University of Vermont

Academic Ceremonies - Commencement

The Honorable Peter E. Shumlin, Governor, State of Vermont
and Trustee, University of Vermont

Peter E Shumlin

Thank you.  Thank you so much.  I'm honored to be here.  Thank you, thank you Chairman Cioffi, members of the board, the staff and faculty, President Fogel, the folks who have worked so hard to make this possible.  Let's give a shout out to your moms and your dads and your stepmoms and your stepdads.  Come on.  They made this possible, so we want to thank you.  I've got to say, I feel your pain.  I've got two girls in college, I know what it's like.  You've been doing the laundry, you've been paying the bills.  You've been hoping that they don't come home and curl up on the couch and get addicted to those electronic devices; they actually go out and get a job. 

But mostly I want to tell you what an honor it is, as your governor, to be here at this moment, to celebrate the accomplishments of the class of 2011.  The president tells me it's the best class in UVM's history, and we're proud of you.

I want to start by just apologizing for the weather.  I do, and I know some of you from out of state and your governors don't take the hit for the hard stuff, but I am responsible for it.

That's how we do it in Vermont:  We tell the truth.  I want to apologize to all of you in your senior year for the longest, coldest, bitterest year we can remember, yeah, and for taking that spring from you where you were going to be outside warm in the sun and at the lake, not doing your last exams and all that.  I apologize for that.

I tell you why I'm responsible for it.  How many of you are looking for a job interview right now?  Just raise your hands.  Yeah, that's not bad.  Well, I had a job interview for this job, and it was longer than the job interviews you're going to get, I can tell you that, and this is a true story.  I went through this five‑way democratic primary and I had a general election and it went on for about a year and a half, 7 days a week, 14 hours a day.  Anyway, I came into the ski association that keeps your mountains skiable and I said, What am I going to say to these guys?  Because in my job, it just goes interview after interview, and I say, "Hey, I got a promise for you.  You elect me governor, I'm the clean energy governor, and I'll get you the longest, coldest winter you've ever had." And now I can't turn the darn thing off.

Listen, a couple of words.  Billie Jean, did you play with a ball like that?  You need one that big. 

A couple of quick words:  I'm not going to give you advice.  I just want to make an observation.  You might notice that the lake is high.  We know that you have been given, by the best university in the country, the ability to make great decisions, the knowledge to go forward.  And there's something about the winter that we just did do through, in all seriousness, and the level of the lake, a responsibility that you carry with you that we didn't carry with us.  It's a gift from us to you.  And it is both the responsibility and the obligation of dealing with climate change as you go forward in extraordinary careers that will be diverse and successful. 

The fact of the matter is, the level of that lake and the winter that we just gave you is a symptom of a challenge.  A degree today from UVM is both an opportunity and a responsibility.  And with responsibility comes hard work.  Extraordinary economic opportunities, as we as a society get off our addiction to oil and move to other ways of powering the world.  But you all need to ‑‑ we'll get it done, you'll get it done.  But you've got a special obligation as you go forward in whatever career it is, looking at the symptoms around us, to ensure that you not only prosper, that you not only make a great contribution to your community, but that everything that you do recognizes that the observations around you are now your responsibility.  And we're counting on you to get it right. 

I'll just close by saying this:  If you learned anything at the best university in the country, it's got to be that Vermont is the best state in the country.  You are leaving here and you can do whatever you want.  And as your governor, so proud of you today, I am pleading to you to do it in Vermont.  We need you here, creating jobs, economic opportunities, and leading the next revolution of economic development.  So my plea is, stay with us.  In 1968 one of my favorite politicians, Robert F. Kennedy, right before he was gunned down when he was running for president, someone asked him, Bobby, you got a brother who's been president, brother's made the United States Senate, long distinguished career in your family, but why you?  And he said, "Some people see things as they are, and wonder why.  I see things that have never been, and I wonder why not."  We want you to get the "why not" right, and we urge you to do it in the Green Mountain State.  Congratulations.

Last modified June 24 2011 02:26 PM

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