The following speech was given at official commencement exercises at Carnegie Mellon University on Sunday, May 19, 2002 by Office of Homeland Security chief, and former Pennsylvania governor, Tom Ridge.
Transcript from bulletin board official.cmu-news.
President Cohon, distinguished faculty, members of the clergy, family and friends and graduates: it is my honor and privilege to be with you on this very special day and to extend the graduating class of 2002 my most sincere and personal congratulations.
And it is a special honor indeed to return to my home state and city of birth, and to one of the finest institutions of higher learning in the world -- Carnegie Mellon University.
I want to thank the students who took the time to send me their e-mail. Hopefully, I have captured some of your thoughts, some of your concerns and some of your aspirations in my remarks.
Leaders and dreamers around the world have long recognized this university as a place of great discovery -- and the place to "invent the future." I am not so long removed from my last job to express publicly the hope that some of you will choose to remain in Pennsylvania and invent the future here.
The very name Carnegie Mellon opens doors of opportunity. And again, another graduating class has earned the key.
In my current position, I am reminded daily of how profoundly our world has changed -- and how much you are needed to meet its challenges.
Whether you embark on a career in fine arts -- or in the fine art of data storage systems -- the world eagerly awaits you. It needs your talent and creativeness -- your confidence and your optimism -- and that legendary Carnegie Mellon motivation and work ethic.
Andrew Carnegie gave this university its motto: "My heart is in the work." That's appropriate -- because there is much work to be done -- to secure our homeland, to secure our world, and to secure our futures.
Along with your degree, you also inherit an important legacy as a CMU graduate. It is a legacy of not accepting the world as it is, but of putting your dreams and ambitions to work to change it for the better.
It's the kind of attitude that led Andrew Carnegie to look at a wooden bridge and say, That won't do. That is the past. Iron and steel bridges are the future.
It is a determination to control your own fate and chart your own course -- and by doing so, shape the world around you.
Our world changed forever on September 11th. Students had barely unpacked for the fall semester when the terrorists struck.
The terrorists didn't just strike at America -- they struck at freedom-loving people everywhere. And they struck at our confidence in the future.
When you first arrived here several years ago, people were debating whether the technology-driven New Economy had rendered the business cycle a thing of the past. As you leave, the debate is over whether our economy can return to where it was before 9-11.
We've been down this path before.
In the year that many of you were born, another set of graduates sat in these seats and celebrated their achievements in a world that had also been shaken to its very foundation.
Entire industries, regional economies and a way of life were transformed seemingly overnight. It was a time of long lines, both at the gas pumps and the unemployment offices. It was a time when we were told we must lower our expectations. Our nation's "crisis of confidence" reached all the way to the top. Pundits even began to suggest that the job of leading this nation was too big for one individual.
You know, that sounds a little bit familiar! I've heard the same thing a few times myself. In fact, I went on Lexis-Nexis to find out how many times the media has used the words "impossible job" or "task" in the same sentence as "homeland security." Seventy-three references popped up!
More than a few analysts described that period 21 years ago not as a downturn in the business cycle, but as the dawn of an economic Ice Age that would leave our nation and this region in a state of permanent decline.
The CMU graduates and faculty of that era did not accept the world as it was. Instead, they put their dreams and ambitions to work to change the world and invent a new and brighter future.
Far beneath the headlines, in the basement of Wean Hall, the late Professor Allan Newell and his team of computer engineering students, with help from the Department of Defense, were creating a network to enable computers to talk to one another.
It was the height of the Cold War; the Soviet Union had invaded Afghanistan. And the researchers sought a communications link that could survive a nuclear attack.
But they were on the cusp of more far-reaching breakthroughs -- breakthroughs that would improve our everyday lives.
Fuzzy Mauldin and his team joined the research. And their efforts gave birth to a company called Lycos -- and the first major search engine that would unleash the Internet era.
