KP Singh Awarded Hon. Doc. of Humane Letters at Butler Univ.

Calling Brilliant Young Men And Women To Visionary And Imaginative Possibilities And A Spirit Of Optimism


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."

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My own story is not in that league: Millions faced life and death challenges, as my family and I did, at the time of the Partition of India in 1947 and during our escape to safety in the new India. My being with you today is a miracle, a remarkable moment in itself. My faith and destiny have placed before me a sense of deep humility and solemn challenge: To use my survival from the dark and frightening nightmare of the Partition as an ultimate reward. To dedicate this second chance at life and the modest gifts temporarily entrusted to me to serve and grow; to honor the sacrifices of my parents and family and celebrate America, my beloved and sacred Home. I pray to radiate a spirit of "Charhdikala" (positive optimism) in all seasons and dedicate my life to ideas that make a difference; with faith, the dance of destiny, and sounds of "Amazing Grace" leading me forward.

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The Indian philosopher-President, Dr. Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, reminds us about the significance of ideas: "Ideas move the world and thought precedes action." Good ideas need careful nurturing. Simply imagining and making lofty proclamations seldom yield much. One needs to be the abiding faith, defining force and tireless spirit of worthy undertakings. Dare your spirit to strive beyond the past unsuccessful go-arounds and make the impossible happen.

Develop "… a mindset of stewardship, collaboration, and creativity…" advocates Butler President, James Danko. Know that great things are hard and need dedicated attention. Yielding to setbacks along the way must never be an option. Greater still must be your resolve and commitment to overcoming hurdles in pursuit of your vision with a sense of higher urgency.

I invite each of you to be people of farsighted possibilities with an indomitable spirit of optimism: Be in charge of your destiny - in times when everything is going your way, and in the aftermaths of shattering anguish and devastating uncertainties. English author, Jonathan Swift, reminds us: "Vision is the art of seeing what is invisible to others."

"Believe in things that you have not seen…" For transforming ideas to become reality, one must make wise choices and take measured chances that lead to imagined outcomes, or at the very least open new paths awaiting diligent investigation. Let conscience, the U.S. Constitution, and collective well-being serve as your guiding lights and sacred anchors.

We can be certain that time and events will put each of you through paces and tough lessons: Optimism will serve as a spirit-bridge to scale formidable heights and reach more hopeful shores.

Emerging new frontiers are likely to take you to places around the world and beyond: You would need friends and warm welcome "… in homes not your own" ~ Gitanjali, Rabindranath Tagore. An openness to growth, understanding of cultural sensitivities and cherished values of others at your intersections will prove incredibly helpful.

Be a willing shoulder and positive force for others: The Nobel Laureate, His Holiness the Dalai Lama teaches us to "Make the 21st as the Century of Compassion, Learning and Serving, Peace and Harmony." See your future through a multifaceted prism that best reflects cross-national thresholds and diverse cultural markers. We have a stake in enlarging and advancing human horizons and shaping a future that best reflects our collective gifts and universal hopes.

The best jobs that many of you find may be the ones that you create yourselves here in Indiana. In her third century, Indiana is opening new frontiers: From just being a "Crossroads of America" where many highways intersect, to becoming a competitive crossroads of culture, education, research, sports, technology, and other emerging fields and services.

One of the special places to work in Indiana will always be Butler University. Butler gave you the academic foundation and all-important challenge to excel and be the best. Renew your acquaintance with your Alma Mater and return often. Congratulations, God Speed, and Butler!!!

<><> <><> Butler Winter Commencement <><> December 16, 2017

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