Full Address: http://www.princeton.edu/president/speeches/20120909/
Opening Exercises is one of the truly joyous occasions at Princeton because it marks the beginning of a great adventure—your great adventure. At this moment in your Princeton education everything is possible—every door stands open, every dream has the potential to come true. You are about to Occupy Princeton.
Now don’t panic—I don’t mean to suggest that you are going to live in a soggy pup tent on Cannon Green for the next four years. Instead, I am co-opting that phrase from last year’s political season to preview what I hope will be the many ways in which you will seize the moment, take this University by storm, make it uniquely your own, and leave it better than you found it.
But whatever your path to Princeton, you are now a member of the Class of 2016, collectively poised to Occupy Princeton for the next four years. As I warn each freshman class, the next four years are going to go by in the blink of an eye. If you do not believe me, ask any member of the senior class. That look of panic in their eyes is not solely brought on by the fact that they are still struggling to find a topic for their senior theses. It also reflects their realization that there is a light looming at the end of the tunnel, and they have just one more year to savor and extract the full worth of this place.
As you know, the Occupy movement began last fall in Zuccotti Park near Wall Street in New York as a protest against the growing inequality in income and opportunity in the U.S. and in many other countries around the world. The movement’s rallying cry was “We are the 99 percent,” to underscore the point that the widening gap in wealth is benefiting a very small percentage of the population. With your matriculation at Princeton, and irrespective of your family circumstances up to this moment, you have now become part of the 1 percent, not in terms of wealth, but certainly in terms of future opportunity. Admission to Princeton is a privilege that is bestowed on very few individuals, and with it comes a responsibility to use your education to make the world a better place. “Princeton in the Nation’s Service and the Service of all Nations” is not a hollow phrase, but a call to action that justifies the immense effort and resources that go into educating each of you. By virtue of that education, and the credential you will earn that signals to the world that you have worked prodigiously hard to pass a very high educational bar, you will have a dizzying array of options before you. We are agnostic about what you choose to do, but we do insist that it have a purpose that is larger than you. In that sense, Occupying Princeton is not an end in itself but, rather, a means of preparing yourselves for many occupations—and vocations—in a world that sorely needs the skills and qualities of mind you bring to this University and will enhance over the next four years.