By Lyle Moran
LOWELL -- Bill Nye, "the Science Guy," urged UMass Lowell's class of 2014 on Saturday to take part in the ongoing work to address climate change, saying he believed they will have a significant impact if they heed his call to action.
"We are all part of the crisis of climate disruption, but your parents and I want you especially to create the solution and dare I say it, change the world," Nye said. "I believe that if the graduates of 2014 go into the world ready for change, change will happen."
In a speech in front of thousands at the Tsongas Center at UMass Lowell, Nye encouraged graduates to develop new ways to provide electricity and new types of transportation to help combat climate change.
Nye, whose "Bill Nye the Science Guy" showed aired in the 1990s, said he believed political resistance and climate-change deniers are impeding progress to address the issue.
He advised graduates to dismiss arguments that climate change is not real, and to work to convince skeptics of the need to tackle the problem.
"Here in the United States, less than a third of our fellow citizens acknowledge the troubles that lie ahead," Nye said. "We have to engage them, bring them around, so that we can all get to work and change the world."
Nye, who wore a UMass Lowell bow tie, drew hearty cheers from the audience, as well as plenty of laughs.
When introduced, the crowd chanted, "Bill, Bill, Bill." Many students attached fake bow ties to their gowns.
On Saturday, a record 3,478 students were slated to graduate, the seventh straight year of a record graduating class for the university.
UMass Lowell Chancellor Marty Meehan said he was confident graduates were ready to help tackle society's challenges and encouraged them to keep making community engagement a priority in their lives.
"It is my hope that as graduates you will remain active citizens who become deeply engaged in your communities, because it is my experience -- and my belief -- that better towns, schools, neighborhoods, countries and societies result from citizens being involved and taking pride in where they live," Meehan said.
Some graduates said they were inspired by Nye's speech.
"We are the next generation, so we have to try to make a difference in the world," said Suman Das, 23, a chemical engineering major.
Stephanie Michaud, who graduated with a psychology degree, said she had a practical takeaway from Nye's speech.
"It made me want to drive less," said Michaud, 24, of Westwood.