Mount St. Joseph University

The Mount remembers Neil Armstrong

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File Under: commencement

Man speaking at podium.

Neil Armstrong died on Saturday, August 25, 2012 after complications following a cardiac procedure.  While the world mourns the loss of this American hero, we would like to share Mr. Armstrong's commencement address he gave to graduates at the College of Mount St. Joseph on May 13, 2000.  Mr. Armstrong was also awarded the Doctor of Humane Letters from the Mount.  It was an honor to have him on our campus.

The Mount is grateful for Mr. Armstrong sharing his wisdom with our students, faculty and honored guests on that day.  We wish peace and comfort to Mr. Armstrong's family during this difficult time.

Commencement Address by Neil Armstrong, former astronaut, Chairman of the Board, AIL Systems, Inc.

In remarks made six score and 17 years ago, the speaker said, "The world will little note nor long remember what we say here." The speaker was mistaken. The words were much noted and long remembered. I can, with substantially more conviction, repeat that phrase today. You will not long remember what we say here. I only hope that you will remember it as a day of joy.

But tradition requires that in this one last lecture the commencement speaker cover certain mandatory points, an obligation of this occasion. First, of course, I want to offer congratulations to the graduates for your dedication and perspiration. I wish, on your behalf, to express appreciation to your parents and supporters for their inspiration, their donations and on occasion, consolation. The faculty is remembered for their stimulation, elucidation, and, of course, examinations. And acknowledge the importance of the wonderful College with its administration and regulations.

A few years ago, the Ukraine became an independent country. The new president proclaimed, "Yesterday, we were at the brink of a great abyss. Today, we take a great step forward." Today, you take a great step forward. Some of you will go on to seek additional education and qualification. Some of you will, with some trepidation, take up an occupation. Some of you will start that process known as familification (inflation of the population) and some are just ready for a vacation.

Tradition suggests that the speaker should give advice, a recommendation. The most practical recommendation I have heard was, "locate your residence east of your workplace" - you won't be looking into the sun going to and from work. I will avoid giving advice, I have little constructive to propose.

The speaker should put your graduation in context. There are two choices available. You can be reminded of all that has been accomplished by those who have gone before you and what a great springboard that provides for your success, or you can be reminded of all that has not been accomplished, which gives you enormous opportunities, challenges and responsibilities.

The commencement speaker should remind you that you have made an investment in education, a major investment: coin of the realm, hard earned by yourself, your parents, family or friends. And perhaps more importantly, the investment of time, the prime years of your life. But we are not going to endure one of those standard graduation speeches, not here on the Mount. Here on the Mount you are scholars. You will not hear the standard talk today. You won't hear, "This is not an end but a beginning."

You are the class of 2000, forever tagged as the "double zeroes." Depending on the source, you are either the last class to graduate in the second millennium or the first class to graduate in the third millennium. The former seems to have rigor on its side, but the latter seems to have the most marketing appeal.

You have the further misfortune of graduating in an election year. You have been largely shielded from this spectacle while immersed in the realities of campus life. But once on the outside world, you'll find there are very few places you can hide. Election rhetoric oozes under the door, settles over transoms and radiates through solid walls. But if you can withstand it for six months, it will disappear, at least until the next election cycle. Some of you are familiar with, even active in, the political process. But for many, the necessity to hand in another paper, to be ready for the exam, affords precious little time for study of the political issues off campus. But after today, many of you will lose that advantage. Our law does not require you to be an informed voter. It only requires you to be registered. You can tell when people are well-informed: their views are very much like your own.

On the good side of the ledger, you graduate during an economic boom. The major political parties love to take credit for good times and blame their opposition for bad times. The reality is that neither of them have much to do with the business cycle and the state of the economy.

History records that there will be good times and bad times, and you must be prepared to handle them both. It is a great disappointment when you learn that memory loss is not a phenomenon that is exclusively encountered during quizzes. Humans forget things, in fact we forget a great deal. But someone noted that education is what survives when what has been learned has been forgotten.

So you must keep learning every day just to keep even. It is not so hard if you are a history major, you will be immersed in new history every day. I genuinely feel sorry for historians. It is difficult to remember correctly what happened yesterday, (but) much more difficult to reconstruct the events of decades or centuries past. Truth is history is elusive. Still, there is much to be learned from the study of the past. It has been said that history teaches us that men and nations behave wisely once they have exhausted all the other alternatives.

And I hope that you have found real value in truth and have learned to enjoy searching for it. Ignorance is not the source of the world's problems. A problem comes from what people think to be true, but is not.

College is a repository of knowledge. Freshmen bring some in and graduates take little out, and it just accumulates. For the knowledge that you brought and now leave behind, we thank you. If you are taking more than your brought, congratulations, you have beaten the system. All here assembled are proud of you and share your joy.

This is your day and we salute you. I would like to quote a few lines of salutation, from the "The Salutation of the Dawn":

"Look to this day

For it is the very life of life

For yesterday is but a dream

And tomorrow is only a vision;

But today well lived

Makes every yesterday a dream of happiness

And every tomorrow a vision of hope

Look well therefore, to this day."

So live well this day, this special day, and congratulations, graduates.