Citizens of Yale

August 27, 2018

Welcome to the start of another academic year! On Saturday, Dean Marvin Chun and I greeted the Yale College Class of 2022, Eli Whitney students, transfer students, and all the family members present in a ceremony in Woolsey Hall. For me, this event always marks the beginning of a new year at Yale—a day of tremendous possibility and promise.

We are all citizens of Yale—this was my message for our newest Yale students—and citizenship carries with it certain obligations. Hailing from fifty-nine different countries and across the United States, we represent various experiences, backgrounds, and perspectives. We are scholars and musicians, athletes and artists, poets and scientists, and much more. Yet as citizens of Yale, we share a common purpose—to learn, understand, and create.

Since its founding in 1701, Yale has been dedicated to the pursuit of knowledge and understanding. Today, we continue our historic commitment to light and truth by asking new questions and searching for creative answers. We live and work together, “committed to improving the world today and for future generations,” in the words of our mission statement.

A Yale education is an extraordinary privilege, and with it comes certain responsibilities. I asked the incoming students to consider the obligations of their Yale citizenship as well. I urged them to nurture their curiosity and explore new areas of intellectual inquiry. I asked them to listen carefully to one another, sustaining the free exchange of ideas that distinguishes a great university. I encouraged them to create a culture of mutual respect by taking time to see and understand the people around them.

Finally, I spoke about one of Yale’s most important traditions—service to others. As citizens of Yale, our obligations extend beyond our campus. Two-thirds of Yale College students participate in community service activities, contributing more than 150,000 hours both near and far. Our alumni have gone on to become heads of state, public servants, volunteers, mentors, and more. I am proud that service to others is a hallmark of the Yale community.

In his remarks, Dean Chun encouraged the newest members of our community to learn from the demographic and intellectual diversity within our campus. Using examples drawn from the field of psychology, he illustrated how confirmation bias leads us to seek out opinions like our own and reject conflicting information. Dean Chun urged us to counter these tendencies by taking advantage of the spectacular range of perspectives at Yale—listening to contrary opinions, seeking out friends with different interests and ideas, and asking questions that expand our view of the world.

Even after thirty-seven years at Yale, I am still impressed by the array of people who contribute to this university. We bring different skills and viewpoints to our roles, and yet we are all engaged in the same fundamental mission. We all want to create knowledge and foster understanding. We are all citizens of Yale.

As another academic year begins, I look forward to strengthening this community as a citizen of Yale; I hope you will join me.