New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg today, June 16, urged Stanford University graduates to harness Stanford's spirit of innovation to pursue the American dream for themselves and to help extend it to others.
In a humor-laced speech filled with local references -- to the Old Pro, Illusions Club, Rudy's Pub, Lake Lagunita and the Dish -- he made an urgent call for U.S. immigration reform and said marriage equality is "the civil rights issue of our time."
Bloomberg addressed Stanford graduates and their families and friends in a morning ceremony at Stanford Stadium. The university awarded 1,701 bachelor's degrees, 2,325 master's degrees and 1,055 doctoral degrees.
Tracing the roots of the global technology and information revolution to Stanford and Silicon Valley, Bloomberg said: "It's fair to say that no other university in the world has so profoundly shaped the modern age."
He said he had hoped Stanford would be part of the Big Apple's technology future.
It was a reference to the university's aborted bid in 2011 to partner with New York City on a 10-acre applied-science and engineering campus on Roosevelt Island, near Manhattan. (Stanford withdrew its application at the last minute, and Bloomberg selected Cornell University in partnership with Israel's Technion University.)
"That didn't work out -- no hard feelings -- but I think in the end, it will," Bloomberg said, "because I believe that more and more Stanford graduates will find themselves moving to (New York's) Silicon Alley -- not only because we're the hottest new tech scene in the country but also because there's more to do on a Friday night than go to the Pizza Hut in Sunnyvale.
"And you may even be able to find a date with a girl whose name is not Siri."
Bloomberg said it is "national suicide" for the U.S. to educate foreign students and then force them to return to their home countries.
He called for immigrant-friendly reforms to U.S. law, including the ability of children brought to the U.S. illegally to apply for financial aid and attend college, automatic green cards for foreign science and technology graduates of U.S. universities and greater freedom for U.S. businesses to hire immigrants.
"American immigrants built the world's most innovative economy. If it is to keep growing, if we're going to keep the American dream alive, we need those in Washington to fix this broken system -- and fix it now," he said.
The American dream -- the idea that anyone from any background can achieve through ability and hard work -- is a "dream about opportunity, not outcome," Bloomberg said.
Harking back to his own startup days, when he founded the business-information company Bloomberg LP in 1981, he urged graduates to work hard, take risks, follow their passions and embrace innovation.
"When I was fired, I did what so many young people are doing now in Silicon Valley and New York City: I started my own technology company," he said.
"Companies, governments, unions and schools tend not to like disruptions to their business models. And that's exactly why new technology is so important.
"Technological disruption drives innovation. And the more disruption there is, the better markets perform and the harder it is for monopolies to survive.
"The idea that you can find a way to do something better, faster and cheaper has driven American innovation for centuries."
Stanford President John Hennessy said 1,161 of the students receiving graduate degrees Sunday represent 82 countries outside the U.S., and 113 of those receiving undergraduate degrees represent 43 countries outside the U.S.
Stanford Provost John Etchemendy presented the Walter J. Gores award for teaching excellence to Civil and Environmental Engineering Professor Lynn M. Hildemann, Assistant Professor of English Stephen Hong Sohn, sociology doctoral student Andrew Gustav Isaacson and psychology doctoral candidate Karen Fossum Larocque.
He presented the Lloyd W. Dinkelspiel award for enrichment of undergraduate education to Professor of Comparative Literature and German Studies Russell Berman, Haas Center for Public Service Director of Fellowships and Postgraduate Public Service Megan Swezey Fogarty and sociology and comparative studies graduate Holly Elizabeth Fetter.
He presented the Kenneth M. Cuthbertson Award for service to Stanford to Larry Horton, the university's senior associate vice-president for government and community relations.
Sunday's ceremony followed the 30-minute "Wacky Walk," a jubilant, non-traditional processional of graduating students into the stadium.
Costumes ranged from bathing suits to togas to sheep to clean-room suits to iPhones to cereal boxes to mortarboards over football helmets worn by members of the football team. Several students lofted a banner that said "Bloomberg supports racist policies."
Another graduating student dressed as the Big Gulp, an apparent reference to Bloomberg's recent efforts to ban the sale of large, sugary drinks in New York City.
Bloomberg said later: "I saw the guy dressed as a Big Gulp -- very funny."