Well, good morning to all of you.
And let me, first of all, congratulate what you have demonstrated right now an agility in transforming yourself.
You looked a little bit dark, a little bit gray.
You look fantastically transparent and full of beautiful umbrellas in the back.
And thank you chairman for introducing the rain.
It is a great honor to return to IIT and celebrate together.
I would like to thank President Anderson for his kind invitation.
To thank faculty members, board members, students, parents, grandparents, family members.
And I would like to thank you for your patience and warm welcome.
Let me start with a full disclosure.
Back many years ago, I was indeed a member of the international advisory council of IIT,
but this is not the reason why I want to disclose fully.
Fully disclosure of my highly personal interest in today's ceremony.
I am the proud mother of one of the 2,591 graduates whose accomplishments are being recognized today.
And as an immensely proud mum... as an immensely proud mum,
I would like to extend a special welcome to all families and friends who are joining this wonderful commencement exercise.
It's a joyous moment for all of us.
And today, the center of our universe is right here in Chicago, on the Ed Glancy Field.
Today you, the graduates of this great university, have the right to feel like the new masters of the academic universe.
Hard work, boundless energy, relentless curiosity, and incredible talent:
these are some of the qualities that helped you achieve success in the classroom.
And these are the same qualities that will help you achieve success
and that will bring to bear on some of the world's most exciting challenges.
And believe me, there are plenty of those.
In other words, after having written the prologue,
you are now ready to draft your 21st-century legacies in engineering, architecture, business, design, science and technology, and law.
What an incredible privilege and what a responsibility!
Of course, many of you already know that the line from college to career is unlikely to be perfectly straight.
It will have ups and downs, plenty of twists and turns, and probably a few of bumps along the way.
But many of you will also realize that your starting point could not be better.
This is why we are here today -- to celebrate the beginning of your journey, the starting point of a new adventure.
It is a day of hope. It is a day of promise. It is a day of joy.
With this in mind, I would like to talk about three things that could, could help along the journey:
First, reinventing yourself and welcoming change and risks.
Second, standing up for your values and ideas.
Third, encouraging transformational change in others.
Now if you indulge me, I would like to introduce these points by briefly recounting personal experiences that have shaped my own life.
Now of course, of course my experiences may not be the ultimate nuggets of wisdom.
But as Mark Twain once said: "It is better to have old second-hand diamonds than none at all."
So I will try. And here is my first story -- about risk and reinvention.
Now let me be clear about risks.
Although I spend a lot of time in the air, I don't jump out of airplanes;
And although I move a lot of money around, I don't hang out in casinos;
Although I am French, I hardly drink any wine. So far, so boring.
But there is a pattern in my personal journey that I would describe as going from, from "cozy" to "crazy".
As in: "Why would you give up your cozy life? Are you crazy?"
I heard the French version of that question 42 years ago,
when I traded my cozy world in France for a new life with my American host family, my American school in Bethesda, Maryland.
I was 17, and I was recovering slowly from a profound emotional and cultural shock.
And soon enough I was homesick and missing my family and friends.
But I was also incredibly excited to be exposed to new ideas, new language, a new ways of thinking.
And I am forever indebted to those people who welcomed me and who allowed me to experience the most transformational year in my life.
Let me give you another example "from cozy to crazy", and it happened right here in Chicago.
In 1999, after years of studying at law school, hard work as a young, and then not so young lawyer,
my partners at Baker & McKenzie elected me chairman of this global unique law firm.
Working and living here in Chicago allowed me to thrive as a lawyer,
as a leader, and as a mother of two wonderful boys.
And I could not have made it without the support and tolerance of my family, they are here today,
and the help of my great colleagues and friends, some of whom are here today as well.
But in 2005, I received a phone call, a bit like you, President.
The call was from Paris, and it was the Prime Minister.
And he was asking me to join the French government as Trade Secretary.
Now when your country calls you to public service, there is really one answer you can give.
So I gave up my cozy life as chairman, my wonderful expected retirement plan,
packed my bag and flew immediately to Paris that very same day.
And actually, in my haste, I managed to forget my glasses.
So for first few days in office, the newest French minister was blinking and squinting a lot!
But going from "cozy" to "crazy" allowed me to move from the private sector to national public service,
and then to international public service; from France to the United States and to the world.
And one of the major lessons I have learned during that journey is this:
be prepared for change, be willing to take risks, be willing to take "smart risks",
and don't ever be afraid of re-inventing yourself along the way.