Ambassador of Israel to U.S. Gives Keynote Speech at Second Annual Commencenment

Winter Commencement Participation Increases by 10 Percent

Ambassador Israel Commencement 1With a rich, blue carpet covering the basketball court of the Multipurpose Activity Center, 451 graduates sat in their chairs as they listened to various speeches, including one from the Ambassador of Israel to the United States, while awaiting their degrees at the second Winter Commencement on January 13, 2012. According to Vice President for Student and Community Services Mary Anne Nagy, Commencement participation was up 10 percent from last year’s event.
Prior to the ceremony, gradu-ates-to-be were floating in and out of Wilson Hall, donning bright smiles while getting their photos taken atop the grand staircase and other campus spots. 

Graduating students were not the only people on campus; there was a high volume of security for commencement speaker, Michael Oren, Ambassador of Israel to the United States. Oren, besides giving the keynote address, also received an honorary degree at the ceremony. The Princeton and Columbia University graduate is formally the Lady Davis Fellow of Hebrew University, as well as the Distinguished Fellow at the Shalem Center in Jerusalem.

Also a writer, Oren has had several books published, includ-ing bestseller Six Days of War: 1967 and the Making of the Mod-ern Middle East, and has served as a contributing editor to the New Republic.

York Times and the Wall Street Journal. “I enjoy, the most, put-ting myself in a position of what I am writing about,” Oren said. “There’s a tendency for histori-ans to, sort of, sit on judgment in history…they actually call them-selves the ‘hangmen of history.’ I don’t view myself as a ‘hangman.’ My goal as a historian was not to pass judgment, but to understand.”

Oren has also been a visiting professor at Georgetown, Harvard and Yale Universities.
“You know, I came into teach-ing relatively late in my life and found it to be deeply fulfilling,” he said. “In fact, I feel I have learned more from my students than they have learned from me.”

The ceremony, which started promptly at 1:30 pm, began with welcoming remarks from Presi-dent Paul G. Gaffney II. Gaffney spoke of the students before him as “a class that I’ve seen grow with confidence. See, you took care of each other.”

Oren opened up his com-mencement address with his roots. “Thank you for opening up your campus to me, a former Jersey boy…exit 145,” Oren said. Oren emigrated to Israel in 1979, and currently resides in Wash-ington D.C. When asked what he considers his biggest accom-plishment, he said, “my children without hesitation.”

Ambassador Israel Commencement 2In an interview prior to the ceremony, Oren said, “Though it may be hard to fulfill your dreams immediately, right now, graduating into tough times ac-tually has its benefits, in that it toughens you and steels you. To tell them ‘hey, go out and live your dreams right now’ would be frivolous.” 

So naturally, in the beginning of the commencement address, he advised that giving a rosy speech at the ceremony “is dif-ficult.” Instead, he instructed the graduates to tough it out. “Your dreams should never be aban-doned, but they may have to be delayed.”

Oren continued, “I had one dream! I wanted to become Is-rael’s Ambassador to the United States. It only took me for 40 years to get there…it won’t take you that long. Stick to it.”

Oren also focused on the Great Depression. He explained that 80 years ago, America was at the height of it, and a generation of Americans took on that state of the world and turned it around, making them “the greatest gen-eration.” His appreciation for his own parents was spoken of, his father who served in the Korean War and worked in construction, and mother who attended col-lege, became a teacher and later a family therapist. “We forget that those before us sacrificed so much, so that we could enjoy life,” he said. 

In closing, Oren said, “You are the ones who are going to have to tough it out. You will have to struggle perhaps, and you will have to take responsibility. You will be asked to give a great deal while learning not to expect or even ask much in return. But what you will receive, may not really fulfill your dreams, but ex-ceed them. What you may create is a world that’s a better one. This is a time to form your own his-toric legacy. This is your destiny, class of 2012… You will do all of that, and I assure you, you will be the newest, greatest generation.”

Dan Room, a recent graduate of finance, said the ambassador gave a very refreshing, intelli-gent and emotional speech. “Instead of telling our graduating class that the world is a place full of rainbows, he instead spoke of the stern economic times and the tough job market. However, he was very inspirational and said that we should never lose focus of our dreams and that through hard work, we will be the great-est generation America has ever seen.”

One of the two honorary de-gree recipients was Harry Po-zycki, chairman and founder of The Citizens Campaign, a vol-unteer civic empowerment group that educates people on changing their communities even if they are not elected officials. Pozycki also served as the University’s Public-Servant-in-Residence in 2007 and 2008. He is also re-sponsible for New Jersey’s anti-pay-to-play law.

Ambassador Israel Commencement 3Pozycki also gave a speech after the conferral of his de-gree. “I am deeply honored, and very humbled to be part of the Monmouth family.” He added a short anecdote about a Holocaust survivor, who believed that you can’t achieve the full venture of humanity without participating in your public arena. “Go forth and serve the citizen leaders, and make the Monmouth University community an example that in-spires all Americans.”

Robert B. Sculthorpe, chair-man of the Board of Trustees, made a few remarks to the 451 graduates in the MAC. “We wish you success and fulfill-ment, as you set out to realize your full potential and utilize the talents you have developed at Monmouth. I have confidence in you, our Monmouth University graduates. While we’re saying goodbye to you today, remember you will always be part of the Monmouth family. And we hope that you remain involved with your alma mater and return of-ten. Good luck to you all, we will miss you…until we meet again.”