It is graduation season and that means college grads across the country are filling auditoriums to listen to commencement speeches. Secretary of Energy Steven Chu presented the commencement address at Washington University during a May 21, 2010, ceremony. Secretary Chu closed his speech by encouraging graduates to “Do something that matters. Help save the world.”


To understand what he was talking about, we need to go back to the start of his address. After introducing himself, he explains to the audience that in five years, no one will likely remember what he said today. I participated in a commencement ceremony just over a week ago and I can honestly say that I only remember two things: the emotions that the sign language interpreters used when translating the speech and the speaker’s brief mention of Arizona’s highly controversial immigration bill, SB1070.

Although it’s only been one week and I’ve retained very little of my commencement address, I can assure you that if I were listening to Secretary Chu’s speech, I’d have retained much more.

During his speech, Secretary Chu explains that we need to start a second industrial revolution here in the United States, one that focuses on the environment.

“A second industrial revolution is needed to provide the world's energy needs in an environmentally sustainable way. America has the opportunity to lead in this new industrial revolution and build the foundation of our future prosperity. Alternatively, we can hope that the price of oil will return to $30 a barrel and that climate change is not a serious threat. If we are wrong, we will be importing the new energy technologies developed by Europe and Asia.” Source: U.S. Department of Energy

Today’s college graduates are tomorrow’s innovators. Some of the students who recently graduated from Washington University and other schools across the nation will be starting their new green jobs in the upcoming months. These same students may design a low-cost, long-range battery for use in electric vehicles. These students may be on the project that finds a way to drastically reduce the manufacturing costs of solar power so that millions of Americans can adopt affordable renewable energy technology.

No matter what direction these students take, Secretary Chu urged them to “Do something that matters. Help save the world.”

That’s one inspirational commencement speech.

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