Dean Brown Challenges the Elliott School’s Class of 2015 to have ‘Multi-Dream Capabilities’

photo: Michael E. Brown ripping up script
June 17, 2015

It was a bittersweet occasion as the Elliott School community gathered to celebrate its newest class of graduates and to say goodbye to its long-serving dean, Michael E. Brown.

On May 15, 2015, before a crowd of more than 5,000 people, Dean Brown shared some wisdom with the Class of 2015.

“My first piece of advice is this: There is no script for your life. Your life cannot be mapped out, and it cannot be scripted,” said Dean Brown as he ripped up the script for his speech to cheers from the graduates.

Dean Brown challenged the Elliott School’s newest alumni to have “multi-dream capabilities,” warning them that their goals and opportunities would change and that their careers and their lives were not likely to follow a straight path.

The dean, an avid Bruce Springsteen fan, channeled his musical hero with his advice.

“What do you do with your life if your dream comes true?  Be like Bruce—be grateful for the opportunity you’ve been given, take advantage of it, get on with it, make the most of your life, try to make a contribution to the world,” said Dean Brown, referencing the star’s illustrious music career after facing early challenges.

“What do you do if your dream doesn’t come true? Well here’s my advice: Get a good night’s sleep, and dream another dream.”

For Nicolas Pedreira (B.A. ’15), the Class of 2015 student speaker, the most valuable lessons learned were ones not found in a textbook.

“As students of the Elliott School, we graduate knowing that the best way to learn about the world is to immerse ourselves in it,” he said. “Our voices matter. Remember: If you have something to say, make the world hear you loud and clear.”

Ambassador Edward W. “Skip” Gnehm, Jr., Kuwait Professor of Gulf and Arabian Peninsula Affairs at GW and the winner of the 2015 Harry Harding Teaching Award, delivered the charge to the graduates. In order to make a positive global impact, Ambassador Gnehm told the Class of 2015, one must “have and hold to your principles, follow a moral compass, and never lose your vision.”

Before Bruce Springsteen’s hit song “Born to Run” played over the loudspeakers and Dean Brown led the faculty and students in the recessional, he left the graduates with a final piece of parting wisdom.

“The key is to care about other people more than you care about yourself. It’s about putting the common interest before your self-interest. It’s about fighting the good fight even when it might not be good for you. It’s about doing what you can to make a contribution to humanity’s common cause. It’s about being ambitious, but not for yourself.”

This, he said, is the key to happiness and fulfillment in life.