Christ University Commencement

May 26, 2013
Christ University, Bangalore, India

Thank you.

Chancellor Aykara, Vice Chancellor Mathew, Dr. Wollenschlger, colleagues, graduates, families and friends, good afternoon.

This is my first trip to Bangalore, but it is a homecoming of sorts for me. My grandmother was from Karnataka. She was reared on the other end of The B.M. Road, in Mangalore. Both my wife, Monica, who is here today, and my father grew up in Mumbai. I am proud of my Indian heritage and of the contributions that Indian people have made around the world.

Even though I have traveled thousands of miles, I feel at home here, among friends, a part of our shared global village.

Bangalore is an amazing place. What began as a humble military outpost almost 500 years ago has become a business and technology capital for a new world, the Silicon Valley of the Subcontinent.

This is a city where ambitions take flight. A recent article in Time magazine called the young people who live and study here — all of you — “business-minded, optimistic and determined to succeed.”

In record numbers, young leaders like you are drawn to Bangalore’s crown jewel, Christ University. There is a reason that 15 percent more students are applying to Christ University today than did just three years ago. Your programs are in demand because they are distinctive in India. Rather than reading a textbook alone, you learn by solving problems in the real world. For example, I have heard about your work with Shoppers Stop. It is impressive. Your analysis helped them sell products that had been clogging their shelves — an educational experience for you, and a practical solution for them.

There are other examples: You worked with Tata Motors to launch a new light commercial vehicle, which has become one of their best-selling models. You helped Coffee N.U. reinvent its customer service. You assisted HCL Technologies in evaluating foreign markets for its medical equipment. And you partnered with Samsung to increase its visibility at trade fairs.

That’s why prominent corporations around the globe — from Cisco, to Johnson & Johnson, to Ford — line up to hire Christ University graduates. And it is why my home institution, Virginia Commonwealth University, has partnered with yours the last four years.

Much like Christ University, VCU is a rising star. In fact, a few months ago, an organization in Shanghai, China, recognized VCU as one of the top 200 research universities in the world.

Part of this ranking is because we have a School of Business that is listed among the top 5 percent worldwide, and which has educated generations of corporate and civic leaders. The dynamic leader of our School of Business, Dean Ed Grier, is here with me today — and I am pleased to recognize him and thank him for his contributions.

As VCU emerges globally, we have begun partnering with leading universities around the world. One of our strongest allies is Christ University, which has quickly become a first-choice institution in India.

Vice Chancellor Mathew, Director Father Thomas T.V. thank you for this great partnership. Because of you, the world knows Christ University as an institution committed to excellence and service. We are proud to join together with you.

The partnership between Christ University and VCU, which permits students to earn master’s degrees in business from both universities, is a critically important model for collaboration, even beyond the borders of our campuses.

Our students come together to learn firsthand the business climate of two of civilization’s most robust economies, the United States and India. They learn skills, like collaborative thinking and better communication, that will help them prosper in an evolving global marketplace. And when they graduate, they become leaders whose educational experience literally spans the globe, and who will improve the human experience through their commitment to innovation, understanding and entrepreneurship.

Almost 90 students have earned this prestigious dual degree. And I know there are a few more who are graduating today. Would you please stand so we can recognize you?

Thank you for adding so much to our universities, and to our world.

These students, like others at VCU and Christ University, will use their education not simply to forge ahead, but to forge a path for others. This is paramount, because humanity needs well-educated and well-intentioned leaders who are creating a better way of life — in business, law, government and every other field.

What VCU and Christ University are doing together is only the beginning of what must be many more partnerships between universities, industries, nations and citizens in a new world that is interconnected and, increasingly, interdependent.

The fact is, we need each other like never before. The machines of India need the materials of Africa, the merchants of Europe and the markets of America. Ideas from Bangalore, Karnataka, need innovations from Richmond, Va. — and vice versa. India’s Ambassador to the U.S., Nirupama Rao, who grew up here in Bangalore and who visited VCU’s campus in Richmond a few months ago, recently spoke about humanity’s increasing connectedness. She said, and I quote: “Human beings are not very different from each other, regardless of the languages they speak or the cultures they belong to. The challenge in this flat world is to create a new model of citizenship: one that links global learning with local engagement.”

“Our people”—she said—“especially our young people, have to be global citizens with open, searching minds.”

Christ University has given you an open, searching mind.

Now, I know we can count on you to use what you have learned here to help shape India through commerce and law, and shape our world through collaboration and innovation.

Advancement like this comes in environments where people are open-minded, innovative and have the ability to understand how we succeed as humans.

Five principles of success have guided me throughout my career, and — in closing — I will share them with you today.

They are inspired by a wonderful book called “The Five Temptations of a CEO,” by Patrick Lencioni. I prefer to think of them as five choices we must make as leaders in business or in life.

No. 1: Always choose results over status. Your title doesn’t matter. Whether you are a CEO, a university president or an apprentice, what matters are the results of your work. Autograph your work with excellence.

No. 2: Aim for respect, not popularity. As a leader, you will have to make decisions that will upset some people. This is inevitable. Understand that what counts is not being popular among your colleagues. It is ensuring that they respect you — even when they disagree with you.

No. 3: Strive to be clear, rather than certain. I once heard a music teacher say, “If you’re going to play the wrong note — play it loud!” The same is true in business. You may not always be right, but you should always provide clear direction.

No. 4: Appreciate discord, not harmony. When everyone agrees, no one is innovating. Recognize that the best ideas are often born from disagreements and compromise. Get all perspectives on the table and appreciate the enlightenment that courteous disagreement can bring.

No. 5: Remember that being trusted is more important than being invulnerable. Encourage your colleagues to challenge your ideas. When you’re wrong, admit it. Gain your team’s trust by being human, not heroic.

These principles have served me well in business and in life. I know they were serve you well, too, as new leaders for our new world.

I sincerely congratulate you on this exceptional day. Earning a degree is something we celebrate around the world. I am proud to celebrate with you today.

And I remind you to:

March on, Christites, March on.
With heads held high and hearts so strong.
March on, Christites, March on.