George Dieter Commencement Speech
I am sorry that you missed the opportunity to hear from such a distinguished engineer and alumnus as Gordon England, and I am sure we all wish him a speedy recovery. He has been a great public servant for our nation.
However, I can bring you 45 years of talking with engineering seniors and with probably hundreds of employers over these years. So my advice to the graduating class will focus on things you might do to have a satisfying and successful career.
I would like to talk about the four Ls.
- LIFETIME LEARNING
You probably haven’t thought about it but you are graduating into a very elite group, the roughly 5 per cent of the US population that has a strong education in science and technology. It is scary to realize how much the economic future of our nation depends upon developing and commercializing technology-and how poorly the general population has been educated to understand technical issues. This of course presents you with great career opportunities- but it also presents you with awesome leadership responsibilities. Leadership means moving outside of your comfort zone as you keep learning and growing. And remember, leadership like respect must be earned. Someone may appoint you to a leadership responsibility but it is not yours for long unless you earn it. The only way to earn leadership is by returning service to those you are responsible for. Leadership means giving personally and professionally more than you ever get as the rewards of leadership.
Since you can’t expect the science and technology illiterate 95% of the population to learn enough about math, science and engineering to function responsibly in society regarding technology it is your leadership responsibility to learn enough about the non-technical side of society to serve as a mentor, guide and spokesperson. This is where literacy comes in. Please take the time freed up by not having to do homework or studying for exams to broaden your intellectual horizons. Read those novels you missed, learn about foreign countries and cultures, study a foreign language, read about business and economics and begin to follow politics. Above all, start to read at least one good daily newspaper and one weekly current events magazine so you will be aware citizens. You will find that becoming a culturally literate person makes you more aware of the world around you, but also improves your career advancement opportunities on the job.
Another area of literacy or leadership opportunity is in international affairs. We hear everywhere about NAFTA, world trade, and losing jobs overseas. But most U. S. corporations are moving strongly to develop markets overseas. This means that engineering jobs are becoming more international. At the start of your career think about this and do something like learning a second language and planning for an overseas assignment.