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Lux et Lex: Illuminating, defining tomorrow

UND President Mark Kennedy speaks at a 2017 commencement address in this Herald file photo. Kennedy also spoke Saturday to 2018 UND graduates, urging them to "embrace lifelong learning." Nick Nelson / Grand Forks Herald

By Mark Kennedy

EDITOR'S NOTE: Following is the commencement address given Saturday by UND President Mark Kennedy to graduates.

Last month, my wife Debbie and I visited my mother and were excited to learn that Morgan, one of her nurses, was a 2017 graduate of the University of North Dakota. I enjoyed overhearing Morgan telling my mother about my "Star Wars" commencement speech and saying that I was a "funny guy."

Thrilled to have a UND alum caring for my mother, we took a photo with Morgan. As we did, the pharmacist in the next room said, "hey wait, I am a UND alum too." So, we took another photo with both UND alums. The head nurse called the marketing manager to post this on their website. He was also a UND alum, so we took a third photo. Wow.

Leaders in Action, each one of them, serving their community, making us all UND Proud. UND is no ordinary school. We are not only the highest ranked university within a 250-mile radius. We are also the most likely alma mater of the doctor, nurse, healthcare provider, lawyer, judge, school superintendent, principal and counselor, bank president and business owner in towns throughout this region, in addition to having alums that excel nationally and globally.

What makes UND and you, its graduates, special is our embracing the motto embossed on the

diploma you will receive - Lux et Lex (translated to) "light and law." Light illuminates. Law defines. We are called to illuminate and define tomorrow.

UND has done this since our founding six years before North Dakota became a state. We continue to innovate as the first in the nation to offer a degree in unmanned aircraft vehicles, the largest online public university between here and Chicago and the only university northwest of Chicago to join Harvard, Stanford and MIT on U.S. News' list of the 25 Most Innovative Schools in America.

Our graduates follow suit as the first to fly over the North Pole, as leaders in exploring space, by desegregating Little Rock High School, reinventing basketball and serving as chair of our military's Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Morgan stayed true to our motto by applying the latest technologies to benefit my mother. The pace of change is accelerating. We must stay true to Lux et Lex by continuing to illuminate

and define the future.

Nearly all of you graduates will work during your lifetime at jobs that do not yet exist. My frail, but alert, 87-year-old mother was eager to learn about how UND was helping students adapt to

this fast-changing world.

Some of her grandchildren followed traditional career paths — priest, medical doctor, lawyers,

accountants, engineers, architects, teachers and fighter pilot, yet all practice their trade with

technology incomprehensible in my mother's youth in the early 1950s. There were fighter jets

then, but not with the sophistication of today's F/A 18 Super Hornet her grandson Charles flies.

Other grandchildren have jobs unimaginable in 1950. Josh founded and runs the largest online

industrial supply retailer in Brazil; Christian works with Tesla, an electric car company; Luke

digitally designs building panels; Sarah is a database manager; Jeff is a lawyer for a gaming

company and John services wind turbines.

It would have been hard for my mother's classmates to comprehend online retail, electric cars,

designing digitally, databases, video games or wind turbines.

UND offers degrees today — unmanned systems, cyber-security — and uses simulators and virtual reality in its teaching, all unimaginable in 1950. What is the same is that UND's faculty

and staff continue our heritage of nurturing the critical thinking that liberal arts foster to prepare you for the turbulent future ahead.

Try to imagine the world 20 years from now. I drove a car to visit my mother. By then, will you be in a driverless car or an unmanned aerial vehicle; like the Jetsons or the Guardians of the Galaxy. Or will Scottie just beam you up?

Debbie connected my mother with her great-grandchildren in Brazil via Facetime on her iPhone, unthinkable in in my mother's youth. In the future, will you connect with your grandchildren on Mars through 3D holograms?

Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, the iPhone, Instagram, Snapchat. They are such a part of your life

that I suspect at least one of you is using them as I speak. A little more than a decade ago they did not exist. Moore's law — that computing power doubles every two years — is in its sixth decade of coming true. Let me do the math for you. A colleague teases me about how much better her iPhone X is than my iPhone 8. If Moore's law continues, computing power a decade from now will be 32 times what it is today. Both of our phones will be in an ancient history museum.

In yet another decade, computing power will be a thousand times greater, only to multiply to two thousand times two years later. Will "Star Wars" technology be available in 2040 or will you have to wait another two years until computing power is four thousand times greater? Many of you will be mid-career professionals with children in middle school. How will this impact your career? What new majors will UND need to offer to prepare your children for the future?

Will you manage a fleet of driverless vehicles, design or program their entertainment systems,

or be the one to craft new rules to regulate them? Will you be an air traffic controller for an organization's private fleet of drones? Will you be a family technology counselor, advising families on the best robot for their needs? How much will education and human services be changed and enabled by artificial intelligence? What healthcare innovations will tomorrow's nurses apply in caring for your mother?

Forecasts suggest that future demand for jobs requiring bachelor's and graduate degrees will exceed the number America is graduating today, while automation will decrease the demand for jobs requiring less than a bachelor's degree. You made the right choice to come to UND, but no longer can higher education be one degree and done. Those who succeed must actively embrace lifelong learning, something we at UND are dedicated to delivering.

The other President Kennedy observed, "For time and the world do not stand still. Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or the present are certain to miss the future."

UND class of 2018, keep your diploma in a highly visible position in your home. Every time you

see its Lux et Lex, remind yourself to keep learning in a way that allows you to illuminate and

define the future. Become the Leaders in Action you are meant to be. Make us all UND Proud.

Mark Kennedy has been president of the University of North Dakota since 2016.

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