(upbeat music) (applause) (cheering)
(background chatter) (Pomp and Circumstance playing) (applause) – Welcome everyone. Please join me in the spirit
of prayer for our invocation. On this beautiful evening, which marks both the
beginning of the academic year as well as the advent of
many new collegiate journeys, we pray, oh gracious one,
especially for this wonderful group of individuals whom you
have blessed our campus with and we pray for their time here at the University
of Pennsylvania. May they walk way
from insecurity and instead robe
themselves in peace and love motivated
collegiate pursuits. May they shake off the
need to impress others and instead wear
humility and be driven by a desire to bring
about positive change. May they lay down
trophies of busyness and instead be very present,
choosing joy along the way and may they silence
any voices within that may whisper, “I
don’t belong here,” and instead hear very
clearly the message from Dean Furda and his
team in admissions that says, “We chose you and
we have made no mistakes.” Bless them. We pray that you will use
them to bless our university, our community and our world. Amen. – [Audience] Amen. – Please be seated. – Thank you, Reverend. Penn 20, let’s hear it! (cheering) And not to be outdone, where
are my transfer students? (cheering) You’re all gonna make an impact. I’m Eric Furda, Penn’s
Dean of Admissions, and a graduate of the
great class of 1987. On behalf of the entire
Penn admissions staff, who spent months getting
to know you individually through your essays,
your recommendations, and your Penn alumni interview, tonight we are proud to see
you all sitting together, smiling, I can see
all of you, smiling. Collectively, you all are
going to make an impact in the communities in
which you purposefully engage your passions. As educators, we know
that your Penn experience will be at times joyous and, at other moments,
quite challenging. Over the weeks, months,
and years ahead, take care of yourself. I’m a parent here. All right? Take care of yourself. Take care of each other and take advantage of
all of the resources around you on this
beautiful campus. You will all eventually
find your own way and thrive at Penn and in the
great city of Philadelphia. Remember that, along
the way, you can always find a familiar face
along this path of Locust Walk, traveled by generations
of Penn alumni. I’m now pleased
to officially pass this Penn relay baton,
representing all of you, the class of 20 and transfers,
into the caring hands of our president, Amy Gutmann. (cheering and applause) – Thank you, Dean Furda. Let’s hear it for Dean Furda
and the wise decisions he made. (cheering) So members of the class
of 2020, welcome to Penn. Let’s hear it. (cheering) Those of you who have
transferred from other schools, home at last! Smart move! Where are you, transfers? (cheering) So you’ve chosen to come to Penn from all across the country and from every
corner of the world. From New York,
(cheering) to California.
(cheering) From Texas,
(cheering) to Maine.
(cheering) There. From all across Pennsylvania,
(cheering) to the great city
which I call home, Philadelphia.
(cheering). And from Canada and Mexico.
(cheering) Argentina and Brazil.
(cheering) Egypt and Poland.
(cheering) China, India, and
the United Kingdom. 81 countries in all. We’re thrilled you’re all here. Tonight I am delighted
to officially induct you into a grand tradition that
goes back more than 275 years. It includes luminaries,
ranging from our own, our great friend,
Benjamin Franklin, in my office, I always
have his back here, to our luminaries
such as our vice chair of our trustees,
Andrea Mitchell, and our honorary degree
recipient, John Legend. We count, yeah, we can give
it up for John and Andrea. (cheering) We count eight signers of the
Declaration of Independence and nine signers of
the US Constitution. That is an amazing tradition and now this time honored
tradition includes you. Choosing to come to Penn
was one of the most weighty and one of the best decisions
you made in your life and one of the best decisions
you’ll ever make in your life. Okay, so I’m no impartial,
right, but I am correct. You have chosen well. Although you arrive
at Penn having walked from many
different paths, you’re all here because each
of you, yourselves, chose Penn. It is true, we gave
you the choice, but in the end it was
you who chose Penn, but you didn’t choose alone. I want to see a show of hands. How many of you
learned about Penn from a member of your
family or a friend? Put up your hands if a member
of your family or friend told you about Penn. Okay, keep your hands up. Keep them up. How many of you became
interested in Penn because of a teacher or a
guidance counselor or a mentor? Also, hands up. Okay. How about a coach? Anybody, coach? Okay, take a moment. Keep the hands up. Up for a while. Just look at how
many hands are up. Now you can put your hands down. Here you thought
the days of raising your hand are over, right? Not quite. So, here’s the point. Coming to Penn was
your own choice, but for a vast majority of
you it was a mediated choice. You made it with
the aid of others. Now, one more quick question. Raise your hand if
you let someone else make your choice
of Penn for you. (laughing) Well, maybe not so
many this time, right? This little exercise
goes to show something that I hope you
take to heart today and you hold onto always. It’s a simple, but
