Following is a transcript of remarks by University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Chancellor-Elect James Moeser Friday (April 14) at a celebration held in his honor at the Morehead Building. Moeser spoke to students, faculty and staff who gathered for his first address to the university community following his election by the UNC Board of Governors earlier in the day.
I can't tell you how excited Susan and I are to be here. I feel like I've been a North Carolinian all my life, but I've never lived here before.
We are so excited. Let me just tell you a little about why we're excited and why it's going to be so much fun.
I'm looking out here at one of my oldest friends, Thomas Warburton (Carolina music professor and Moeser's classmate in the musical arts Ph.D. program at the University of Michigan). I played the organ for Tom Warburton at his wedding.
In the 18th century, the forefathers of the American Republic realized that if democracy was to survive and even flourish that new institutions would have to be created, that the European model would not suffice for a free, enlightened democracy. And it was the people of North Carolina, followed shortly thereafter by Thomas Jefferson and the Virginians, who realized that the new institution that needed to be created to preserve, protect and really inspire, and to continue to feed American democracy, would be a new kind of university, a public university, dedicated to the idea of access to anyone who is qualified to benefit from such an education, no longer limited to an aristocracy defined by heredity and land.
That was a revolutionary concept, and from that concept sprang not only this great University, the first public university in America, but a whole system of public higher education which is now literally the envy of the world, which has propelled this country to the position of world leadership, not just in terms of military power or information technology, but in terms of culture and indeed an enlightened democracy.
At the pinnacle
The United States of America in the 21st century stands at a unique place as the only remaining superpower. The New York Times last week carried an interesting article about how Europeans are beginning to view our country with increasing alarm. And the comment made by one leading person in France was in fact, omnipotence and ignorance mixed together are a very dangerous cocktail. So the challenge for universities such as this is to maintain and rekindle and renourish the flame that was ignited first in the 18th century, and to make sure that the Jeffersonian ideal of an enlightened electorate and now of an enlightened superpower, the only superpower in the world, literally rests on the shoulders of the public universities in America.
The wonderful thing is that the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill not only stands at the beginning of this wonderful development which has created the prosperity and the power that we enjoy as a nation. It not only stands at the inception, at the Genesis, but it stands literally at the pinnacle of the whole system of higher education institutions in this country. Therein is both the challenge and the opportunity.
I told the search committee that what attracted me to Carolina was not, important though it is, was not the preservation of a great tradition, (and let me say parenthetically, I'm absolutely dedicated to doing that, and I'll talk about that in a moment), but I do not regard and I don't want to regard my tenure here on this campus as simply a preservation of the status quo, but rather an opportunity to take this University to a position where it will not be one of the top five or top three public universities in the United States, but the best public university in America. That is our goal.
I told the Board of Governors and the search committee also, as you know for a period of time I was the provost of the University of South Carolina, and I've had a conversion, a new theology, and I know a new definition of what the word Carolina means. There is no zealot like a convert.
A special place
I want to say a little bit about the special tradition and culture of this campus. I talked about preservation, and while that's not our ultimate goal, it's very important, and I want you to know that I have studied, and will, in the interim between now and when I arrive full-time on the campus in the middle of August, I will immerse myself in the literature and history of this great institution, because it strikes me that knowledge of that and the ability to articulate what is special about this place is actually critical to the main goal which is not only maintaining and improving upon public and state support for the University, but more importantly, building the endowment - building private support for endowed professorships, scholarships, fellowships, facilities, that will be the lever that will really move the University of North Carolina to the pinnacle of higher education in America.
The secret of that will be for me and for all of us to be able to continually articulate what is indeed special about Carolina. We will be able to tap into the love and loyalty of Carolina alumni which is deep and resonant, because students who come to this University, from the moment they set foot on this campus, realize that there is something special about the academic experience on this campus. They realize that they are really walking on special, even hallowed ground that is unlike other universities, even very fine universities. Very few, very few public universities, only a handful I would submit, and actually only a very few special private institutions, have been able to cultivate and maintain and capture the essence of that kind of a special, special feeling so that students who are admitted to this University, who come here and study and ultimately graduate from this University, develop a particular and special bond that lasts for an entire lifetime, resulting in an alumni base which is incredibly loyal, and beyond loyal, which really loves the University.
Our job is to take that love and to convince alumni to reinvest in their institution which made such a difference in their lives, and to allow us to take it to an even higher level. It's a tremendously exciting challenge.
I look forward to the very first days after the summer when we will have spent a great deal of time reading, learning all we can about the history of this place, and then literally setting foot on it for the first time on a full-time basis, walking this campus, sitting in faculty offices across this campus, learning and getting to know the faculty, the administrative leadership, meeting and interacting with students and absorbing, firsthand, this wonderful culture, and then taking it beyond the boundaries of the campus into every county in this state, across this nation and indeed, around the world, to tell the story of this great University, of its great history and tradition and its destiny to be the greatest public university in America.
I really look forward to this challenge with enormous enthusiasm and great optimism. John Gardner once said, "The first and last task of a leader is to keep hope alive." Let us all embrace the hope; not the hope, the vision; not the vision but the dedication and commitment; that this will be the best university in America. Together we can do it.
I think we've set ourselves a very concrete goal of this decade. By the end of the decade, nine years from now, this will be clearly recognized as the best public university in America. Let's do it together. I'm delighted to be here.