tv Michelle Howard Address at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute CSPAN July 2, 2015 12:08pm-12:26pm EDT
hen this is all over you say, i just clapped for the creation of a government agency, i must be turning into a total nerd. let me just remind you about this little agency. it has been up and running for just about four years now and it has already forced the biggest financial institutions in this country to return more than $5 billion directly to people they cheated. that is government working for us. >> [applause] senator elizabeth warren: that is how it works. >> [applause] senator elizabeth warren: so look, i get it. i know that building an agency to keep people from getting cheated on credit cards and mortgages may not be on your bucket list. it sure wasn't on mine. at least, it wasn't on my bucket list until it was on my bucket list. and that is really the point. i believed in the good that this little agency could do and so i fought for it.
even when people told me i couldn't win. the truth i learned along the way was pretty basic. you can't win what you don't fight for. so, i say to each of you, you want to change something? nobody is going to give it to you. you've got to fight for it. i wanted to be here today not just to be on the same stage where the boston symphony orchestra, james taylor, and lady gaga do their stuff. i wanted to be here because i believe in what you can do. i believe in what you can do if you fight for what you believe in. no matter the odds, no matter who you are up against, if you fight, amazing things can happen. amazing things will happen. after all, we are here to celebrate your amazing graduation and to think of many
more amazing things to come. so, thank you all and keep fighting. >> [applause] senator elizabeth warren: thank you. thank you. >> [applause] >> admiral michelle howard delivered this year's commencement address to rensselaer polytechnic institute in new york. she encouraged graduates to stay true to themselves and embrace their inner engineer. she is the first woman to have been promoted to the ranks of admiral in the united states navy. admiral howard: president jackson, dean, faculty
students, thank you for this wonderful privilege that you've given me, this honorary degree. i will tell you, my fellow on -- honorands are somber, so they would not be once to let you know that this is actually pretty cool. it feels a lot like a superman cape. i want to know, does it stop bullets? [laughter] i could use that in my job. president jackson, fellow on i -- honorands, faculty, and especially the class of 2015, it is an extraordinary honor to join you on this extraordinary occasion. today marks a triumphant milestone in your lives. symbolically crossing the stage, you will also cross over into the next phase of your lives.
with each step, you will pound into your souls this week -- the sweet feeling of accomplishment. years from now, you will recall the challenges of that last calculus class, the anxiety of preparing for your last test the excitement of your last big red freak out night and the last witnessing of the shirley ann jackson weather machine. [laughter] [applause] admiral howard: i thought it appropriate that i start this speech and share with you a see -- sea story. in my service, the sea story is an important exchange of wisdom.
it is told amongst fellow sailors and shipmates. definitely generally in a small place with a beverage of choice and generally reaches great origins of mythology over the lifetime of an individual. this is true. because it is not mine. this sea story was given to me by the women who a leadership award is named after of your i -- after and i met her when i was a young lieutenant commander. that began a relationship of mentor to protege. she was an iconic leader. she was born in 1911 and came into the navy in world war ii. with the start of the war, our nation needed the strengths and talents of everyone.
and the navy started the program women for volunteer service. she was one of the first women to join. she had a degree in business and was one of the first women to take courses at harvard. as the war moved out, women took on greater and greater roles. they went from administrators to intelligence specialists. however, in my navy, women were not allowed to serve overseas. until the end of the war in 1944, when we decided that hawaii was once again safe enough, it was a base of planning operations and we would send waves to help continue fight the war. lieutenant winnifred quick was selected with two of her friends to go and set the stage to bring in over 5000 waves to support the war effort.
she was pretty excited. then she told me this remarkable thing happened. i was astounded at the story because i'm from colorado and nothing like this has ever happened to me. a denver millionaire offered the use of his oahu mansion. through the lieutenant and her friends while they were stationed in the island. a beautiful house on the beach with a large living room and, oh, by the way, he left his staff there all the time. they went to hawaii and started to work in that first week, the -- they eagerly went to this mansion. they put on their bathing suits, were getting ready to head to the beach, winnifred quick is standing in the living room looking out this great expanse of glass and sees a man walking down the beach. she is not sure, but as he comes
closer, she starts to think, my goodness, is that admiral -- now, he was one of our iconic warriors in the pacific theater. a man who had persistence and tenacity and great courage. but also is deeply feared by the japanese, deeply feared by his sailors as well. as he is coming down the beach lieutenant quick starts to believe it's him and then to our -- her astonishment, this man comes up to the house, knocks on the door, comes in and she introduces herself. how may i help you? he said i'd seen this house, it's never been occupied, i've always been curious. i wanted to see the inside. would you let me see this beautiful home? this dude comes in and she offers him a drink and she says of course. her friends show up and all of a
sudden, the man gets a panicked look on his face and runs out the door. the three lieutenants are concerned. they don't know what they've done. being good lieutenants, they went ahead and decided to enjoy themselves and hit the beach. monday morning, lieutenant winnifred quick is at her desk and the phone rings. it's a two star admiral. the chief of staff. he says, were you at a beach house this weekend? she says yes. did admiral halsey show up? she goes, i believe so. you did not introduce yourself. she says, he did not introduce himself. the chief of staff continues. lieutenants, -- lieutenant admiral halsey walks that beach every weekend. he has always admired that house and when he saw it was opened, he decided he could see it.
