If there is one thing I want for the University of the District of Columbia, it is for UDC to become the university of first choice for a majority of the college-going population of the city. Not the institution of last resort. Not the institution one chooses because money is short. Not the institution whose academic programs are less well known than its national champion Firebirds basketball team -- proud as we are of them.

The whole town is going to know -- very soon -- that it won't be necessary for our citizens to mortgage their future to pay for college when we have accomplished our mission here. My vision parallels the wishes of the wise people who mandated the creation of this great institution. I want us to continue to accept all who would come with a diploma or high school equivalency certificate in hand. I want us to provide every opportunity for each who comes to benefit from the wide array of programs that we offer.

But I want the word to go to all who plan to make UDC a part of their lives: enrolling at UDC is a right, all things being equal; but graduating from UDC is going to be a privilege that must be earned by each individual.

Graduation from UDC will be a privilege reserved for those who are serious about gaining a depth of intellectual preparation that enriches their appreciation of the human experience. It will be a privilege reserved for those who are serious about preparing themselves for the career opportunities that are still to be found just beyond the boundaries of the UDC campuses. Graduation will be a privilege granted those who demonstrate a mastery of the fundamental skills expected of college graduates everywhere; those who indicate through recognized measures that they are prepared to take on the responsibility of advancing the civilization of which they are a part.

There will be no coddling -- for coddling only cripples students -- and no special privileges. The UDC diploma will be respected even more than it is now, and it will open doors of opportunity.

UDC will graduate science students whose research will be pivotal to the advancement of health and welfare. And when they enter the nation's graduate schools and research laboratories, they will carry with them the strong reputation that UDC will have earned through them.

We will graduate technology students who will discover more efficient use of energy; students who will find ways to cut through the political thicket so better bridges can be built and better roads and highways constructed.

UDC will graduate painters, musicians and performing artists who will dazzle the refined senses of the world's patrons of the arts. We will graduate the historians who will reconstruct honestly the way this nation came to be what it is -- economically, politically and socially. We will graduate the anthropologists who will have the guts to find the ultimate proof that finally lays to rest the debate over where civilization began. Who knows? We might even graduate the man or woman who resolves to everyone's satisfaction the stormy conflict between Darwinism and creationism.

What I'm suggesting by reciting this litany is that UDC is a dynamic university, one that is on the road to greatness, one that will be known by the quality of the graduates we send forth into this community and into the world.

If this institution fails, if this noble experiment in urban higher education does not sustain itself as the pioneering spirit other urban institutions look to for inspiration and guidance, then our individual and collective reputations will go down with it. Our graduates must be so well trained, so recognizably aware of the state of the art in their chosen disciplines, that the business leaders who make up the Greater Washington Board of Trade will never again feel the need to look beyond the state university of the nation's capital to find talent.

I will not be an apologist for UDC, simply because I don't have any intention of tolerating anything for which I will feel compelled to apologize. I will not tolerate inferior work or no work at all. I am here not to make UDC equal, but to make it superior.

Hold me accountable.