MTSU's 15th University Convocation speaker made references to the bestselling book he co-authored and was read by more than 3,000 new freshmen and transfer students this year.
But for Rajiv Chandrasekaran, civility and respect were at the heart of his 20-minute message to his audience at Convocation, which is designed to welcome new students into the learning community and immediately engage them in the learning process.
"You have read about honor and valor and about service and sacrifice," said Chandrasekaran, who, along with Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz, wrote "For Love of Country: What Our Veterans Can Teach Us About Citizenship, Heroism and Sacrifice."
"How do we take those values and incorporate them into our lives?" he added. "Some of you will participate in MTSU's ROTC program and serve our nation as military officers upon graduation. Others of you may choose to enlist. You have my utmost respect.
"But all of you -- all of us -- can serve our nation. And it doesn't require a uniform. It simply requires a willingness to espouse the values that have long made our nation great: civility, civic engagement, empathy, and a willingness to work with others who hold different opinions in a polite and respectful way. It requires us to be good citizens. We all have this power within us. But many of us choose not to demonstrate it -- at least not on a regular basis."
A San Francisco, California, native, Chandrasekaran became senior vice president for public affairs at Starbucks and executive producer of the company's social impact media initiatives in 2015.
Offering her impressions of the book, freshman Melany Ortiz-Hernandez, 18, of Smyrna, Tennessee, said "every story was so heartbreaking and brought tears to my eyes. The book gave me a whole new level of respect and opened my eyes to our fellow veterans."
Accompanied by parents Ofelia Hernandez and Max Ortiz and sisters Kimberly and Ashley Oritz-Hernandez, the textiles, merchandising and design major said Chandrasekaran's talk "gave us another opportunity to soak in what the book taught us and offered a new perspective regarding valor, compassion and love for our fellow man."
Dr. Deb Sells, vice president of Student Affairs and vice provost for Enrollment and Academic Services, welcomed the freshmen and new transfer students to MTSU's learning community that's a "transition of where you have been and where you are going. ... Today, you become one of us."
President Sidney A. McPhee shared how the new students would be beginning "many new, significant relationships that will change your life" and referenced "our outstanding faculty" as a major part of that opportunity.
Chandrasekaran is a former senior correspondent and associate editor with The Washington Post. In addition to covering Afghanistan for most of a decade, he also was the Post's bureau chief in Baghdad, Cairo and Southeast Asia.
Following Convocation, students, their families, faculty and administration attended the President's Picnic at Floyd Stadium.