May 30 2012
Making a Better World
ILR education readies graduates for contributions to global issues, Katz says
As Bhadrinath Vaidhyanathan MILR '12 strode toward commencement, he thought of his parents.
Until his graduation Sunday, they had never flown in an airplane or visited the United States.
Their trek from India led to campus, where parental value for the achievements of ILR's 300-plus graduates was palpable last weekend.
Susan Benson, mother of Nathan Benson '12, summed up her thoughts in two words. "Such pride."
The world needs the abilities of ILR graduates, said Harry Katz, Kenneth F. Kahn Dean and Jack Sheinkman Professor, in his address to students Sunday in Lynah Rink.
"Graduates, you have more than an opportunity to make use of your ILR skills in debates about international labor standards and other issues, you have an obligation to do so. And this is only one among a number of social and public policy problems that would benefit from your skills and your input," he said.
"You have a responsibility to help find solutions to our nation's economic and social troubles. Helping to make a better world is a responsibility you bear as citizens and as a vehicle to repay the incredible good fortune you have experienced in your lives," Katz said.
Labor conditions and worker rights "are some of the most pressing social and economic issues of our day," Katz said.
An ILR education, with a growing global focus in recent years, prepares students to apply knowledge and contribute to the international discourse, he said, noting that student activists have already been part of labor debates which have influenced decisions at Cornell and elsewhere.
Katz's speech can be read online (pdf).
As Ethan Erickson '12 prepared to leave Cornell, he said, "I'm sad to leave this place."
But, he said, he's ready to put his ILR degree to work and plunge into the next phase of his journey.
“My ILR degree has prepared me to weather the storms of life.”