In his own words: Presidential quotations

President Richard C. Levin gave over 800 speeches and countless interviews during the course of his presidency at Yale and beyond. Here are just a few of the memorable things he said:

President Richard C. Levin gave over 800 speeches and countless interviews during the course of his presidency at Yale and beyond. Here are just a few of the memorable things he said:

(Photo by Michael Marsland)

“Once this press conference is done, I’m going to walk over to the mayor of New Haven, who’s here, and start talking about what we can do to make New Haven stronger.”

Response to the question “What will be your first action as president?” asked at the press conference announcing his appointment, 1993.


“From our experience in the classroom, from the light in our students’ eyes as they first comprehend a difficult idea, we know that education improves the soul.”

“Why Colleges and Universities Matter,” American Council on Education, 2011.


“The fate of the planet depends on our ability to collaborate across borders to solve society’s most pressing problems — the persistence of poverty, the prevalence of disease, the proliferation of nuclear weapons, the shortage of water, and the danger of global warming. Having better educated citizens and leaders can only help.”

“The Rise of Asia’s Universities,” The Royal Society, London, England, 2010

“When I speak of becoming a global university, I envision a curriculum and a research agenda permeated by awareness that political, economic, social, and cultural phenomena in any part of the world can no longer be fully understood in isolation.”

“The Global University,” Peking University, 2001


“The goals of liberal education are to prepare students to question relentlessly, to think through problems carefully, and to analyze consequences. Today, these qualities of mind developed through liberal education are perhaps more indispensable than ever.”

Signing of Yale-NUS agreement, 2011.

“By serving as models of institutional citizenship, universities make a direct contribution to social betterment and inspire their students to recognize an obligation to serve.  . . . Through the research we do, the flexible workforce we educate, and the social mobility we provide, we contribute powerfully to the economic well-being of the nation.”

“The University in Service to Society,” University of Athens, 2008


“Yale should be a college of choice for the very best and brightest students from across America and around the world, regardless of financial circumstances. We want all of our students to make the most of Yale — academically and beyond — without worrying about excessive work hours or debt.”

Announcement of new financial aid package, 2008

“We must help our society become what we aspire to be inside our walls  —  a place where human potential can be fully realized.”

Inaugural Address, 1993


“Freedom, toleration, and open-mindedness: those are the values of the University. These are the values that America at its best stands for. Even as we remember and honor the victims of the terror inflicted upon us 10 years ago this day, let us commit ourselves to reject blind adherence to dogma and affirm freedom, toleration, and open-mindedness. Let us ever confront darkness and prejudice with light and truth.”

Tenth anniversary celebration of 9/11 on Cross Campus, 2011


“By moving aggressively to reduce the carbon footprints of our campuses, we teach our students that sustainability matters, and that they are responsible for the future of their planet. We also help to demonstrate to policymakers that significant reductions in greenhouse gas emissions are feasible and not prohibitively expensive.”

Keynote address, Eco-Forum Guiyang, 2010


“If you are leaving here with a passion for learning, a capacity for independent thought, and deep friendships rooted in self-understanding, then you have accomplished much of the work of a college education.”

Baccalaureate Address, 2005

“There is no doubt that our nation would benefit from retaining more graduate engineers and scientists, and for them there’s a simple solution: scrap the H-1B visa and staple a green card to the diploma!”

Speech to Foreign Policy Association, 2008


“To be adequately prepared for life in a highly interdependent world, you need the ability, which I trust that you have begun to develop here, to recognize and appreciate that those from other nations and other cultures see the world differently, hold different assumptions, and often reach different conclusions even when presented with the same facts.”

Baccalaureate Address, 2008

“Even as we increase our commitment to excellence in science and engineering, we are applying the most rigorous standards to ensure that Yale’s humanities and social science departments remain, as they have been through most of the past century, among the world’s very best, and that the Yale name is synonymous with greatness in the arts.”

Tercentennial Address, “300 Years of Creativity and Discovery,” April 20, 2001

“In some ways, you could liken the West Campus opportunity to the decision Thomas Jefferson faced when confronted with the opportunity to buy Louisiana. … Think about what would have happened if Jefferson had failed to buy Louisiana, along with the rest of the western United States. We were very fortunate that we didn’t pass up this opportunity and were able to make our own Louisiana Purchase.”

Yale Alumni Magazine, 2010

“The wealth of talent and human potential throughout this university never ceases to astonish me …”

Baccalaureate Address, 2007

“In addition to increasing expected incomes, higher education promotes upward mobility, and thus enables the realization of the deeply rooted American belief that individuals can improve their circumstances.”

American Council on Education, 2011

“And here is the task before us: to educate thinking citizens and leaders, to preserve free inquiry and free expression, to generate new knowledge that improves health and spreads prosperity, to encourage realization of the human potential latent within our cities, and to reach out to the world to provide a foundation for mutual understanding and peace. Hoc virtutis opus. This is the work of Yale’s fourth century. When our successors gather here 100 years from now, may they look with favor on what we have accomplished.”

Tercentennial Convocation Address, 2001

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