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The Big Picture

  • Date: 05/14/2006
  • Author: Dr. Luis M. Proenza (President, The University of Akron)
  • Location: UA Commencement, E. J. Thomas Performing Arts Hall
  • So, here you are now poised to go out there, into the "real world," as they say; you are ready to go forth, to "commence." After all, that is what this ceremony is all about - marking your passage from here to there.

    And, in getting from here to there, you hopefully have learned that perspective is important; that you need to get the big picture; to see the forest from the trees; to gain the 40,000-foot view or better yet, the global view.

    Indeed, I often use a satellite photo of Ohio taken at night to make a point about the emerging dynamics of our regional economy.

    Now you may well ask: "What can be seen when taking a picture of the earth at night?" And that is a good question. But in effect, what we see is a pattern of light that defines the economic demography of our state. And that is very much a picture of a single, regional entity, where the boundaries between counties and cities become invisible.

    Because what we see when we look at this satellite photo is all of Northeast Ohio as one great big luminous whole, broad along the lake and tapering down towards Akron and Canton - one large dynamic region, indeed the largest economic region in all of Ohio.

    That satellite picture is featured in his year's "A Report to the Community" for The University of Akron, which was included along with the newspaper this morning. Be sure to look for it and let us know what you think.
    So, let me leave you with yet another kind of big picture - a big picture for you the class of 2006 to carry forward.
    And I can think of no better words than those written by Theodor Geisel. Now, most of us know him by his middle name: Seuss - Dr. Seuss, as he signed his books.

    When he died in 1991, his last book, Oh, the Places You'll Go, was still on the bestseller lists. It is a timeless classic that will always be as appropriate for a five-year-old as it is for this college graduating class.

    So to you, the class of 2006, let me offer this tribute in the words of Dr. Seuss, specifically in words taken from that classic of his, Oh, The Places You'll Go.

    So here it goes:

    Today is your day.
    You're off to Great Places!
    You're off and away!

    "You have brains in your head.
    You have feet in your shoes.
    You can steer yourself
    Any direction you choose.
    You're on your own. And you know what you know.
    And YOU are the one who'll decide where to go.

    "You'll look up and down streets. Look ‘em over with care.
    About some you will say, ‘I don't choose to go there.'

    "You're too smart to go down any not-so-good street.

    "Out there things can happen
    And frequently do
    To people as brainy
    And footsy as you.

    "And when things start to happen,
    Don't worry. Don't stew.
    Just go right along
    You'll start happening too.


    "You'll be on your way up!
    You'll be seeing great sights!
    You'll join the high fliers
    Who soar to high heights.

    "You won't lag behind, because you'll have the speed.
    You'll pass the whole gang and you'll soon take the lead.
    Wherever you fly, you'll be best of the best.
    Wherever you go, you will top all the rest.

    "Except when you don't.
    Because, sometimes, you won't.

    "I'm sorry to say so
    But, sadly, it's true
    That Bang-ups
    And Hang-ups
    Can happen to you.

    "And the chances are, then
    That you'll be in a Slump.

    "You're not in for much fun.
    Un-slumping yourself
    Is not easily done.

    "You will come to a place where the streets are not marked.
    Some windows are lighted. But mostly they're darked.
    Do you dare to stay out? Do you dare to go in?
    How much can you lose? How much can you win?

    "And IF you go in, should you turn left or right. . .
    Or right-and-three-quarters? Or, maybe, not quite?
    Or go around back and sneak in from behind?
    Simple it's not, I'm afraid you will find,
    For a mind-maker-upper to make up his mind.

    "You can get so confused
    That you'll start in to race.
    Down long wiggled roads at a break-necking pace,
    And grind on for miles across weirdish wild space,
    Headed, I fear, toward a most useless place.
    The Waiting Place. . .

    ". . .for people just waiting.
    Waiting for a train to go
    Or a bus to come, or a plane to go
    Or the mail to come, or the rain to go
    Or the phone to ring, or the snow to snow
    Or waiting around for a Yes or a No
    Everyone is just waiting.

    "NO! That's not for you!

    "Somehow you'll escape.
    You'll find the bright places.


    "There is fun to be done!
    There are points to be scored. There are games
    to be won.

    "I'm afraid that some times
    You'll play lonely games too.
    Games you can't win
    ‘cause you'll play against you.

    "All Alone!

    "Whether you like it or not,
    Alone will be something
    You'll be quite a lot.

    "But on you will go
    Though the weather be foul.
    On you will go
    Though your enemies prowl.
    On you will go.

    "Onward up many
    A frightening creek,

    "On and on you will hike.
    And I know you'll hike far
    And face up to your problems
    Whatever they are.

    "You'll get mixed up, of course,
    As you already know.
    With many strange birds as you go.

    "So be sure when you step,
    Step with care and great tact.
    And remember that Life's
    A Great Balancing Act.
    Just never forget to be dexterous and deft.

    "And will you succeed?
    Yes! You will, indeed!
    (98 and ¾ percent guaranteed.)


    "So. . .
    You're off to Great Places!
    Today is your day!
    Your mountain is waiting.
    So. . .get on your way!"
    (Geisel, Theodor Seuss, Oh, The Places You'll Go, Random House Trade, January 1990)

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