SOE News

Dean Abd-El-Khalick: Go out there! Propel the world!

Following are prepared remarks for Dean Fouad Abd-El-Khalick at the School of Education’s graduation ceremony on May 13, 2017, delivered at the Dean E. Smith Center.

Video of Abd-El-Khalick’s remarks is available here.

Dean Fouad Abd-El-Khalick on stage at the UNC School of Education's graduation ceremony

Dean Fouad Abd-El-Khalick on stage during graduation


On behalf of our faculty, staff, and alumni, I welcome you to the School of Education’s 2017 graduation ceremony.

This just is a glorious day! Isn’t it? It is a happy day! Tomorrow is Mother’s Day—happy Mother’s Day from all of us to all the Moms here!

Graduates, mothers, fathers, guardians, siblings, partners, daughters, sons, friends, and families: Few are the moments in life like the one you are now experiencing; moments where you could not be more proud of your own achievement or the achievement of your friends, family, and loved ones. Today, we all are privileged to share in these moments of pride with you.

Graduates: Whether you just earned your initial credentials to become a school teacher, counselor, or psychologist; or an advanced degree toward a career in educational research or leadership, among the many other careers we have prepared you for—make no mistake, yours is an achievement to be proud of. The opportunity to reach this achievement is a privilege to cherish. You and all those who cheered for and supported you, spared no time, effort or treasure to make possible earning your credentials. To partake in this ceremony today, you have worked very hard—my faculty, I bet, made sure you did! These credentials you earned are from the School of Education at Carolina—one of the best schools, at the heart of one of the best universities in the nation and the world. Take a moment to look around you, and take it all in . . . You have arrived!

These are challenging times for all of us; and especially for those of us who aspire to be life-long educators.

In these times, distracting noises and voices can be very loud—voices that solely gauge a college degree by “return on investment” rather than its power to enable you to do good in the world, success only through personal accolades rather than empowering others to succeed, careers merely by the luxury of early retirement rather than personal fulfillment; voices and noises that would want you and us to fear diversity and difference rather than embrace and celebrate them, to shut doors rather than open them, to bathe in privilege rather than empowering others to access and share in this privilege, to shy away from challenges rather than take them head on and make a difference in the lives of others; voices that want to diminish lives of service in the public domain for public good rather than honoring them.

Amid all this noise, I can firmly say that we at the School of Education are not worried about you going out there; because we came to know you over the time you were among us; and we are confident that together we have arrived at crucial lessons about what matters, and how to go about making things better for all the students and people you will come to serve.

If we have taught you anything, it is that you are in the business of education; and not in education as business. You will recall that, more than any domain out there, education has the power to break down barriers, lift up individuals, and empower communities to rise and thrive. We know you are as committed as we are to realizing this transformative power of education.

We know that you will work hard to guide and teach kids how to read; how to respect evidence and appreciate the beauty of mathematics and science; how to make reasoned argument and play a musical instrument; how to imagine, create, and innovate; how to assess their own thinking and think for themselves; how to negotiate their hopes and fears; and how collaborate with others. We know you will lead organizations with courage and wisdom, and make policy with judicious regard to all stakeholders. We also know that you will research and discover how we all can get better at all of the above.

Above all, we know that you will advocate for the less privileged and underserved, and that you will be steadfast in your belief and efforts to serve and empower all.

How do we know all that? Well, you would not be here today if we were not sure!

Concluding Remarks

Graduates: As you could imagine, there are a million things I want to say to you before you leave us; but there hardly is time to do that. I leave you with two thoughts. First, Peabody is now your second home; you now are part of our family too—once a Tar Heel, always a Tar Heel!

Stay in touch, tell us how you are doing, and come visit with us every now and then! We would love to hear from, and to see you.

Second, and most important, recall that money markets do not make wealth, rockets do not get to space, computers do not make a trillion calculations in seconds, instruments do not make music, and presses cannot produce books.

Our world is not propelled by all these innovations and creations; but by the people who imagined and created them.

People propel the world. You are in the business of building human spirit and human capital. Go out there!

Propel the world!