profound lesson. As adults, decisions
are our own. We make our own choices, but our choosing well,
our choosing wisely is hardly ever something
we do all by ourselves. It takes a friend. It takes a mentor. It takes a family member. It takes a coach. It takes an advisor. It takes a teacher. It takes a community. It takes an extended family and that’s what you’re
joining here today. That’s why your peers,
seated all around you, and your RA’s and your
college house directors, that’s why the faculty
here, up here with me, and our staff colleagues
up here are so important. Now that you have arrived at the finest urban
campus in the world. (cheering) (chuckles) One great question looms. How will you choose to
make the best of it? And we’re going to start to
answer that question right now. There’s no time like the
present so please stand up. Go ahead. Stretch your legs. Stand up. Okay? So, coming to college
is about choosing anew and in that spirit, I want
you to choose somebody new, somebody near you who you
haven’t met before and say hi. Introduce yourself,
shake hands, say hello. Come on, now, no exceptions. Not even me. (background chatter) I see a lot of smiles. A lot of hi’s and that’s good. So this was a hands
on, handshake exercise about the uplifting
power of choice. No pun intended or excuse
it if it was intended. We just embrace the fact
that the best approach to uncertainty is to
buck the unfamiliar. Excuse me, to buck the familiar. To choose the unfamiliar. Right? Or to put it accurately, find your comfort zone
and then go beyond it. You’re comfortable in
your chairs and seated, so you found your comfort
zone but go beyond it. There’s something thrilling
about that exercise. How will you make the
most of your time at Penn? Choose something new. Choose someone new. The most thrilling choices, the choices that
add the most value, come from the unknown. They come when we choose
friends and classes, clubs and activities that
complement who we are becoming rather than merely reflect
who we have been before. We know ourselves,
to some extent, but we have to go
beyond who we are now to expand our horizons and to
become the best we we can be. Differences are the key. We realize the most out of
life when we reach beyond what’s familiar to
embrace something new. Case in point. Right after college,
a young man decided to follow his
passions and interests and forego more
lucrative alternatives. He joined a non-profit. He worked internationally
to bring eye care and inexpensive
glasses to people who made less than $4 a day. He built connections. He learned the ins and outs of the manufacturing
process for eyeglasses and he helped many thousands
of people along the way. Eventually, he came
to Penn for his MBA and one day while
commiserating with his friends about a lost pair of
expensive glasses, he had an idea and his
idea was as follows. It began with a question. Why are eyeglasses so expensive? And from that simple question
(truck engine) a series of further
questions arose. Can we be the
first to figure out how to cut the
cost of eyeglasses? Can we provide affordable
glasses to people who need them most but
can afford them the least? The most important
things in our life happen when we ask these kinds
of challenging questions, so together, he and his group
of friends hatched a plan and because of what Neil
Blumenthal had learned during his non-profit
days, he saw they could both create a
successful business and have the power to
achieve great social good and the company they
created is Warby Parker. Today, their idea has grown into a wildly
successful business that has provided more
than a million free pairs of new glasses to people
all around the world and maybe there’s somebody
here, even in this group, who’s wearing a pair
of Warby Parkers. Now, I chose Neil’s bold
choice to share with you because I also want to invite
you to be among the first to choose to join him and his
co-founder of Warby Parker on October 28th here
at the grand opening of our Pennovation Center. Come see the future of
innovative choices at Penn. This was not a random choice. This bold move by Warby
Parker began right here in a clutch of friends at
Penn and, on October 28th, we’re gonna celebrate
the Pennovation Center, which is open to
everybody and who knows? If you come, you may
even get your very own free pair of Warby
Parker sunglasses so, you’ll, October 28th. Mark your calendars. The most important developments
in our lives arise, like your Penn education
and Warby Parker, from a series of
individual choices, none of which are solitary. During your years at Penn, you will have so
many opportunities and you will make
so many choices. Take the fullest
advantage of Penn faculty, of mentors and friends,
to guide and assist you, to offer their
counsel, expertise, to
offer their support. Never, ever hesitate
to ask for help. Challenges come
with the territory and help is always at
hand when you need it. Your choices while at Penn
also importantly extend beyond what occurs
just here on campus. Branch out into West
Philadelphia and Philadelphia and, to take another
random, non-random example, there’s a very big
choice coming soon for every American
citizen on November 8th. I encourage every eligible
voter in the class of 2020 and our transfers to register and to cast your vote
in the upcoming election and for all of our
international students, can we hear it from our