From the seeds of those endeavors grew the greatest revolution in productivity in history -- a revolution that burns as brightly today as the FreeMarkets sign lighting up the Pittsburgh skyline.
Twenty-one years later, Pennsylvania has wired day care centers and Digital High Schools. It will conduct vision and hearing tests to spot learning disabilities on-line. Doctors can use the Internet to perform long-distance surgery through robotics.
And, of course, you can download a Dave Matthews or Counting Crows song in no time flat! Of course, you'd better hurry up if you have read the news lately!
All this wonderful progress from the quiet labors two decades ago.
By thinking nationally, CMU also changed lives locally. Students and faculty have created over one hundred new companies, employing thousands and thousands of Pennsylvanians. It has helped this region, hit hard by the decline of the steel industry, not just to recover but to thrive -- entering the 21st Century with new energy, new vision and new opportunities.
In fact, one of those companies, Cellomics, is headquartered on the site of the former Jones and Laughlin Steel mill. The sights and sounds of this company could not be more different from those of traditional steel-making. Yet the passion, energy and commitment to hard work are the same.
Each of these instances are stories of individuals who confronted a world whose options seemed constrained by larger events -- and responded in a meaningful and significant way.
Through their endeavors, they would invent a new future. This is the legacy you inherit with the degrees you accept today. It is now your turn to add your chapters to this rich tradition.
Our economy hinges on "just-in-time" delivery. And you and your colleagues are arriving "just in time."
A generation ago, CMU graduates helped unleash a period of unprecedented innovation in spite of economic uncertainty. Now we face a new challenge: homeland security. An enduring vulnerability to the possibility of terrorist attack. Another revolution in research and technology in its service can re-ignite that engine of innovation.
The opportunities, ladies and gentlemen, are endless: Biological and chemical weapons detection. Real-time intelligence-gathering and information-sharing. Crisis-proof satellite communications. Biometric identifiers for airports and border checkpoints. Disease surveillance networks that can quickly identify outbreaks. Software that can mimic a terrorist attack on a major city, so officials can test their response. And the list of opportunity goes on and on.
Your education has prepared you for this moment. You know that creativity, whether it's artistic or technological, is the vanguard of liberty. You know that the ability to dream -- and to realize the fruit of your labors in pursuit of those dreams -- are among this country's most precious gifts.
At this moment, you have the opportunity not just to do well with your talents, but to do good.
Before we can seize that opportunity, we must have a plan. We must build the technology around the mission, not the other way around.
Homeland security rests on four pillars of thought.
First, and most obvious, we need to apply science and technology to our homeland security efforts.
The work we do to secure the homeland is as important as the Manhattan Project. But it will not be undertaken in the isolation of the desert of New Mexico.
Instead, innovations will emerge from the scientist standing shoulder-to-shoulder with the user.
The Pittsburgh Digital Greenhouse has already been mentioned. Now imagine a network of homeland security greenhouses, linking the best practices of local, state and federal researchers and first responders all over the country.
It will require researchers as comfortable in the field as they are in the laboratory. In fact, the border, the hospital, the airport and the fire station will be the new labs.
My colleague in the Office of Homeland Security, Mike Byrne, was a New York City firefighter for 20 years. He talks about an exercise the department did with a national laboratory to test a cutting-edge sensor system. The device uses lasers to create chemical "fingerprints" of hazardous substances from up to two miles away. Firefighters can then determine what equipment and gear they must don without putting themselves at risk.
"Always remember," Byrne tells me, "This is about saving lives." And we will support those efforts to save lives, just like the Department of Defense did 21 years ago on this university campus.
Second, homeland security requires a new way of governing. We need a public sector in which collaboration and cooperation are the rule, not the exception. I've said it many times -- the only turf we should be worried about defending is the one we stand upon.
We must partner with academia and the private sector, to share both resources as well as solutions. We must cooperate with other nations to share information and create "smart borders" that improve security while enhancing commerce and trade.
And we must share real-time information between federal agencies, with state and local law enforcement, and with the American people.
