University of Miami president and global health leader Dr. Julio Frenk implored U-M graduates to “raise their sights” as they embark into a world that is undergoing a pivotal moment of change.
Dr. Frenk delivered the 2016 Winter Commencement address Sunday to an estimated 1,000 graduates, friends, family members and others at Crisler Center. A policy maker, physician and U-M alumnus, Dr. Frenk also received an honorary Doctor of Laws degree at Sunday’s ceremony.
During his address, Dr. Frenk said attending U-M helped him raise his sights, leading him to eventually pursue a second master’s degree and a joint Ph.D.
“I lifted my gaze and developed a new sense of what was possible,” he said.
He told the graduates their achievement coincided with an “extremely complex moment in human history,” a time when people often seem to be encouraged not to raise their sights but to lower them, to look inward and to “distrust the other.”
“My message to you: resist that,” Dr. Frenk urged the graduates. “You have been educated at one of the best universities in the world and that means you are uniquely qualified — one might say uniquely obligated — to raise your sights and by doing so, raise all of ours.”
Dr. Frenk used his speech to expound on the unique role of universities and how they help improve the world. He said the world’s great universities share common characteristics that allow them to create conditions for transformation — of people, of ideas and of problems into solutions.
He told the graduates they are entering a world that is in transition. He said they will face the most dynamic labor market ever, one where jobs are both disappearing and growing because of technological advances.
“In this dynamic environment, creative adaptability will be crucial,” Frenk said. “You will have the opportunity to reinvent yourselves multiple times throughout your working life.”
Dr. Frenk said recent backlash against the “establishment” stems from fear and insecurity, as millions of people across the world feel uprooted, left behind and threatened by globalization. However, the response should not be to lower one’s sights and embrace homogeneity, Frenk argued. Instead, diversity and interdependence are not only unavoidable but desirable.
“Universities must respond to this changing context by reaffirming their responsibility as engines of opportunity and social mobility,” he said. “They must become open spaces, capable of meeting the shifting educational needs of people throughout their entire careers, starting immediately after graduation.”
Dr. Frenk received an honorary doctor of laws degree, his fourth degree from the University of Michigan.
To view Dr. Frenk’s entire commencement address which begins at 1:02.35, visit https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NBjr51PYF8U