Good evening everyone, and welcome to Northeastern!
Thank you President Clinton for that generous introduction. It is wonderful to have you back at Northeastern.
I would also like to thank Chelsea Clinton for her tireless dedication to the Clinton Global Initiative University. Important causes need champions. Chelsea, you are the unrivaled champion of CGIU.
I said we are welcoming President Clinton back to Northeastern because the president gave two important speeches here, in 1993 and in 2001.
Earlier this week I went into our archives and read those speeches. Many of the valuable lessons President Clinton shared with our community back then remain relevant for us today.
In both speeches, he spoke about the power—indeed the obligation—of young people to be the architects of our collective future. To be the bridge to a new century.
This brings me to my primary role this evening: to welcome you, the students of CGIU 2017. Give yourselves a round of applause!
You have traveled here from all over the United States and from 80 countries. You represent 250 different colleges and universities around the world.
Even more important: You represent the promise of a new generation. The power of a global community. And the hope of our shared dreams.
Students, your presence here demonstrates something very simple, but also very profound: You have a passion to make tomorrow better than today.
That passion to serve, to uplift, and to create is perhaps more powerful than you realize.
It is, I believe, what distinguishes us as human beings. And what gives us a unique advantage.
It’s an advantage that will serve you well.
We live in a world of miraculous technologies.
Machines are making quantum leaps in their power to think and learn.
In the next few decades, intelligent machines may eliminate up to half of all existing jobs.
Finance, medicine, media—countless jobs are subject to the threat of automation.
In a world already experiencing vast inequality, automation has the potential to widen the gulf even further.
I believe we can secure a future in which all humans can prosper. But we will need an education that makes us robot-proof.
Each of us will need to understand technology and master the power of big data. These will become basic competencies.
But to really succeed in a world of smart machines, we must nurture and hone the qualities and attributes that make us uniquely human.
These qualities are at the heart of what you’re doing here at CGIU.
Over the next few days you will focus on being entrepreneurial, creative, and culturally agile. You will harness your empathy and engage with each other.
I have read through your CGIU commitments. They are truly inspirational. Some of you are focused on mentoring refugee children displaced through war.
I have never heard of a robot that felt the desire to support a child in need.
Another one of your commitments is to stem the opioid crisis here in the U.S.
I never heard of an algorithm that was compelled to combat drug abuse.
Such motivations are beyond the grasp of machines.
Yet they fuel humanity’s brightest energies.
By attending CGIU, you are cultivating those energies—and you are committing to achieve goals larger than yourselves.
In your commitments, you’re stepping outside the classroom to hone your uniquely human qualities.
At Northeastern, we call this experiential learning. Experiential learning nourishes creativity and flexes the ligaments of the mind.
In our technology-driven future, the advantage will be with those who remain mentally flexible, adaptable, and eager to acquire and generate new knowledge.
So when it comes to learning, I ask that you never stop.
You are free to dance across the commencement stage. But I urge you to see your graduation as the starting gate, not the finish line.
Return often to the well of knowledge.
Refill your cup and drink deep.
Upgrade your learning as you would your technology.
As you do this, focus on honing those uniquely human attributes. The passions that burn inside you—the boundless optimism that brought you here today.
As President Clinton said in 2001, right here in Matthews Arena: solving the world’s problems “is about addition and multiplication, not subtraction and division.”
I hope all of us will carry his message forever. The commitments you’re making and the problems you’re tackling cannot be solved in siloes. They cannot be addressed by individuals acting alone.
We live in a global community that is connected by the free flow of ideas and by people working together.
That interconnection unites us. You are here to unleash the flow of ideas and transform them into works of lasting value.
You inspire all of us. We know that our future is in good hands. I thank you, in advance, for all that you will do to shape our human journey and lead us to that better tomorrow.
President Clinton, thank you again. The stage is yours.