If we can secure the hometowns, we can secure the homeland. And no one knows the hometown like the people who live, work and patrol it.
Third: a technology revolution to transform the threat to homeland security into a new era of innovation must include the characteristic common to all great endeavors. That characteristic is the capacity to reach for great discoveries and then look beyond.
The President has asked me to look at America through the lens of security to make it a safer country. He has also directed everyone in the Office to be alert to the ideas, investments and applications that have value beyond homeland security.
This graduating class can help us. You can transform our response to the current threat into a new era of innovation and discovery.
Take those disease surveillance networks and digital diagnoses -- and dream of a future in which telemedicine and robotics extend the quality of health care across rural America and to the remote reaches of the world.
Take the work we are doing to discover vaccines and cures for man-made bioterrorism -- and dream of a world where Mother Nature's deadliest threats, like cancer and AIDS, are tamed forever.
Take enhanced imaging and wearable computing technologies for the training of first responders -- and dream of new learning tools to make education accessible to all, from our inner cities to the farthest reaches of the globe. So that one day children and students will be trained in mathematics and science and the arts -- not in how to hate.
Take the development of network-protecting systems and software -- and dream of the next generation of communications that will accelerate commerce, improve the quality of life and enhance understanding across borders and cultures.
As a class represented by dozens and dozens of nations, you will have a vital role in promoting this deeper understanding in this interconnected world. As one of your colleagues wrote, "The world is getting smaller, and that means communication must be greater."
Finally, the fourth pillar: freedom. We must always remember what makes America so special to her friends and those of us who are privileged to call this place home -- and so vilified by her enemies.
We are an open, welcoming and trusting nation. Your diversity affirms this. However, our enemies view our freedom and openness as weaknesses. We know they are strengths.
We must secure our homeland without compromising the freedoms and spirit of enterprise that define us as a nation. And technological innovation will be one of our greatest assets in meeting that goal.
With your help, we will protect lives and our way of life -- without sacrificing either liberty or the pursuit of happiness. We will remain America.
Twenty-one years from now, how will the world have been changed by what we do today? What far-reaching and unexpected breakthroughs will result?
One thing we do know. Technology is not just about gadgets and devices. Technology is about empowering individuals, businesses, communities and countries to shape their destinies. Technology is about building a better world.
9-11 will always be a part of your world -- and of your memories as students. As many of you wrote to me, your most poignant memory will be the candlelight vigil by the fence.
The terrorist attacks left us shocked and angry and sad. But, I dare say, also inspired. Just 80 miles from here, a planeload of passengers decided to steer their own aircraft into the ground rather than accept the fate the terrorists had chosen for them.
Like those brave patriots, you too have a choice. You can accept the fate laid out for you -- or you can chart our own course. I believe -- I really believe -- I know which path you'll choose.
In closing -- I also believe those are the two most cherished words uttered by any commencement speaker! -- in closing, let me offer a word on the lesson that I have come to recognize as the most important in life. Again, it is just one person's opinion. Every graduation speaker feels compelled to offer free advice -- and usually it's worth every penny you paid for it!
But I believe the greatest contribution we can make to the world is the one we are willing to make to those people closest to us.
The title that means the most to me is not Congressman or Governor or Director of Homeland Security -- but father, husband and friend. You will live in a world where the lines between work and home are constantly blurred and often erased. Take time to enjoy life, to love those closest to you, and to be there for them.
In your short lives you have witnessed great wonders made possible by human dreams. You have seen great horror wrought by the dark side of the human soul. Now you begin your journey into that world.
Keep faith with the love of family and friends. Stay focused on the point of the compass where your dreams will lead you. For I have no doubt that one day a speaker shall stand here and inspire new graduates with the story of the Class of 2002 which, when confronted with a very, very uncertain world, invented -- for themselves and for their country -- a much brighter future.
Thank you for the opportunity to enjoy this very important day with you. God bless and Godspeed.