Glorious to View (Full Version)


[MUSIC PLAYING] I grew up in a tiny little town
that nobody’s ever heard of, and then I went to Cornell. I met people from all
over the world, people of all different backgrounds. I was among them and
learning from them. Coming here, sometimes you
think you know everything. Cornell quickly teaches
you that you don’t. And I think it’s a
beautiful struggle we have as human
beings, wanting to know so much about the world around
us, to be hungry for knowledge. Not just knowledge,
but the application of that knowledge in a way that
is impactful in people’s lives. The gorges, the waterfalls,
to me, the campus is a metaphor for
never-ending processes of evolution, transformation. Novelty is always
around the corner. There’s always an opportunity
to challenge oneself, whether that’s physically,
socially, or intellectually. When I teach, one
of those things that I hope my students get is
this curiosity that drives us. The questions we
ask keep changing, and they’re really important. Being able to be in a
classroom environment where you get all of those
different perspectives has been really great
for me in molding a sort of intellectual nuance. The difficult
questions, those are the ones that, for me,
are most worth pursuing. Elite and egalitarian. The sense of excellence,
but also the sense of, we accept the common person. We’re a space where
everybody can belong. That was true right
from the beginning. Cornell’s freshman
class was 1868. The very next year, the
first of African heritage was enrolled, and the year
after that, the first woman. This was not something
that was common in American universities. I’m just so proud to be
part of the Cornell story. I feel that when we teach,
that we what we do is, we open up in the
students’ minds the capability to reason
and to seek out knowledge, and to gather in knowledge
a capability that was always in them. We are enabling, rather
than teaching facts. Being a critical thinker,
knowing what questions to ask, knowing how
to write a story, those are all skills
that I honed at Cornell. I was a very idealistic
student, and this place adopted me, readily. I took a seminar with Walter
LaFeber on US-Japan relations, and I just remember
him spending time with his undergraduate
students, and meeting with us. He had us come in and talk
to him about how our term papers were going, and his
grad students were all out waiting in line
out in the hallway, and you couldn’t pull him
away from the undergraduates. And I think that’s unusual for
a large research university. Cornell had, I suppose it still
does, a tremendous faculty. I think I would have to rate
number one, Vladimir Nabokov. That man changed the way I read. He changed the way I write. Even when I’m
drafting an opinion, thinking how the word order
should go, I remember him. And I can still hear
things that he said. Carl Sagan was an
astronomer here at Cornell. In addition to being
a great scientist, one of his other passions was
to share this fascination, not only with us students, but
also with the general public. His legacy and his
fascination for the Universe has inspired a whole generation
of scientists, among them, me. [MUSIC PLAYING] When I was an
undergraduate, there was a course catalog that
was as thick as a phone book. And I remember being
really excited when I got my hands on
that thing, thinking, I’m not going to take a
fraction of these classes. But it was just cool
to flick through it and think that, I’m
walking around this campus and while I’m studying
philosophy or creative writing, there’s somebody taking an
industrial labor relations class, there’s somebody
doing veterinary medicine, there’s somebody working on
architecture, all right here. As Cornell said, I would
found an institution where any person can receive
instruction in any study, is something that’s very
much alive, day-to-day here. There’s a respect
that’s implied by that. All the different parts of
study have merit and insights to give each other, that
we’re all stronger by having any person any study, the mix. I am interested in science,
and physics, and astronomy. Before I was hired, one
of the first people who I met with Roald Hoffmann. And I really thought,
wow, here’s somewhere that’s going to be a
really cool place to work, if I get to hang out with this
Nobel Prize-winning scientist, and have conversations
with him about poetry. Any person can find
instruction in any study or whatever it is, right? It was a laudable
goal, and you’re not going to achieve it completely,
but damn, they’ve come close, you know? When A.D. White was
helping Ezra Cornell, he talked about founding
a university that would make the most
highly-prized instruction available to anyone,
regardless of sex or color. And he said that
in 1862, when there was a war being fought over
whether one human being could own another human being
because of their coloring, and when women couldn’t own
property if they were married, and couldn’t vote. The inclusion of things like
engineering and agriculture in the founding vision of
the university, I think, really grounded that
unpretentiousness, the practical concerns. It’s an elite school, but
it’s an inclusive school at the same time, and it lacks
the sort of pretentious air of other elite institutions. And I think, really gives
it a distinctive identity, a distinctive culture that
I find very appealing. The idea that you should
be able to come to Cornell even if your family can’t
afford Cornell’s tuition is just something
that’s cherished here. And I think we’ve done an
excellent job, relative to peer institutions, of
being able to do that. In my last year at Cornell,
I took only music and art courses. It was a wonderful education. You never feel like you’re
siloed into your major. There’s a lot of encouragement
to really connect with people in a different
discipline then you. And when I first came
here, I basically front-loaded with
computer science classes. I knew I wanted to do computer
science when I came here. But also the scheme
design class. Then after that class,
I was able to take a lot of other classes, like
art, lighting, and music. I would actually
