Congratulations to our President and CEO, Bill Gertz, who last week, received an honorary Doctorate in International Relations in recognition of his commitment to education and internationalism. He spoke at a graduation ceremony and shared some wisdom from his years of working in international exchange. What has he learned and what is his advice? Read on.
Forty years ago I received my Bachelor’s Degree from SUNY Binghamton in upstate New York.
Unlike all of you standing here today, I had never been outside of my comfort zone. I had never left the northeastern United States, never met people from other countries or learned about other cultures. I had led a pretty sheltered life.
That all changed for me the summer after graduation – this summer for all of you. I flew from New York to Amsterdam and began my 40 year adventure. I backpacked through Europe for two months, sleeping in parks and hostels, riding the rails while looking out the window watching the world go by.
I learned two things that summer after graduation. First, I could handle life on my own, I had finally grown up. And second, I never wanted to stop experiencing life on the road. So, I took a job at an international education organization which led to my current role as President and CEO of the American Institute For Foreign Study.
Forty years after my first trip abroad, I love my work more than ever. I love airports and airlines. I love meeting people from all over the world, I love late night conversations about poIitics and music, I love tasting new food and having new experiences. I love the look of Euros and Pounds. I even love the smell of foreign cigarettes and railway stations.
My years in college taught me how to think critically and how to write. This and a sense of humor is all you need to succeed in our crazy world. And a little bit of love, of course. And family.
I hope all of you have learned some important life lessons [here]. Certainly you have met people from all over the world and now have a deeper understanding of our global society than you had when you began your studies.
The world is a crazy place but now you have the opportunity to put your personal imprint upon it. Do it and don’t look back. Ever.
I sincerely hope you change the world before the world changes you, which invariably it will. Stay focused and stay committed to yourself.