In a short speech that mixed wit with seriousness, New Orleans Mayor Marc H. Morial (C'80) marveled at the ways in which the world has changed over time and urged his fellow Penn grads to use their hearts as well as their minds to shape the future.
Morial was the keynote speaker at the College of Arts and Sciences' graduation ceremony May 16 in Franklin Field.
Morial began his remarks by expressing amazement that his alma mater would invite someone his age to deliver a graduation speech. "I am honored and humbled that someone who graduated only 20 years ago could be asked to speak before you," he said, adding that because he is such a recent graduate, he was "neither old enough nor gray enough to impart wisdom."
Morial said that since he had "less than 20 years to look back and reminisce," he must go back even further to illustrate the changed world graduates were entering that evening. "Underwear as we know it today had not been invented," Morial said of life 1,000 years ago.
He also pointed out some of changes - important and not important - since his own graduation.
"In the '80s, the Cheesesteak was still Philly's greatest health food. There were no cell phones, voice mail or Internet. The only beepers we had were loud and annoying."
Then Morial shifted gears and delivered a bit of advice to the graduating seniors.
The world needs your skills and "your care and your compassion," he said. "Make sure that the economy won't leave others behind in poverty."
Morial finished with words of advice for the graduates. "The academic traditions here have stretched your minds. My challenge to you is to let your hearts be stretched in the same way so that you care about the people who will occupy the global community in the next millennium."
Morial, first elected in 1994, is New Orleans' second African-American mayor; his father, Ernest, was the first. He gained national attention as the first mayor to sue gun makers on the premise that they manufactured an unsafe product that contributed to the breakdown of public health.
Morial last visited campus when he, along with fellow mayor and Penn graduate Edward Rendell, contributed to the University's 1998 Steinberg Symposium.
Originally published on May 27, 1999