STARKVILLE, Miss.--Mississippi State University's Class of 2014 can change the world for the better, according to the leader of the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP).
Executive Director Ertharin Cousin spoke Friday and Saturday [May 16 and 17] at MSU's commencement ceremonies. She explained how her own interest in changing the world led her to becoming the head of the world's largest humanitarian organization responsible for feeding more than 97 million people in 80 countries.
MSU's Class of 2014 should also embrace the responsibility of making the world better, said Cousin, who was recently named one of Time magazine's 100 Most Influential People.
"Each day requires choices that mold society. You're minutes from the next milestone in your life," she said. "I am confident that each and every one of you here today has been well prepared by MSU, by your parents and by your classmates to make these choices and to take over the reins as our next generation."
No matter what the graduates choose to do in their professional lives, Cousin said they can work to make the world better.
"Promote the valuing of people, wherever they live and whatever they do. Help us end hunger. Stand up. Volunteer. Speak out," she said. "Do whatever you can to change your world--to change our world for the better."
By directing the WFP, Cousin said she has special insight into the worldwide challenges that graduates will face both now and in the years to come. Hunger already costs society billions.
"We cannot ignore the challenge of hunger; our collective future is at stake. The good news is, we can stop the damage and build for the future," Cousin said. "We know what must be done. We can eliminate hunger in all of our lifetimes.
"To meet growing demands, we must not only sharply increase food production, but we must also develop food systems that are efficient, equitable and sustainable."
Cousin told the graduates about the new collaboration between the WFP and MSU. Prior to the Friday ceremony, she and MSU President Mark E. Keenum signed a memorandum of understanding to work together and find solutions to food insecurity and continuing hunger.
"Under President Keenum's leadership, MSU has accepted the challenge to eliminate hunger in our lifetimes head on," she said. "In WFP, we stand ready to partner with you and this university and to harness your success in research, teaching and Extension for the world's most vulnerable people, the people we serve."
Along with the almost 2,800 bachelor's, master's and doctoral degrees awarded, MSU conferred two honorary degrees. Cousin received a Doctor of Public Service, while MSU alumnus and Brazilian native Sebastião Barbosa was awarded a Doctor of Science.
Barbosa has implemented agricultural research-cooperation agreements with the U.S. and numerous other nations, part of his work as head of the cotton unit for the Brazilian Agricultural Research Corp., or EMBRAPA, the Brazilian equivalent of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Learn more about MSU at www.msstate.edu.