you will have to exercise these skills in a world where not everyone embraces diversity and inclusion as values.
  • You are our next generation of leaders.  As a nation, we need leaders who recognize diversity as an asset and see the value in inclusiveness and know how to capitalize on that.
  • As our leaders of today and of tomorrow, you will have varied and diverse constituencies.  That means your ideas, your products; your services must meet the needs of those locally and those globally.  It is no longer the American way or no way!  You must be able to navigate the global world.
  • Furthermore, our country needs to use all of its human capacity to prosper.  We cannot have a country where a significant percentage of the population is excluded from the best jobs.  We must create opportunities for people who may not otherwise have them.  We must remove artificial barriers.  We must focus on peoples’ attributes and their ability to learn.  That is how we will foster diversity and inclusion.
  • I recently read that only 30 percent of students who start college actually graduate.  That makes you a special group.  That gives you the responsibility to carry good ideas forward and be the shapers of tomorrow.
  • More than 55,000 UMSL alumni are part of the St. Louis community.  No other university has a greater impact on the social and economic advancement of the St. Louis region than UMSL.
  • That means you can be a force in our community and put us on the right path to change for the better, our feelings and actions regarding gender, class, race, religion and ethnicity.
  • Today I am inspired and I am hopeful.  And I know you all can be great leaders in so many ways.
  • I believe that if together we commit to celebrating human diversity in all of its forms and to embracing inclusion, we can improve lives in our community, across our nation and around the world.
  • Thank you.