Speeches

Academic Year 2016-2017

First Collection

Scott Amphitheater, Swarthmore College
Tuesday, August 23, 2016

"I want to use my time with you this afternoon to encourage you to be open – to people you don’t know and who may be very different from you and from anyone else you’ve ever met; to ideas, no matter how unfamiliar; and to experiences, even if they are outside of your comfort zone.  That spirit of openness is critical to a liberal arts education, and it will allow you to be transformed during your time here."

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James Hormel-Michael Nguyen Intercultural Center Gift Announcement

Parrish Parlors, Parrish Hall, Swarthmore College
Monday, September 26, 2016

"Today I am delighted to announce the wonderful news that Manager James C. Hormel and his partner, Michael Nguyen, have committed $4.3 million for a major renovation resulting in the creation of the James Hormel-Michael Nguyen Intercultural Center at Sproul Hall. The Hormel-Nguyen Intercultural Center will house the Intercultural Center, the Interfaith Office, and the Office of International Programs in dedicated spaces."

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Academic Year 2015-2016

Announcement Address

Eldridge Commons, Science Center, Swarthmore College
Saturday, February 21, 2015

“Swarthmore offers one of the finest liberal arts experiences available anywhere in the world. With its commitment to academic rigor and creativity, to access and opportunity for all students regardless of their financial circumstances, to nurturing a diverse community of students, faculty, staff and alumni, and to contributing to the common good, the College is poised to define the meaning and the value of the liberal arts both nationally and internationally for this generation, the next and beyond…”

View the Full Speech: http://www.swarthmore.edu/15th-president​​ 


Inauguration Address: “Changing Lives, Changing the World”

Lamb-Miller Field House, Swarthmore College
Saturday, October 3, 2015

“As we embark on this next chapter of the history of this great college, let us build together a Swarthmore that provides a rich and vibrant community experience for students, faculty, and staff, whatever their cultural background, beliefs, or experience, a place where everyone is treated with respect and dignity. Let us build together a Swarthmore that houses academic and co-curricular programs and residential experiences in buildings that inspire imagination, creativity, discovery, joy, and a spirit of collaboration. Let us build together a Swarthmore that is more vitally connected to people and institutions in the region and across the globe than ever before in its history, so that we can change the world in ways we have not yet imagined...”

View the Full Speech: http://www.swarthmore.edu/inauguration-valerie-smith/valerie-smith


Martin Luther King Jr. Unity Breakfast Keynote Address

Drexelbrook Events Center, Drexel Hill, PA
Monday, January 18, 2016

“I suggest that as we remember Dr. King, we consider that memory is a critical, active engagement, and not only a contemplative exercise. Let us draw inspiration from “The Drum Major Instinct” speech and look beyond the prizes and the more familiar moments.  Let us explore the deeper, more profound meanings of his life and ministry and their implications for the present day and for the future...”

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A Celebration of Commitment to Education: Keynote Speech

Arch St. Presbyterian Church, Philadelphia, PA
Sunday, May 1, 2016

"Let us remember the words of the great Nelson Mandela, who said, “Education is the most powerful weapon you can use to change the world.” We must commit ourselves to fighting for a fair, equitable, and just education system in our region, in our state, in our country, and across our globe. When we resolve to provide educators and administrators with the resources they need to educate the whole person, and we commit to providing all young people with knowledge, skills, confidence, empathy, and compassion, we will be making the highest and best investment in our shared national and global future."

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Commencement Address

Scott Amphitheater, Swarthmore College
Sunday, May 29, 2016

"As you leave this place, take time to reflect on the ways that it has shaped you. And as you move forward into the next stage of your life, I urge you to cultivate the habits of open mindedness and openheartedness you’ve learned in our residential community. Our primary commitments – work, family, cultural, religious, and political affiliations – all have much to teach us. But the serendipitous encounters, petty annoyances, in between times, and unremarkable moments are rich with meaning as well, if we take the time to observe and reflect upon them. As the poet Rita Dove observes: “Nothing is too small.  Nothing is too . . . ordinary or insignificant. Those are the things that make up the measure of our days, and they’re the things that sustain us.” This habit of mind can help us to perceive the web of connection that binds our moments to each other; it can hone our intuition; and it can cultivate our sense of compassion towards others."