international students? (cheering) Yes! I encourage you to
participate fully and robustly in our campus discussions
on the issues. These choices and
countless more to come are ultimately what joining our
Penn community is all about. Your choices matter. Your contributions to
our community count. Penn thrives because
we boldly self renew and as our newest members, your choices not only will
transform your own lives, your choices will
help shape the future of this amazingly dynamic
and caring university. So, seeing you all
here this evening, I have every reason to
be confident that, yes, Dean Furda and his
team chose well. We’re so very, very
happy that you are here so what I say in
conclusion is welcome and here’s to our Penn. Bravo. (cheering and applause) ♪ Do, do, do, do, doo, do, do ♪ Do, do, do, do, doo, do, do ♪ Do, do, do, do, doo, do, do ♪ Do, do, do, do, doo, do, do ♪ I had a dream so big and loud ♪ I jumped so high,
I touched the clouds ♪ Woah, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh ♪ Woah, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh ♪ I stretched my
hands up to the sky ♪ We danced with monsters
through the night ♪ Woah, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh ♪ Woah, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh ♪ I’m never gonna look back ♪ Woah ♪ I’m never gonna give it up ♪ No ♪ Please don’t wake me now ♪ Do, do, doo ♪ Do, do, doo ♪ This is gonna be the
best day of my life ♪ My life ♪ Oh, oh, oh, oh ♪ This is gonna be the
best day of my life ♪ My life ♪ I howled at the
moon with friends ♪ And then the sun
came crashing in ♪ Woah, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh ♪ Woah, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh ♪ But all the possibilities ♪ No limits, just epiphanies ♪ Woah, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh ♪ Woah, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh ♪ I’m never gonna look back ♪ Woah ♪ I’m never gonna give it up ♪ No ♪ Just don’t wake me now ♪ Oh, oh, oh, oh ♪ This is gonna be the
best day of my life ♪ My life ♪ Oh, oh, oh, oh ♪ This is gonna be the
best day of my life ♪ My life ♪ I hear it calling ♪ Outside my window ♪ I feel it in my soul ♪ Soul ♪ The stars are
burning so bright ♪ The sun was out till midnight ♪ I say we lose control ♪ Control ♪ Oh, oh, oh, oh ♪ This gonna be the
best day of my life ♪ My life ♪ Oh, oh, oh, oh ♪ This is gonna be the
best day of my life ♪ My life (cheering and applause) – As provost, I have
the great pleasure of welcoming you to Penn. To the countless things
you will learn here, let me add one more. What a provost is. (laughing) I am Penn’s Chief
Academic Officer and I’m also a professor
of communication in our Annenberg school. A few other fun facts. I am Penn’s 29th provost. Unlike William Smith,
Penn’s first provost, I was not personally recruited
by Benjamin Franklin. (laughing) And, unlike our first provost, I have never taught
my classes from jail. (laughing) And let me take just
a minute to explain. In 1758, Provost Smith,
who was brought here by Benjamin Franklin to
teach philosophy and logic was imprisoned by the
Pennsylvania State Assembly and he was housed in
the old jail that stood, at the time, at 3rd
and Market Streets. Franklin and Smith shared
a belief in the value of a broad based,
practical education with classes in English
as well as in Latin and in training for vocations
other than the clergy, which was a somewhat
radical notion for the time, but while they may have shared
an educational philosophy, they did not see eye
to eye politically. Franklin, as you know,
was a revolutionary. Smith was widely regarded
as a loyalist and, in fact, Smith was forced
to leave Philadelphia. The two men disagreed bitterly. They built walls, but those
walls became classrooms and those classrooms
became this university, an institution that has thrived
for nearly three centuries, longer than the nation itself and a community that thrives,
not despite our differences, but because of them. Now, why tell that
story tonight? I have two reasons. First, to illustrate
a lasting truth that successful
communities are built by those that work together
while still retaining their individualism,
their essence. And second, to
show that community does not mean uniformity
or even conformity. Here, you can become
whomever you wish and we promise, we’re not
gonna run you out of town. I’d like to talk
tonight about what it means to be
part of a community and the ways our community
shapes who we are and about what it means
to be simultaneously part of a group
and an individual, about standing together
and standing apart. Now, if you’re like I was,
you’re probably wondering exactly how you
will fit in here. Not long ago, the Huffington
Post asked seniors what they wished they knew
when they were first years and let me quote just
a few of the responses. “Get involved right away.” “Don’t be a bum.” “Dress in somewhat of
a presentable fashion.” (laughing) Which you have all
done this evening. “Don’t tell anyone you
like Justin Bieber.” (laughing) “It will ruin everything for you for three and a half years.” (laughing) Now, what do these words
of wisdom have in common? They focus on reaching out, on connecting, making
a good impression, becoming part of a
group, belonging. These are natural and
essential ingredients to a good, happy
and productive life. We are social animals. Belonging to groups is how we
realize and define who we are. As you consider
