KP Singh’s Commencement Speech
Says CIC founding board member and 2016 Interfaith Ambassador of the Year KP Singh:
I was invited to be the Commencement Speaker and awarded an Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters by Butler University at Butler’s Winter Commencement on December 16, 2017. The Commencement Speech may have an echo for the interfaith leaders and friends of CIC. My speech echoes and carries a universal message and our need to engage in a respectful way with the fast changing and diverse world around us.
BUTLER UNIVERSITY WINTER COMMENCEMENT December 16, 2017
President and Mrs. James Danko, Members of the Board of Trustees and Distinguished Guests, Butler University Staff, Graduates, Families and Friends:
My name is Kanwal Prakash Singh, and I was born in India. My last 52 years in the United States and 50 years in Indiana have been an unforgettable blessing. In case you are wondering, and I think that you should wonder about names and languages, people and cultures around you; in the Punjabi language, my name means: Kanwal is Lotus; Prakash means Light; Singh, the last name of Sikhs, means a Lion. You may call me KP; my wife Janice says, KP stands for “kind person.”
Culture reflects our innermost essence and sacred identity. It is important to know about people’s ethnic origins, family legacy, and national heritage. According to DNA, we are connected with cultures in faraway lands; and as neighbors, friends, and fellow citizens in profound and significant ways. We welcome and celebrate the cultures represented at this Graduation Ceremony.
Butler University President James Danko and the Board of Trustees have conferred an Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree on me at this occasion. I pray to be worthy of this high honor. I appreciate being invited to be the Keynote Speaker on this important day in your lives – for you and your families. Many others are anticipating the special gifts that you will offer to their enterprises, institutions, and communities.
This is a moment of pride and thanksgiving. I join everyone present in offering my hearty congratulations and prayers as you embark on the next phase of your life journeys.
You are graduating from an institution of distinction in higher education and learning. As I understand: Education is about skills for living; Learning is lifelong striving in search of wisdom. Wisdom opens our mind and spirit to see the “… Earth as God’s Sacred Temple for all living beings” – Sikh Scriptures; and fashions our talents and lives as responsible citizens.
My beloved father exemplified and was a serious advocate for learning. The word Sikh means an eternal student. I grew up surrounded by a teaching philosophy centered on understanding and unraveling the sacred in knowledge; liberation from darkness of the mind and spirit; and dedication to a life of seva (service) to honor God and His Creation.
Butler reflects such a commitment. At Butler, you received world-class education.The beautiful urban campus environment at Butler provided you close encounters with brilliant educators, successful mentors, friends from across the United States and other countries. Critical introductions to the arts and opportunities to succeed are further enhanced through Butler’s unique programs and the University’s proximity to a vibrant City. Your valuable experiences and foundation at Butler are your best friends wherever life-assignments take you.
See yourselves as pioneers with big ideas and as a generation with transcendent vision. Seek and search for right and just answers. Be daring trailblazers into fields with yet undefined boundaries. Imagine yourselves called and entrusted to laser-focus your talents to shape a better world. Be proud champions of your cherished legacy and native cultural foundations.
You already know that many of you will travel to destinations outside the familiar.You will be facing an increasingly interconnected and intensely competitive world. Immersing yourselves and understanding cultural and civic frameworks in-place will be an important first step to unlocking your first doors. Know that there is much to learn from other struggles and experiences.
With academic preparation and skills in hand, an attitude of learning and sharing, and determination to excel, success will find you. I pray that you will reject temptations to mediocrity, complacency, and expediency in things that matter.
It will be wise to leave behind unfounded stereotypes of faiths, cultures, and communities different from your own. In today’s multicultural society with a wide spectrum of backgrounds, lifestyles, and perspectives, it is critical to adopt and exercise the art and spirit of mutual respect; be a trusted team player; and as a leader, to tap all talents for the tasks at hand. The advice of English poet, William Blake, “Clasp hands and know the thoughts of men in other lands,” will take on a new meaning with multiplying expectations for interpersonal cooperation.
Find direction and inspiration, momentum and motivation in great stories and visionary pioneers. Learn about the incredible struggle and amazing triumph of beloved deaf-blind American hero, Helen Keller. The miracle of human ingenuity rescued 33 Chilean miners trapped half a mile underground to safety on October 14, 2010 and the courage of astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin who walked on the surface of the Moon on July 20, 1969. Learn about South African cardiac surgeon, Dr. Christiaan Barnard, who performed the first successful human heart transplant in 1967. These treasured icons opened new chances at life with groundbreaking discoveries in learning and technology, medicine and science, earthly and interstellar attractions.
The survivors of the Jewish Holocaust during World War II offer us testimonies of the ultimate in triumph of human spirit. Brave souls call us to rise above dark valleys and create hopeful places for our times. Imagine your visions and values woven from the proud American fabric, fashioned after other hallowed testimonies in search of your own “…giant leaps for mankind.” Do not linger at: “what is impossible.” Embrace the mantra of Great Britain’s 106-year old Sikh marathon runner, Fauja Singh, who testifies, “Impossible is nothing.”