consider myself, kind of, more of a designer now
than more of a tech person. Even though I know
the tech very well, I think a lot of
my strengths are being able to merge the two. Last semester, I was
taking a sociology seminar on Mass Incarceration
in the Family. And the fact that I was
able to sit in a classroom with one of the
leading scholars, or I’m taking a creative
writing class this semester that’s similarly taught
by, sort of, a leading poet in the country,
just being able to do that on a regular basis
is pretty incredible. There are a handful
places in the world, and Cornell’s one of
them, where you can go, and everywhere
you turn, you find people doing stuff that’s just
at the cutting edge of what humanity is achieving. I’m not talking just about
within the realm of academia. I’m talking about, broadly,
the human enterprise. This is a very tightly-knit
community of collaborative, interacting people from
Ithaca to New York City. And there’s been no other
time like this in history. We are at a unique
time, where we are beginning to
understand enough about the molecular mechanism
by which diseases like cancer occur, that we can
intervene with knowledge of fixing what’s wrong. New York City has so
much more than just tech. And I think it’s the
integration of the tech into that energy or everything
else that’s really powerful. I think Cornell’s going to be
the major educational presence in New York City
a decade from now, and we’re so proud
to be part of that. What happened to me
at Cornell created my career, my whole persona. Because I was a science
major, with kind of a minor in journalism,
I had a unique background. And that background
enabled me to get a job as a full-time science
writer at the New York Times when I was 24-years-old. I’m really interested in
Latin America right now, and I’ve been to take all these
classes in arts and sciences, and do a minor in
Latin American studies. The end goal isn’t
always the job. The end goal, I think, at
Cornell, which is really great, is how to enrich
yourself and how to keep learning, even after
you graduate, in the field that you go into. Cornell giving you
the tools to be able to develop a career
based off of something that you really, really
love, and be successful at that, that’s really the best. It’s like, what else
can you ask for? [MUSIC PLAYING] [LAUGHING AND YELLING] It’s snowing. [SNOW BEING PLOWED] [SNOW BEING SHOVELED] [INSPIRATIONAL MUSIC PLAYING] I took a freshman writing
seminar my very first semester at Cornell, and my
professor told me, don’t let your education
limit your education, meaning that, not to let
my classes here at Cornell limit my holistic education. Because there’s so
many opportunities outside of the classroom. In order to prepare our students
to face life after school, I think it’s very
important for them not only to have classmates who
are from other cultures, but for them to
go and really get a meaningful
international experience. Not spending a few
days in London or Paris looking museums, I mean,
really getting down there, out of their comfort zone. I’m the team lead for AguaClara. AguaClara is a
program that’s focused on providing sustainable, clean
drinking water to communities everywhere throughout the globe. So we’re currently serving
about 40,000 people in Honduras, and we just have
three new filters that are working in India now. We’re a program that is
actually doing something really significant in value. It’s something that
I found at Cornell, and it’s just become
the most fulfilling part of my Cornell experience
and my Cornell journey. What we learn here,
and what we do here, and what we discover here is
much bigger than ourselves. To have deep understandings
of the places that our knowledge and
discovery can be useful, to listen really
carefully, to what are the needs of the
world, and how can we respond to those creatively? All of that happens when
students and faculty are put in situations of
relating and interacting with the world, whether
internationally, locally, through an
internship, or a service project, or some kind
of creative project, research, policy engagements,
business partnerships, working on issues of sustainable
development in a community, that kind of learning
that combines the world and the
best of the Academy is truly exciting
and transformative for our students. I’m thinking of all these
Cornell experiences, Slope Day, watching the dragon, being
in Collegetown, meeting and making some of the
best friends in my life. Like every parent, you have to
use reverse psychology to get your kids to do something. So we would never
tell our daughter that you should go to Cornell. If anything, we’d
say, hey, you should go to a school near home. And then my wife brought her
on a college tour out East, and our daughter just
fell in love with Cornell. And, you know, it has
to come from inside. It came to her from herself. She just loved this place,
she loved the visit, and she felt that there
was something special in the atmosphere. That nurturing environment
that I had experienced, she felt it from inside. And by herself, said,
Dad, if I get in, that’s where I would like to go. There’s a special
connection between me and every single
student on campus, because they’re a part
of the Cornell family, and that’s what I’m a part of. And I’m always going
to be a Cornellian, and that’s something
really special. [INSPIRATIONAL MUSIC PLAYING] [CROWD CHEERS] What a performance. Cornell to the Sweet 16! Let’s go back to Greg
Gumbel in New York. [INSPIRATIONAL MUSIC CONTINUES] [MUSIC – B.O.B., “AIRPLANES”] Hello, Cornell. Ed Helms here, excited
to wish you a very happy sesqui-sem-senial, sesquicen– A very Happy Birthday, and best
wishes for the next 150 years. Sesquin-tren-tenial? Ses– Happy Birthday, Cornell! Happy birthday! Happy birthday! Happy Birthday! Happy Birthday, Cornell! Saskachew-is-wan. Happy Birthday, Cornell! Happy Birthday, Cornell! Cornell, Happy Birthday! Happy Birthday, Cornell! Argh! (SINGING) This is
your birthday song. [LAUGHTER] And may you live
many more centuries. Happy Birthday. [MUSIC PLAYING]

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