Secretary of Labor Lynn Morley Martin urged 200 Villa Julie graduates yesterday to "find time for a slightly broader agenda" as they pursue personal and professional goals.
In a commencement speech at the Greenspring Valley college, Ms. Martin told students that "the days when America's position as the world's dominant economic power was unquestioned are not here. They are not likely to return."
America's economy will be challenged by countries that are "eager to expand their sales beyond their borders. And they want to expand into this great nation.
"Helping the most disadvantaged and least-skilled Americans develop the abilities to survive has been one of my priorities," she said. "But this isn't a job for government alone. The private sector must play a role -- it must play a key role."
The challenge, she said, brings opportunity for young graduates, particularly women and minorities. "Women already make up almost half of our nation's labor force," she said. They "will account for well over half of the 56 million new workers between now and 2005. America's work force is becoming more diverse with each passing day . . . tomorrow's corporate leaders will have to manage this diversity."
But Ms. Martin warned students that "often it is not their ability that stops them [women and minorities] dead in their tracks; it is the manager's inability to deal with someone who does not fit his -- yes, his -- mold."
"Not only behavior has to change," she said. "Attitude must change as well. And that's not easy."
But change has been a constant of the American experience, Ms. Martin said. And she told the graduates that their generation must take the lead in finding ways to meet the needs of a changing work force, and to compete in a changing world.