In baccalaureate speech, longtime Obama aide Chris Lu '88 discusses U. education as an "inheritance"
Receiving a Princeton education makes one privileged, even if that person was not privileged before, Christopher Lu ’88, Deputy Secretary of the Department of Labor and former White House Cabinet Secretary, told the Class of 2014 in his Baccalaureate addresson Sunday,titled “The Inheritance of a Princeton Education.” After one has received this inheritance, Lu said, one should give back to society.
“Your education is your inheritance,” Lu said. “Unlike a gift, there are strings attached to an inheritance. There are responsibilities implied. An inheritance is something you grow and pass on to the next generation.”
Graduates can also perform public service during and after successful careers in the private sector, Lu added, noting that Bill Gates, Andrew Carnegie and John D. Rockefeller put their fortunes to valuable uses.
“You can work for a high-tech start-up and spend your weekends volunteering at your church or local food bank,” Lu said. “To make a difference, all it takes is a few hours each week.”
Public service is a mindset, Lu added.
“ ‘If there is a child on the south side of Chicago who cannot read, that matters to me, even if it is not my child,’ ” he said, quoting President Barack Obama.
“For [my father] and my mother, saving money for an Ivy League education was their life’s mission,” Lu said. “The best investments often do not produce quick returns. When my father passed away, just a few years after I had graduated from Princeton, he had seen only a tiny glimpse of how I would use this inheritance he had provided me. Yet he understood that my education would pay dividends for years to come, in ways that continue to surprise me."
Many students in the Class of 2014 have similar stories of sacrifice, Lu said.
“By looking beyond yourself, by understanding how we are all connected as one people, by fighting for greater opportunity for all and by continuing the legacy of progress that defines our nation, you choose the better history of this proud university and its graduates,” Lu said.
Lu’s speech was also punctuated by moments of levity. Lu joked that defensive lineman Caraun Reid ’14 held him down so a nurse could give him a meningitis shot.
Lu also addressed his stature in the history of Princeton’s Baccalaureate speakers.
“When most of you heard I was going to be your speaker, you were probably a little disappointed,” Lu said. “But it could be worse. Two years ago, the graduation ceremony at the University of Vermont, and I kid you not, culminated with a song performed by SpongeBob SquarePants.”
Lu concluded his speech by saying that graduates should now begin to realize the value of their “inheritance.”
“Class of 2014, we’re expecting great things from all of you,” Lu said. “Congratulations and good luck.”