During the last few weeks you've undoubtedly heard countless commencement speeches celebrating the conclusion of the great scholastic achievements of the class of 2014. With these speeches taking place all over America, we all need to remember that the word "commencement" means to begin or to start. Unfortunately for most college graduates, the commencement speech actually signifies the end of learning. In fact, we know that nearly half of the 1.6 million U.S. students graduating this year will never read a book again.
That stat is scary, but scarier still is the fact that learning has become an afterthought for many Americans going about their daily lives. It's time for this to change. It's time to become a society of lifelong learners. In today's fast-paced, on-demand world, a thirst for knowledge is no longer a nice-to-have; it's a necessity for success. In a world where the speed of information and change has never been faster, this critical lack of ongoing learning is leading to a growing skills gap among American professionals that is ultimately resulting in the decline of our nation's economic competitiveness.
This just in: ignorance is not bliss.
This is why we're calling on everyone today to commence on a journey of life-long learning. This commencement speech is not just for soon-to-be and recent college graduates. It's for anyone who wants to be successful and relevant in today's world.
Let us be unequivocal in stating how dangerous it is to think that you have ever finished learning. If you believe that after college, that section on your resume labeled "Education" will be checked off forever, you're wrong. If you think that you can exercise your brain up until the age of 21 or 22, and that it's then going to stay in tip-top physical shape for the next 60 years -- completely contrary to what we all experience when we let our more visible muscles languish -- you're wrong.
All of that is an old way of thinking that has no place in modern society. Sure, it might have been useful when access to information was limited. At first, we could only spread knowledge by word of mouth, and it was slow to travel. The handwritten word was the next advancement. Then came the printed word. Then came radio, then television, then personal computers, then the Internet. Now information spreads instantaneously, and allows the world around us to evolve just as quickly.
In other words, education today has a shorter shelf life than at any time in history. If education used to be considered Spam -- something people stocked up on that was designed to artificially last forever -- then today it's organic, non-GMO, locally raised kale -- a more-fulfilling, more sustainable product that should be consumed fresh and restocked frequently. The only viable model to produce successful, happy, productive people is through true lifelong learning, defined as a continuous, self-motivated pursuit of knowledge for both professional and personal improvement. There are no "educated" individuals -- only individuals whose education is ongoing.
The good news is that new learning opportunities are more plentiful, accessible and affordable than ever, and more options are being released daily for example, free massive open online courses (MOOCs). While nearly half of you will likely be employed in jobs that do not require a college degree, your path to continuous education is at your beck and call, and all you have to do is take the initiative.
So we say to you, the entire 2014 class of lifelong learners, get up out of your seats, and make a commitment to life-long learning, right here, right now, for the rest of your lives.
Today is your day. From now on, you're free to pursue education on your own terms, for your own fulfillment, to reach your own potential. You're a life-long learner, and it's time for you to shine.