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Statements to the Community
Commencement Addresses


  • Date: 08/25/2007
  • Author: Dr. Luis M. Proenza (President, The University of Akron)
  • Location: UA Commencement (p.m.), E. J. Thomas Performing Arts Hall
  • For some of you, the final semester passed quickly; for others, it may have seemed interminable. Yet for all of us it contained the same amount of Time - the same number of days, hours, minutes and seconds.

    Time as we know it is as much a human perspective as it is a physical reality and, in the former case, time can be quite subjective. Why does the summer season seem shorter than winter? Why does Time seem to move faster as we get older?

    The subject of Time has long been a focus of interest, and most scientists and philosophers agree that it is among the most intriguing aspects of the universe.

    For example, since H.G. Wells wrote his science-fiction novel The Time Machine, people have been inquisitive about the concept of Time and with the possibility of conquering its barriers.

    Theoretically, time travel is possible, because, thanks to Mr. Einstein, we know that objects traveling at exceptionally high speeds age more slowly than stationary ones.

    In fact, some interpretations of time travel go so far as to suggest the possibility of commuting among other worlds that might exist alongside our own - parallel universes.

    Historically, that is to say over the course of time, there have been many interpretations of Time, but the most common is referred to as Newtonian Time. "(Sir Isaac) Newton theorized that time could easily be measured because it is a fundamental structure of the universe and its events occur in sequence."

    While the scientific study of Time began with the likes of Newton and Galileo, the first comprehensive explanation did not occur until the 20th Century when Einstein declared, in effect, that what we know and interpret as Time was not discovered; rather, it was invented and it is simply what we see on the clock.

    As such, our approach to Time from an historical perspective often is misdirected.

    For example, according to Penelope Corfield in her book, Time and the Shape of History, when we refer to the dawn of civilization as an ancient civilization, we have a paradox.

    Let me illustrate: "...one of the more profound moments on (the TV show) ‘The Simpsons,' (occurred when) a successful pretzel vendor named Frank recalls how he once believed he was unsuited for the pushcart trade. ‘That was ‘the old me,' Frank says, ‘which was, ironically, the young me.'"
    (Stark, Andrew, "What Was Old Is Young Again," The Wall Street Journal, July 26, 2007, D7)

    "Why, as Francis Bacon asked, don't we instead think of our own time as the ‘true antiquity...inasmuch as it is a more advanced age of the world, and stored and stocked with infinite experiments and observations'?"
    (Stark, Ibid)

    Indeed, when we explore "...the ways in which different views of time shape our understandings of the past", we find...
    (Stark, Ibid)

    "...that the fleeting moment is always situated in the long term, and the legacies from the past are always with us in the present."
    (Corfield, Penelope, personal review of Time and the Shape of History, Department of History, Royal Holloway, University of London)

    "Think of whether classical Greece should be seen as an old civilization or a young one. What is at stake here? If we view the past 2,000 years as the ‘time after classical Greece' - through which classical ideas have lasted and, so to speak, grown old - then classical Greece is ancient and venerable. But if we view the past two millennia as ‘the time before now,' it is our own civilization - with all that experience to draw on - that is, as Bacon argued, older and more mature."
    (Stark, Ibid)

    According to Corfield, history is not a snapshot, because it still exists somewhere in the universe in what she calls "one long never-ending Now."
    (Stark, Ibid)

    Because "...the light we see tonight from a distant star represents what was happening on it eons ago - the time it takes for its light to travel to us. In principle, this ‘delay' means that, on the distant star itself, our (own) dinosaurs are news...everything that has ever happened in human history is still happening - right now, somewhere."
    (Stark, Ibid)

    These kinds of unknowns will continue to drive our thirst for understanding, and make the need for learning a continuous and never-ending process.

    The knowledge you have gained at The University of Akron is vital to your future. And while making predictions about the future remains an iffy proposition, we can say with certainty that education empowers you so as to help write your own future.

    So as time marches on, you now have power to manage the workings of your future and to drive the decisions that create new and exciting opportunities.

    I encourage you to continue to learn, to set ambitious goals, to be persistent in striving to reach them and to be patient with your progress.

    But also take the time to examine your world, to reflect on what you value and who you are.

    You control your destiny, and the future...well...that is your adventure still waiting to happen.

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