Good afternoon.

I am so excited and thankful that Dr. Burger extended the invitation to be here to help welcome you to the Southwestern Community –to the Southwestern family.

This is such an exciting and transformational time at Southwestern. And Dr. Burger isn’t just taking Southwestern to the next level. He’s taking SU to another dimension.

I had the good fortune of visiting with Dr. Burger when he was in Los Angeles earlier this year. During our visit he was telling me about some of the plans that he has for all of you. He talked about the new course offerings, the improved places to congregate and create dialogue, and other physical enhancements to the campus.  And if I am honest, as I listened to him speak, my excitement quickly went to just a wee bit of jealousy.

I actually had to catch myself as I had thoughts of *WE* didn’t have *THAT* when I was there.

Wifi? We had dial up

…football? Football? Look at me! Do you know what a beast I would have been out there?

It is amazing how life can bring you back to places. As my wife and I were preparing to leave Los Angeles to come here, it dawned on me that it was almost 20 years ago to the day that I set off on the exact same journey that you are on –Not knowing what the next four years would bring.

They say that your college years are “Some of the best years of your life” but I think it is only in hindsight that you can truly appreciate this.

And I think that is why your choice of attending Southwestern is truly one of the best decisions you could have made.

Southwestern will teach you how to learn, how to think, and how to be confident about who you are. I know, because that’s what Southwestern did for me.

As you get deeper into the semester, you are going to meet some wonderful people. You will meet Professors like Dr. Eric Selbin, who will teach you how to write and think critically.

You will meet people like Dr. Sherry Adrian who will not only teach you that you are exceptional, but that there are exceptional people all around you. And that rather than look at differences with a critical eye, that you should embrace them.

I recently read Rick Warren’s book “What on Earth am I here for?” And in thinking about what I wanted to share with you this afternoon, I kept coming back to the word SIGNIFICANCE.

In the book Warren challenges the reader to think about their true purpose. He also talks about the answer to one of life’s most important questions: The question of significance –Does my life matter?

In everything that I do, I try to have significance. I want my time here on this earth to matter. Every day I think about the lives that I can impact.

And as you settle in to campus life, I challenge you to not only have success in the classroom, but to be significant to this campus community. Your time here should matter, and when you leave, people should remember that you were at Southwestern.

They say that no good speech is complete without a list, so here are nine things I want to leave with you:

1. Be humble: As I read the statistics about you, you all are one of the most impressive incoming classes of first years and transfers to grace this campus. So be humble. The majority of you placed in the top of your class. You are a big deal –but look at the person to your right and left. They are a big deal too. You all are a group of remarkable individuals. And because you all are so remarkable, the value of a Southwestern degree continues to increase. So thank you…

2. Don’t take this opportunity for granted: Many of you are the first in your family to go to college. You are doing things that your family…your parents and grandparents, perhaps, only dreamed of. Make them proud. And let them know that your success is their success.

3. Work hard, but play hard too: Your primary job is to learn and get good grades. But also make time to have some fun along way. There are wonderful experiences beyond the classroom to take advantage of.

4. Put down the technology from time to time and just savor the moment. And really try to make new friends. Friending someone on facebook or being connected via linked in is not the same thing. It’s just not. Some of my best friends in this world are people I met here at SU. Many during orientation weekend. We still talk regularly and have been there for each other’s weddings, births of kids, and other important milestones. You will make lifelong friendships here.

5. Broaden your horizons: When I was on campus, I tried to take advantage of every opportunity that I could. I studied abroad, played an intercollegiate sport, and volunteered for campus activities, etc. Make sure that you open yourself up for opportunities that may come your way.

6. Make sure that you call your parents. Don’t text or e-mail them. Call them. And if they call you, don’t send them to voicemail.

And while today is about the students, I do want to say to the parents that you (and your money) have made an excellent choice. Know that your student is going to be getting a world class education in a safe and supportive environment. While leaving in the next day or so may be harder than when you took the training wheels off that first bicycle, know that the sacrifices that you have made to get them to this point will all be worth it when you are back in this exact same space in a few years to celebrate their graduation.

7. I’ve heard that this quote has been attributed to everyone from FDR, to Churchill, to Voltaire, but for our purposes I’m going to attribute this to Uncle Ben in the Spiderman movie: “With great power comes great responsibility.” College will give the majority of you more freedom than you have ever had. And that freedom needs to be met with responsibility. Make good choices. Remember the morals and values that you came here with. And in times of conflict, focus less on who is right, but focus on what is right.

8. Have honest conversations. Engage in open and honest dialogue and learn about your differences. Leverage them to educate and build. There will be times in life and even during your SU experience where you may feel like you are the only one who is going through something. In the classroom or in a social setting, you could very well be the only one of your ethnic group, or gender, or age, or sexual orientation. You could be the only one from your home state, or country, or the only one with a certain religious or political view. Take pride in knowing that you are in a place where you will be respected and accepted. Share your differences and talk about what makes you…you. Tear down walls. Don’t build them. Your collective differences and opinions are what make this university great.

And finally:

9. Remember that your campus community is bigger than Southwestern.

There are young people right here in the Georgetown community that one day hope to be in your shoes. Be their connection to this campus. Be the bridge, be the rope that pulls them up and gets them here.

There are also non-profits and other organizations in this city who need you. They could greatly benefit from your time, your talents, and your treasure. Look for opportunities. Look for needs. And meet them.

You have before you the opportunity to learn a variety of skills that will prepare you for the future. And as the next generation of leaders, we need you! We need you to teach. We need you in the Board Rooms, and in the Court Rooms. We need you in the hospitals, in the laboratories, and in other places of leadership across the public, private, and non-profit sectors. And remember we don’t just need you to live lives of success. We need you to live lives that are significant.

Take advantage of every opportunity that this campus has to offer

Have a wonderful first day of classes and a terrific year.

Thank you and God bless you all…