2018 College of Arts and Sciences Commencement Greeting

May 27, 2018

"Not all that can be counted counts, and not all that counts can be counted."

This quote, attributed to Albert Einstein, is not a mathematical equation to understand physics, but rather a reminder that what will really count if you wish to have a fulfilling, joyful and impactful life after college. It is not the diploma you will receive today, but rather applying the lessons you have learned here that have prepared you to deal with complexity, diversity, and change and inspired within you a sense of social responsibility. These are the things that will count.

What will also count most in the long run will be the deep and meaningful life-long relationships that will sustain you in the years ahead, many of which started here with your faculty and new friends.

What counts most at this very moment, however, is something more important than what your diploma is going to do for you personally. What counts right now are two things: remembering who and what brought you to this moment. And making the commitment today that you will be the source of positive change in the world.

Many moons ago, I was the first person in my family to earn a college degree and when I received my diploma, I handed it to my father for safe keeping. I was moving out of my apartment after school and into another place where my new job was located, so my diploma seemed safest at my parents home.

About a month later, I was home and my dad called me into the den, and he had my diploma out on a table. He picked it up, held it in his hand and said, "Son, I am so proud of you for being the first in our family to earn a college degree. This diploma represents so much to our family."

And with that… he suddenly crumped it in his hands.

I almost fainted. He looked me right in the eye and said, "This paper may seem important. But remember what counts is that you come from a long line of people in our family who sacrificed for you. Refugees, immigrants, people who were common laborers." He also looked at me and said, "Unless you do something with your education that makes the world a better place for those in need, what good is this piece of paper anyway?"

Of course, in that moment, all I could do was think about my crumpled diploma and that it wasn’t much good to me now. He then laughed and pulled out from under the table my real diploma (he had gone to the trouble of making a copy on good, crunchy paper), and said, "Here you go." But I never forgot the lessons of that day.

Always remember those who paved the way for you, and be a source of positive change in the world.

Today as you graduate I hope those two lessons stick with you. To that end, why don’t we give thanks to those who helped you get to this point. First, I would ask that my USD colleagues gathered here today: Commencement speaker and USD alumna Adama Iwu; Trustee and Law School alumnus Dan Herbert; Trustee and RSCJ Sister Mary Therese Moser; we have senior members of the university administration, Vice Presidents, Deans, and our amazing faculty and staff colleagues.

Whether you are a teacher, an administrator, or a member of our grounds and facilities crew, please stand as I ask the graduating class of 2018 to give you a round of applause.

And second, I will ask the class of 2018 to stand. Find your loved ones in the audience and give them a big round of applause!

"Not all that can be counted counts, and not all that counts can be counted."

Remember, in the end, what will count is not the amount of money you have in the bank, or the material goods you have accumulated. One thing that will certainly count in the long run is being someone people can count on to do the right thing. This will earn you the respect of others. But what will really count in the long run in a world that is filled with anger, fear and hatred, as graduates and representatives of USD, is the amount of love and kindness you have shared with the world.

We should all follow the advice of someone who visited this campus almost two decades ago, St. Teresa of Calcutta. She once shared with an audience when asked what she thought counted. According to Mother Teresa what counts is whether we are "the living expression of God's kindness: kindness in your face, kindness in your eyes, kindness in your smile. The most terrible poverty is loneliness and the feeling of being unloved. If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other."

Be someone who can be counted on to live a life that brings peace, love and kindness to others. Be counted on to use those myriad gifts you have been granted by God to bring about positive change in the world and to always remember those who came before you and paved the way. By doing so you will be the living embodiment of the values we hold dear at USD… You will represent these values to a world much in need of your gifts.

Godspeed, class of 2018!

James  THarris III, DEd 


View more video recordings from the 2018 commencement ceremonies.