when he came in, he saw what he saw and when he got back to the rec area, he submitted his staff -- commanded his staff right away. he goes, gentlemen, there is a house on the beach, three lovely women in this house and their names are quick, wild, love. [laughter] i believe they are spies. [laughter] they are sent here by the japanese to put on the swimsuits and seduce our secrets out of us. i want to know who they are and i want a report on my desk tomorrow. his staff gets to work and they come in monday morning. admiral, there is good news. they are only naval officers. admiral halsey said, i did not see any naval officers. the staff spelt it out for him. and row, -- admiral, women naval
officers. [laughter] he goes, dear god, not even the japanese did this to me. [laughter] women naval officers. throughout her time -- she served another 20 years. captain collins rose to the highest rank she could achieve. captain. and the head of all the women in the navy. she could never have been an admiral because by law, which -- when she served, no women could be an admiral or general. and by law only one woman could be a captain at a time. that law changed in 1967 long after she retired. what she taught me was her story. as you go on this journey, you have to keep your sense of humor. more importantly, you have to keep your sense of self.
that brings me to you. in preparation for this special day, i asked one of my trusted lieutenants to visit rpi and get a sense of the school culture. he came back telling me about some wonderful pad thai he had had. after hearing about your most recent grand marshal week, he said i should bring my own jar with a lid. i don't know what that's about. [laughter] and then he left me with this quote from one of you. "a lot of people stereotyped the university as strictly an engineering school. but, it's so much more than that." the stereotype. your stereotype. all of you will walk out of her -- here with a bachelor of
science or architecture degree. there are over 200 student clubs from a cappella singing groups to a group that prepares for the impending zombie apocalypse. clearly, you have foresight. [laughter] but as a graduate of a technical school myself, regardless of stereotypes, i am here to tell you to remember your roots. you are an engineering school. your newspaper is the polytechnic and your mascot is the engineer. and over 100 years ago, he referred to the university is -- as the first school of science in civil engineering which has a continuous existence to be established in any english speaking country. if after surviving intro to
engineering design and iea you have not come to grips with who you are and where you are from let me tell you, you are engineers. and as your commencement speaker, i'm required to give you council that will provide you the foundation for success for the rest of your life. but to now, since i am now limited, i think something like 4.809 seconds left, i offer you one thought. embrace your inner engineer. embrace your inner engineer. without rpi graduates, the country, no, the world, would be a different place. your academic ancestors invented the ferris wheel, built penn station and explored outerspace . without rpi engineers, the world would not only be a lot less user-friendly, it would be a lot less fun.
embrace your inner engineer. it's time to stand up and admit it. you love the logic of spock. you spent countless hours playing super smash brothers and you laugh at "big bang theory." embrace your inner engineer. you love research. the coolness of algorithms. the smells from chemistry labs. and, most likely, you took apart some family prized possession when you were young to see how it worked. a few decades later, all of who you are and what you have been taught coleman aids in this -- culminates in this moment. a diploma that affirms your academic prowess and represents your bright future. proud family and friends who are thrilled that you have a job and for you biology majors, the ability to create the zombie antidote when the apocalypse happens. [laughter] embrace your inner engineer.
whether or not you work as an engineer remember this from your time at rpi. embracing your inner engineer means you always learn, you will never lose the love of discovery and you will always be ready to roll up your sleeves for hard work. embracing your inner engineer means you face failure with courage. for failing only means you eliminated a path of pursuit allowing you to try out another hypothesis. embracing your inner engineer means you prize teamwork. you understand the value of different perspective and generating ideas. you love competing with the best because it makes you better. whether you realize it today or whether you realize it later the past four years has made you better.
when you embrace your inner engineer, you realize that rpi gave you structure, discipline and focus. give back to your community. transformation, modernization and innovation. with broad reaches of the universe yet to be explored, what great building or bridges are yet to be built, take what you have learned here at rpi the knowledge, the methods, the relationships and apply it to our world's most vexing problems. embrace your inner engineer to find what makes you feel alive and makes you wake up happy every day. use this passion and turn it into goodness for all of humankind. we need rpi graduates for our most challenging problems.