Editor’s Note: Bruce Katz gave a commencement speech before the graduating class at the College of Urban Planning and Public Affairs at the University of Illinois, Chicago. He urged the graduates to tackle pressing issues facing metropolitan areas.
Thank you, Dean Pagano for that introduction.
And congratulations to all of the graduates here, and the family and friends who have supported you along the way, for a job well done.
I know these are difficult times to enter the job market. The Great Recession has left an indelible imprint on tens of millions of Americans.
But I want to assure you that the profession you have chosen has a bright future because cities and metropolitan areas have a bright future.
You begin your professional career at what can only be described as a Metro Moment, in the United States and throughout the world.
Metropolitan areas, cities and their surrounding suburbs, exurbs and rural communities, are the world’s essential communities.
These places are the engines of national prosperity.
They are on the front lines of demographic transformation.
They are the vehicles for environmental sustainability.
They are the vanguards of innovation … in technology, in business, in government policy, and practice.
If this is a Metro Moment, then it is also a time for individuals who are engaged in building strong cities and suburbs.
Professionals who plan, design, finance, develop, retrofit, manage, implement in ways that affect the lives of metro citizens every day.
Like metros, your profession is on the front lines, of a revolution in thinking and practice.
The traditional ways of specialized disciplines and siloed bureaucracies are giving way to holistic thinking and integrated solutions. This, in turn, is fuelling a burst of creativity and imagination.
These are not your parents’ metros and this is not your parents’ urban planning profession.
So let me situate your work in the complex dynamics of metropolitan America.