Valedictory Speakers

Hansen, John

Dr Bannister, Faculty, Friends, Classmates, Hannah and Tony, my wife of 26 years – Toi, Aloha kakou. 

What an absolute joy and honor it is to be here with you all tonight. This is your day. Our day. Throughout your life this is the only day where you are graduating with this degree from this great university. Take it in. Enjoy the uniqueness of this moment. Close your eyes and imagine the joy of your families and friends; joy mixed perhaps with relief and maybe even amazement?

I sincerely thank the HPU staff and faculty for giving me a few minutes at the podium. This is a great opportunity for an old guy to share some thoughts. So here’s my first point: leadership.

I think tonight represents one of two key components we need for leadership within the professions to which we now aspire. Tonight we collectively, publicly, officially recognize qualities of intellect – the first component. Beyond tonight we individually hone qualities of character – the second.  We hone qualities of compassion, empathy, and integrity. These are powerful qualities that we need in order to truly connect with each other.  The fact is they are essential to any profession. They are essential to business and other private sector vocations, to government, to teaching (perhaps more than a few of us are hoping for a little compassion and empathy as finals and papers are even now being graded).

We Diplomacy and Military Studies graduates leave here with a special appreciation of the need these qualities as we charge forth with brains full of strategy, policy, and a sensing of the art and science of the nuanced realm of thoughtful discussions that can succeed or fail on perceptions and relationships. Our studies have underscored this reality: a heart full of deference and humility, patience and friendship is a nice complement to a brain full of brilliance. 

I have found over the past few decades that people generally don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. This may be simplistic perhaps, but when it comes to treating others with dignity and respect – and thereby achieving real results in whatever you do – simple and earnest works.

So, aspire to leadership as you move on.

I am older than most all of you, and more than a few of our professors as well. So here’s my parting point: keep raising the bar for how much you are willing to try to understand, and to learn. We can do that within magnificent universities like HPU. 

And, we can keep raising the bar on our own (that’s a bit harder because it depends on self-discipline). But, do it! The minute we stop seeking greater clarity in answer to that intriguing and universal question – WHY? – is when we have intellectually given up. Keep pushing, keep wondering, keep learning.

This moment tonight – this commencement – is yet another beginning in a series of beginnings that shape life. The excitement is not that you all have excelled and achieved significantly, for you have indeed. The real excitement is that you will take on new challenges, and I am so very proud and excited myself to be among you.

May God bless you and keep you all.

Mahalo nui loa.