Three-time UCLA grad returns to address class of 2012
Former U.S. Ambassador Craig Kelly shares wisdom, insight with new grads
Published: Monday, June 18, 2012
A three-time UCLA graduate with more than 25 years of service with the U.S. Department of State was the keynote speaker at the UCLA International Institute’s 2012 Commencement Ceremony, held June 16 at Royce Hall. (podcast)
Approximately 485 students representing the International Institute degree programs (consisting of majors, minors and graduate programs) will receive their degrees during the 2011-2012 academic year. Of that, 187 participated in the ceremony, where majors and graduate students were recognized for their academic achievements.
Ambassador Craig Kelly, who earned his B.A., M.A., and Ph.D. degrees in romance languages and history from UCLA, was introduced by Professor Cindy Fan, interim vice provost of international studies and director of the UCLA International Institute. Fan graciously welcomed Kelly back to campus and expressed her pride in the newest international studies graduates.
“You leave UCLA with an educational background that will help you to recognize the value of new forms of civic engagement that blur the distinctions between local and global; national and international,” said Fan. “You are empowered to shape and improve the world as the next generation of leaders in business, education, government, the non-profit sector; in fact, any endeavors that you are passionate about and in any part of the world.”
Kelly, who retired in 2010 as principal deputy assistant secretary of state, where he was chief operating officer for policy and management in 34 countries from Canada to Chile, told graduates that the United States, as well as other nations, “sorely need people devoted to the greater understanding of the realities beyond borders.”
And he should know.
Kelly served as principal deputy assistant secretary of state for western hemisphere affairs, U.S. ambassador to Chile and executive assistant to Secretary of State Colin Powell, among other appointments, since starting his career in 1985. He is currently vice president of The Cohen Group, which provides consulting services and advice to help enterprises compete and succeed in the global marketplace.
He went on to say: “The goals of freedom, human rights, greater prosperity and inclusion, as well as the pressing transnational challenges like climate change, food security, terrorism and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction cry out for your generation’s commitment.”
Kelly spoke about some of his career highlights, the importance of freedom and democracy, the moment he learned of the 9/11 attacks while with Colin Powell in Peru, and some of the challenges being faced by the international community, including economic instability, climate change and desire for greater democracy.
He told graduates that he is pleased that they’ve chosen international careers, and shared his hope that they will become part of the next generation of global problem-solvers.
“We should never underestimate the resurge and capacity of the human spirit, and the power of creativity and free societies to turn obstacles into new paths of innovation, and that is where you come in” said Kelly.
He also gave them three pieces of advice. Never lose your passion for learning, maintain your character and integrity, and tend to your family as friends, he told them, before expanding in greater detail on each point.
“You have exciting paths ahead of you,” said Kelly. “In whatever form you serve, we will count on your insights, your energy and your passion to help us all ensure that this shrinking planet is as free, prosperous and just as imperfect human beings can make it. It’s very serious business, but don’t forget to have fun along the way.”
This year's International Development Studies awards were also announced during the ceremony. Mark Lee and Sarah Hadburg are the recipients of the 2012 International Development Studies Academic Award, granted to two graduating seniors for exceptional academic achievement in the International Development Studies major. They both had a 4.0 and 3.98 GPA, respectively. In addition, Heather Nivin and Ana Sofia Campus both received the 2012 International Development Studies Activist Awards, given to two graduating seniors to recognize their outstanding commitment to making a difference on the issues of international development. Nivin and Campos were both highly involved with organizations that work to address issues of development in Africa and Latin America.