what groups to join and which classes to take, please move beyond
what’s comfortable. Choose classes
that seem a stretch and join groups
that seem different and if you don’t like what’s
offered, start a new group. Maybe a Bieber fan club. (laughing) One of the truly great things
about your situation tonight is that you are all new. Your past achievements
have brought you here but you are not
defined by your past. The admissions office
has seen your file, but to most of us you
are completely unknown. Penn is a place
for you to step out of those old social roles
and try on some new ones. It’s sort of like an audition
for your future self. And not just one audition. You can try out as many times as you like for
many different roles and you decide if
you get the part. Now, that comparison to acting
is more than metaphorical. Psychologists, many of
them, have concluded that the self is defined through our interaction with
others in groups and playing new roles can
be challenging at times. We all experience a little
stage fright now and again, but it can be and it
should be liberating and fun, so go for it. However, keep in mind that
is only half of the story. As you try on new roles, be
sure to nurture that deeper, personal self who is
you and you alone. Revolutionary or loyalist. What do I want? What do I think? What should I do? You will have hours
upon hours to read and to study on your own. Hours for introspection
and this, too, is one of the great and
rare things about college. Embrace that opportunity. And, by the way, focusing
on yourself also means staying healthy and
especially getting some sleep. I mean that, honestly. Get some sleep. Invigorated, we like. Exhausted, not so much. A final thought. All communities, this one
included, require trade offs. A balancing act between the
group and the individual. When do you lose
yourself in the crowd and when do you stand out in it? When do you emphasize
what’s common between us or what is uncommon? The result is that communities
naturally face a tension between the group
and the individual, between what we share
and what makes us unique. We hope, indeed, we
expect that you will share your talents, your
differences with us. We all succeed individually
and collectively because of those differences
and not despite them. Seek personal achievement, sure, but strive for
collective engagement. Improve yourself to
improve your community, this community, and the world. That was the vision of Benjamin
Franklin and William Smith almost three centuries ago and
it remains our vision today. Members of the class of
2020 and all new students, welcome to our community. Welcome to Penn. (applause) ♪ Do, do, do, do ♪ I was born by the
river in a little tent ♪ Oh and just like the river
I’ve been running ever since ♪ It’s been a long,
a long time coming ♪ But I know a change gonna come ♪ Oh yes it will ♪ It’s been too hard living
but I’m afraid to die ♪ Cause I don’t know what’s
up there beyond the sky ♪ It’s been a long, long,
long, a long time coming ♪ But I know, yes I know,
a change gonna come. ♪ Oh yes it will ♪ I go to the movie
and I go downtown ♪ Do, do, do, wah ♪ Somebody keeps on telling
me don’t hang around ♪ It’s been a long,
a long time coming ♪ But I know a change gonna come ♪ Oh yes it will ♪ Do, do, do, wah ♪ Then I go to my brother ♪ And I say brother
help me please ♪ But he winds up ♪ Knocking me, knocking me ♪ Just knocking ♪ Oh, do, do, do, do ♪ Back down on my knees ♪ Oh ♪ There been times that I
thought I couldn’t last for long ♪ But now I think
I’m able to carry on ♪ It’s been a long,
a long time coming ♪ But I know a change gonna come ♪ Oh yes it will (cheering and applause) – So where else
can you hear soul and blues mixed with doo wop. That was fabulous. Let’s hear it up for the
Sirens, the Penn Glee Club, and the Penn Band. (cheering) Woah! So now I’d like to ask our
senior class president, Darren Tomasso, to present
the flag of the class, the great class of 2020. It will proudly join the
flags of previous classes at official university events and future alumni celebrations. Darren, come on up. (cheering and applause) Beautiful. – Thank you. (applause) – So it’s now my great
honor and privilege to declare the start
of the 277th year of the University
of Pennsylvania. I look forward to joining
you in the journeys that will take
you all throughout what is to at offer at Penn, to see you make great choices
together and individually, and I also look forward to
something far more immediate. Dessert. (cheering)
So, yes (chuckles). You can give the biggest
round of applause for dessert, even before you have it, I
guarantee you it will be great. So, join me, right
after this ceremony, under the tent on Wynn
Commons behind College Hall, but before we process, I
want to ask you all, now, to please get up once
again and join together in singing the Penn
Anthem, “The Red and Blue”, which is printed on
the back of your passes if you don’t know it by heart. (“The Red and Blue” plays) ♪ Come, all ye
loyal classmen now ♪ In hall and campus through ♪ Lift up your
hearts and voices for ♪ The royal red and blue ♪ Fair Harvard has her crimson ♪ Old Yale her colors too ♪ But for dear Pennsylvania ♪ We wear the red and blue ♪ Hurrah, Hurrah, Pennsylvania ♪ Hurrah for the
red and the blue ♪ Hurrah, Hurrah, Hurrah, Hurrah ♪ Hurrah for the red and blue (cheering and applause) (“Pomp and Circumstance” plays)