President Johnson, Esteemed Colleagues, and Students,
This is my favorite day of the year. For academics like my colleagues and me it is the Fall semester, not January 1st, that represents a fresh beginning. New beginnings like the one today give us the chance to reinvent ourselves - not to become less like ourselves, but to discover, cultivate, and become more --and hopefully better versions of --ourselves.
One thing I like to do each year is to focus on a habit or character trait that helps me make the most of every day. Recently, I've been giving some thought to the value of intellectual humility. In other words, the recognition and maybe even the embracing, of our own cognitive limitations.
I've heard President Johnson say on several occasions, "We don't know what we don't know." I like this because it reminds us to be intellectually humble. Your professors, and my colleagues, will most certainly agree with Albert Einstein who said, "The more I learn, the more I realize how much I don't know." **This is the essence of being life-long learners. And this is what we here, at Western New England University, believe is the foundation for life-long success and fulfillment.
Here are some weird facts that remind me to be intellectually humble. More than 99% of an atom is made of empty space. If we removed the empty spaces between the electrons, protons and neutrons making up each atom in your body, you would be the size of a sugar cube. A very heavy sugar cube. Mantis shrimp can see a range of colors we can't imagine and even detect ultraviolet light. We all know that a dog's sense of smell is many 10s of 1000s of times better than ours. They can actually smell events.
There are a lot of things that we, as human beings, are physically incapable of seeing, hearing, knowing. But there is no telling what we are ultimately capable of, when we step outside of ourselves for even a moment, when we let our minds be blown every now and then, and when we are being intellectually humble. When we realize our limitations, we open ourselves up to potential. We begin to ask questions that haven't been asked yet. We start to see the problems in the world that no one has bothered to address. And we become the ones who find the solutions to those problems. You are all part of a great adventure; a journey of exploration, discovery, and learning. Western New England is grateful to have you, and together we will contribute to create value for ourselves, our communities, and the world that we live in.
I can't wait to see what you are going to do with this year. Welcome to the class of 2025, and a warm welcome back to everyone.