Commencement speaker seeks new paradigm

(05-14-2008)

ASC trustee Bruce Oreck tells graduates they can build a better future.

Commencement addresses don't typically stimulate standing ovations. But the 2,000 strong May 10 graduation audience rose to its feet in appreciation of Adams State trustee Bruce Oreck's message: "Creating new possibilities is a great responsibility, and it is your responsibility."

Using his own college graduation year, 1975, as a baseline, Oreck noted the median family income has risen more than four-fold, from $11,600 to $48,000. However, he said the basic costs of living have increased five, ten, or more times.

"A gallon of gas in 1975 reached an all-time high of 57 cents a gallon . . . Credit cards didn't really exist; now the average debt is $9,300. . . . The average new home in 1975 cost $42,000; today it's $205,000. . . . I hate to tell you, we are poorer than we were in 1975."

Walking amongst the graduates, Oreck told them: "The future you are facing will be most challenging in our history as a species. Why am I giving these somber statistics? I'm not here to give you advice. Based on the facts I just gave you, I don't have the audacity to give advice. I'm here for one reason: to ask for your help. . . . We need help. We are not facing insurmountable problems, but we are facing serious problems, complex problems.

"Now it is up to each of you to look beyond yourself to help solve the problems of your future. . . .I'm not just asking you, I'm begging you. If you guys don't do it, we're not gonna do it."

"I know you are equipped to confront these problems, and I know you will confront them, and take them on with all of your hearts, minds and being."

Oreck then directed the graduates to reach under their chairs and open the envelopes there, which contained two dimes. "This is a reminder that transforming your future will require a new paradigm - a pair of dimes. Every time you reach in your pocket henceforth, I want you to remember the future is yours to create and build better than we left it for you."

By Julie Waechter