President’s Speech: March 3, 2017

Spring 2017 Convocation Remarks

March 3, 2017


Good morning. And welcome. On behalf of the faculty, staff, and the administration of George Mason University Korea, we are most honored to have you, our entering students, and members of our family, with us, on this happy and meaningful day.

The beginning of any semester is a time of excitement and anticipation – not just for you but for all of us. We are especially excited about this semester because we have an incoming class that is more talented and more diverse than any other in our previous years.

I am pleased that with us today we have members of GMU Korea’s distinguished faculty, our revered staff, and dedicated student representatives and volunteers. Also, I am delighted to welcome other special guests, including:

  • Bang, Jong-Sul, CEO of Incheon Global Campus
  • Kim, ChoonHo, president SUNY Korea
  • Todd Kent, Dean of Faculty of the University of Utah Asia Campus
  • Chung Kunmo, c-chair of the President’s Advisory Board and former Minister of Science and Technology


Thank you for being with us today.

We, the leadership and faculty from George Mason University Korea are dressed in formal academic regalia, are here because of you: GMU Korea’s new wave of students. It is with deep pride and esteem that together we officially induct you into the Mason family. We know all the years of dedication and effort you have made to reach this point in your lives: preparing and passing exams; long hours of study and sacrifice throughout your primary and secondary years of education; sometimes working jobs to help your families meet their financial obligations; sometimes living in different countries; and, ultimately, achieving a strong enough sense of self to take this first and important step toward a college education.

This first step is not to be taken lightly. It represents what you might view as a formal declaration of intent unlike any you have made thus far in your lives. This step represents your voice. Prior to this day, moving from one grade to another was not much a choice as it was a step from one rung to another. Little choice. Little planning. Predetermined movement as put forth by others many years before, your task – not necessarily a small one – was to focus primarily on the subjects before you. Do the reading. Do the calculations. Be punctual. Be prepared to recite back what information your teachers shared with you.

The step you take today, however, is different. That you are taking it here at GMU Korea is, in large part, your choice. That you are pursuing a particular field of study is in large part, your choice. The class schedule you will be following is, in large part, your choice. How you will conduct yourself in class and how you will be spending your time between and outside of class will be your choice. How well you incorporate and utilize all that you have learned and experienced up till now will be your choice as well.

This step takes you to a level of independence that you very likely may not have known or had before.  Is this new reality exciting? Without question. Is it also a bit intimidating? The answer to that is also ”yes.”

The first step of any major, life-altering journey is always unnerving. After all, you do not want to disappoint your family any more than you want to disappoint yourself.  This step toward eventual self-sufficiency is not easy. What happens, you may be asking yourselves right now, if I fail? It is a legitimate and understandable question, one that all of us, including your parents, your teachers, and, yes, even I have faced. To that question, my response is this: what happens is you do not even try?

Without the effort, your dream of independence – of being your own man or woman – will not be fulfilled. Without the effort, the success that comes from making a positive difference in the lives of others and improving the society in which you live in all probability will not be achieved – at least to the extent you wish. Without a doubt, today’s first step is a big one. I commend you for it.

And here is another piece of good news: as you take this first step and follow it with hundreds and thousands of others in the coming years, you will not be alone. The scholars and trained professionals here today will be with you. They are here to help you formulate your choices; wrestle with questions that seem unanswerable; become critical thinkers and world citizens; and identify a path that will enable to declare like never before: “This is who I am.”

George Mason University Korea is still in its beginning phase. Yet it is a growing institution of higher learning of substance and quality. In fact, you should all be proud that GMU Korea is the fastest growing foreign university in all of Korea due to its outstanding reputation. Its strength is drawn from the men and women in this room, ones who have been here before, and even ones whose presence we have not yet seen. Your choice to be here will make us even stronger. It is our mission to help you develop the skills to be even more thoughtful, caring, skilled, mature and competent than you are.  This indeed is an exciting partnership we are about to enter.

Finally, I cannot share these thoughts without two words to your parents: thank you.

You and I know that your sons and daughters would not be here without you. While the journey from when they entered the world to this day may not have always been smooth or without turbulence, it is one you made as a family. Thank you for all you did to help your very special child reach this point in his or her life. Even though your job as a Mom and Dad remains far from over, I hope you are taking this moment to feel proud and good about the work you have done thus far.

To you students, if you would, before this day is out, please give your parents – and grandparents if they are here – an extra special hug. One day you will know just how meaningful this is.

A child is their parents’ oxygen. For children, independence represents their growth and maturity. Today those metaphorical truisms converge. What results from such a conjoining is always a wonder. This is why this event is such a personal highlight for me. Looking out at all of you, I cannot wait to see what happens next. My sense is whatever does emerge, all of us will be better for it.

Please engage yourselves fully in and outside of campus. This is the most auspicious time for you to learn, discover and experience. As you do so, I ask you to keep in mind what I call the three Cs: confidence, compassion and competence. With these qualities – confidence in yourself, compassion for others, and competence in what you do – I am certain that you will be able to find your path.

Over the years, your parents and teachers have helped create and shape wings for you. It is now time for you to use them. Test them. Learn to fly so you will remember this day as the commencement of a fulfilling journey where through virtue, confidence, humility, and passion, you began to navigate a world you aspire to make better because of your perseverance, dedication, and effort.

Remember: while “knowledge is power,” life is more than about power. Life is about caring and sharing. As you enter a new phase of life, I hope you will appreciate the importance of altruism that turning knowledge to wisdom is the most virtuous of education.

Students, families and friends, congratulations and welcome to the GMU Korea family. Thank you. Kamsahamnida.