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The Finest Hour

May 10, 2017

The following is an excerpt of remarks given at the Celebration of Teaching and Scholarship, April 25, 2017.

June 18, 1940. The Nazis had invaded France and everyone expected Britain to be next. Winston Churchill addresses the House of Commons of the Parliament of the United Kingdom:

“What General Weygand has called the Battle of France is over ... the Battle of Britain is about to begin. The whole fury and might of the enemy must very soon be turned on us. If we can stand up to him, all Europe may be freed and the life of the world may move forward into broad, sunlit uplands. But if we fail, then the whole world, including the United States, including all that we have known and cared for, will sink into the abyss of a new dark age made more sinister, and perhaps more protracted, by the lights of perverted science. Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duties, and so bear ourselves, that if the British Empire and its Commonwealth last for a thousand years, men will still say, This was their finest hour.”

Now some will undoubtedly be aghast that there might be a connection between the Battle of Britain and today’s Celebration of Teaching and Learning. Afterall, the Battle of Britain yielded thousands of lives lost but many more saved, acts of courage, the moral defense of freedom and the fight against tyranny. Certainly, the Battle of Britain defines a noble act. But we would be demoting our own profession – the education profession – if we did not put what we do into this same elite circle of noble acts.For while the Battle of Britain saved millions of lives and became a bright beacon for freedom fighters, we educators transform millions of lives and make it possible for enlightened citizens to articulate the right to freedom.

Every year, RIT graduates more than 3,000 students – students who are now prepared to lead fulfilling and meaningful lives thanks to the work of the faculty and staff. These students will become scientists, engineers, artists, coders, designers, and educators and then go on to become leaders in industry, academia, government and in society as a whole. All possible because the faculty and staff have embraced the noble act of transforming lives.So yes educating students – the act of transforming lives - is companion to saving lives and fighting for what is right. And it is therefore fitting and right to invite you to our finest hour – the celebration of teaching and learning at RIT.