2021 Commencement Address

2021 Commencement Address


May 2021 Commencement

President Sanford Commencement Address

Your Excellency, and Chancellor of the University of Dallas, Most Reverend Bishop Edward J. Burns; Chair of the Board of Trustees Richard Husseini; your Excellencies, Most Reverend Bishop Gregory Kelly, Bishop Mark Seitz, and Bishop Joseph Strickland; Your Excellency, and our commencement speaker, Archbishop Bashar Matti Warda; members of the Board of Trustees; University Chaplain Fr. Thomas More Barba, OP; Rome Chaplain, Msgr. Thomas Fucinaro; the esteemed faculty of the University of Dallas; parents, grandparents, friends and other relatives; and last, but certainly not least, the graduating class of 2021; what a delight it is to stand before you this morning.

We have many reasons to rejoice! Not only are we gathered together to celebrate your achievements, but we are really, truly, and actually gathered together—at least most of us are, and please allow me to give a special word of welcome to those who are participating virtually.

We have come through a tremendously trying time. We have endured in the face of genuine difficulties. We gather to celebrate the achievements of our graduates for having run the race of their rigorous education well, for having fought the good fight and won the crown of their degrees. But, this extraordinary moment is not simply one of celebrating our graduates. It is no diminishment of their achievement to note that it would not have been possible without the extraordinary sacrifices of parents, grandparents, spouses, and siblings, providing critical support throughout the time of focused study. In any year, staff, faculty, and trustees of the university play essential roles in creating the environment in which genuine learning can occur. But this last year, more than any other, has seen extraordinary service rendered by all those dedicated to providing a University of Dallas education. Our faculty especially deserves our thanks—one simply cannot overestimate the remarkable sacrifices they have made in providing the very best of educations even under the exigencies of COVID. Thank you! Indeed, this is a moment in which we all rejoice.

At the recent Honors Convocation for graduating seniors I focused on how, though forced upon us, the virtues of patience and perseverance, both of which are elements of the virtue of courage, have been planted in our souls. I want to encourage our graduates to continue to develop these virtues. They will enable you to endure the many trials of your life, whether those be the vagaries of the job market, the joys and challenges of raising a family, the faithful living out of a religious vocation, or discernment about how best to live out your responsibility to exercise responsible citizenship. We have all suffered under COVID and its management, but from that suffering, genuine wisdom can indeed be cultivated. If, that is, we strive to learn what lessons we can from what we have been through.

Endurance, trials, suffering; these terms mark the struggles we have been through and the difficulties we have borne. But, let us turn from these terms of strife for a moment to remind ourselves of what it is that makes them meaningful. For, ours has not been a fruitless suffering, but one dedicated to the fundamental goods of education.
The University of Dallas is a community of learners. Our purpose is to cultivate truth, wisdom and virtue. That is why we exist. These are the fundamental goods of education.

What is truth? Truth is a matter of communion between your very soul and some object about which you inquire. This communion is not achieved through a downloading of information, as though we are some sort of repositories of facts like encyclopedias or computers. We are thinkers. We have learned to think for ourselves. We have learned to think for ourselves by asking questions, testing, experimenting, imagining, creating, performing, arguing, wrestling with case studies, pulling things apart and putting them back together, reflecting, and ultimately listening to things as they reveal themselves to us. It is through these processes that we eventually come to hold onto, to grasp, to possess, truths about things in such a way that they become parts of our very selves.

What is wisdom? Wisdom is a combination of understanding things as they are and being able to demonstrate them. Wisdom grows as our possession of truths grow, as we come to be shaped by those truths, and put ourselves to the test time and again of explaining those truths to others and being tested by others to refine them still further. Ultimately, wisdom rises to reflection on the greatest of all things. We know from both reason and faith that that is ultimately the source of all truth and wisdom, God himself. It is God who is the source of all truth and the object of all wisdom. All that is has its source in God, and each of our worthy endeavors reach their fulfilment insofar as they make manifest the greater glory of God, as encapsulated in that exhortation St. Ignatius made famous, Ad maiorem Dei gloriam.

What is virtue? A virtue is a honed disposition that makes us better human beings and enables us to do those things human beings ought to do well. There are both virtues of the mind and virtues of character. The highest virtue of the mind is in fact wisdom, and one facet of wisdom is its application in discerning how we should act. It is in action that the virtues of character are most required. We ought not merely to wish to be good, to be courageous, to be honest, to be just; rather, we are ordered and fulfilled in our humanity through in fact acting courageously, honestly, and justly. We become more the selves we are called to be through exercising the virtues, and thus make sense of our lives, that is live meaningfully, by contributing to the good of others, whether that be through work in business, medicine, ministry, research, teaching, policy making, raising a family, or any of the many other walks of life you will find yourselves in.

Your cultivation of the goods of education has not been concluded with the reception of your degrees. Far from it! These are goods worthy of a lifetime of pursuit. These are goods most deserving of your continued attention. You cannot exhaust these goods, and in your further acquisition of them, you will not deprive others of their possession. Far from it! You, and all those with whom you interact, will be the beneficiaries of this quest which ought to be the defining feature of your life, no matter what your occupation or other life circumstances.

Veritatem, Justitiam Diligite: These are the words surrounding the top of the University of Dallas seal, and comprise UD’s motto. These are words meant to encapsulate the point and purpose of your education. These are words to guide you. Love Truth. Love Justice. It is worth noting that diligite, the Latin word for “love” and “seek diligently”, is a command.

The command the University of Dallas issues to all its sons and daughters is not a diversion from your pursuit of a life well-lived, it is rather a guide to the achievement of your life-quest. Since knowledge is a personal encounter with the truth of things, you become more yourself the more you cultivate knowledge in pursuit of wisdom. Since putting your life at the service of others is a fulfilment of your human nature, you become more yourself the more you cultivate justice. We want you to be happy, and the path to happiness is the love and pursuit of truth and justice. We also hope you want strive to do great and glorious things, to cultivate the virtue of magnanimity.

In living magnanimously, you will love truth and justice well, becoming who you are called to be. We are eager to see you come into your own and set this world ablaze with your great and good life and works, and, in doing so, through your efforts and God’s grace, to establish your eternal home in the Kingdom of Heaven. This is our greatest hope and most heart-felt prayer for you. Thank you for persevering through these challenging times. Thank you for braving distance and a pandemic to celebrate this day together. Kudos on your tremendous accomplishment. Know that you always have a home with your alma mater.