2014 New Student WelcomeSpeech
It’s a distinct pleasure for me to welcome all of you — our new first-year students and our new transfer students — to UCLA.
I join Youlonda in extending a very warm welcome to all of the parents, guardians, family members and friends of this year’s incoming class. Thank you all for being here to share this momentous occasion.
Before I say anything else, I want to express my heartfelt congratulations to our incoming class of newly minted Bruins.
Congratulations on being accepted, and congratulations on having the exceptionally good judgment and wisdom to accept our invitation!
As I’m sure you realize, it’s not exactly easy getting into UCLA.
This year we received a record number of undergraduate applications — nearly 106,000 in all. More than 86,000 first-year applications and just under 20,000 transfer applications.
For nearly 15 years — UCLA has been and continues to be the most applied-to campus in the country.
From that massive number of applicants, we had to make lots of difficult choices in order to produce, well, all of you — a truly stellar incoming class of top achievers consisting of 5,700 first-year students and about 3,150 transfer students.
Most of you are from California, about 77 percent or so.
And that’s in keeping with our longstanding commitment to provide an excellent university education to California residents.
But your incoming class is also geographically diverse, with fully 14 percent hailing from 55 international locations.
And almost 11 percent of you come to UCLA from 42 other states in the country, the District of Columbia, and Guam.
So, a special welcome to all of you who come from other countries around the world and from other parts of the United States.
Among our incoming first-year students and transfers from the United States, 30 percent are people of color, 30 percent are from low income backgrounds, and a remarkable 39 percent will be the first in their family to graduate from a four-year university.
And a recent study listed UCLA as among the most welcoming college campuses for LGBT students.
I share this statistical profile of our incoming class for a reason.
We believe strongly that geographic, social, economic, cultural, gender and ethnic diversity contributes powerfully to the quality of your educational experience here at UCLA.
This is part of our institutional DNA.
Each one of you has traveled your own distinct path to be here.
Some of you arrive today just a few short months after high school graduation.
Others come here from another college, from careers in the workforce, and some are joining us after serving in the U.S. military.
And I want to say a special word of thanks to members of our incoming class who served in the armed forces of the United States. We honor you and your service — and we welcome you enthusiastically here on campus. Let’s give our veterans a well-deserved round of applause!
Now, even though you all have distinct stories, you now share something in common: You are becoming part of the UCLA story, part of a bigger whole.
I want you to think about that story and your role in it.
Of course, UCLA sets a world standard for intellectual engagement, exciting accomplishments, meaningful opportunity and broad diversity. We are honored that you will now help us set that standard. But like all campuses, all communities, we have challenges, and things we can improve.
From this day forward I am looking to you to act as leaders to partner with us to address those challenges, to make UCLA better.
In that task we can all take some lessons from a great American hero and one of UCLA’s most distinguished alumni: Jackie Robinson.
Jackie Robinson was born the very same year UCLA came into existence: 1919. And when UCLA celebrates our centennial anniversary in 2019, the world will also be celebrating Jackie Robinson’s 100th birthday.
I hope by now you’ve read this year’s common book, Jackie Robinson’s moving and revealing autobiography: I Never Had it Made. In the days and weeks ahead you will have the opportunity to discuss his story.
It’s a story of a nation being held accountable to its highest ideals, a story of an institution reforming itself, a story of a people struggling for its rightful place of inclusion and respect. And it’s a story of a man willing to take risks, to face the physical and emotional toll of challenging the status quo.
Let’s be honest, we all like comfort zones. But too often they limit us, leading to frayed social connections and a diminished sense of shared community. Being open to the worlds around us is where transformation begins, where learning happens, where community is built. You may never be in a more exceptionally diverse environment than UCLA.
Just as Jackie Robinson had the courage to go way beyond his comfort zone, embrace this fabulous opportunity to learn with — and from — others who may not share your experiences or background. For all your great accomplishments, remember both, that we all have something to teach each other, and that we all can learn from each other.
You are destined to be leaders in the future — be it through conquering climate change or reversing income inequality or curing disease. UCLA is a place to develop the skills today that will empower you to succeed as leaders of tomorrow: Leaders who succeed by examining facts without bias, by understanding complexity rather than clinging to simplicity, by building community across differences.
All of you can help set a new standard for how our world communicates on important and often divisive topics. As you shape your values and find your voices, remember this:
As Bruins, we should always strive to temper passion with compassion, to understand the difference between zeal and zealotry, to know that challenging the ideas of others may be necessary, but that challenging our own assumptions also takes courage.
I also call upon you to help address another serious challenge, a problem we have in our communities, in our military, and yes, in our universities. The problem of sexual misconduct.
It may be an uncomfortable issue but it’s important. And my message here is clear and simple: On this campus there is zero — zero — tolerance for sexual misconduct.
Sexual assault is a crime — a crime against the dignity and safety of an individual, and also a crime against the values of our community. It will be treated as such.
UCLA is a community built on respect and empathy, and in that community one incident of sexual assault is too many.
Many of you are entering a time of unprecedented freedom in your lives. And with freedom comes responsibility. There are resources on campus to help you understand your responsibilities and live up to them. Please become familiar with them.
If you are the victim of sexual misconduct, please report it on or off-campus. UCLA has many resources to assist you.
I know I have talked about some serious things today. And I know all of you share my dedication in UCLA remaining a place that is respectful and healthy for all of us.
I want you to retain your sense of optimism. There is no better place in this world for those who share our spirit of breaking barriers, answering the world’s great questions and defying the odds.
You all have the intelligence, the imagination, the drive and the discipline to be admitted to UCLA, to succeed at UCLA and to make UCLA proud.
You are the best of the best — and our responsibility to each of you is to ensure an environment where you can become the person you want to be — and take the world by storm.
Always remember that UCLA is where you can develop the best in yourselves and appreciate the best in others.
UCLA is where you can nurture a sense of possibility and exceed your own dreams. Where you will learn lessons and create relationships that will change your lives. And that the lessons you learn at UCLA will help you change the world.
Welcome, again. Welcome to UCLA! Go Bruins!