Celebrating the Vision and Energy of the Rising Generation

Winter Commencement
Assembly Hall
IU Bloomington
Bloomington, Indiana
December 21, 2013

An Unambiguous Influence For Good

President Coleman, Trustees, Provost Robel, honored guests, colleagues, and members of the Class of 2013:

Frank H.T. Rhodes, the former president of Cornell University, wrote in his book, The Creation of the Future, “the American university has been an unambiguous influence for good. It has trained the workforce, enriched the individual experience, and enlightened public life. It has quickened the social conscience and empowered and inspired each rising generation”1

Today, you can take great pride in graduating from a university that—like the University of Michigan and our other Big Ten colleagues—has been an unambiguous influence for good, and a university that exerts a pervasive positive influence on both the present and the future through the preservation and cultivation of knowledge and skills.

As the newest graduates of Indiana University, you are the rising generation—poised to take your places as leaders in business, journalism, the arts and humanities, the physical sciences, public affairs, computer science, public health, education, and in many, many other fields.

During your years at Indiana University, you have received an education that has not only prepared you to enter the workforce, but one that has enhanced your critical thinking and problem solving skills. Your Indiana University education has instilled in you the desire to ask—and the capacity to try to seek answers to questions about prosperity and poverty, about energy, globalization, technology, and fundamental questions about right and wrong. No matter what degree you have earned, you and your fellow graduates are now ready to make your mark on the world, to make new discoveries, to seek solutions to the challenges we face in the 21st century.

Indiana University: Influencing The Present And The Future

Today, you can also take great pride in knowing that you graduate from one of the finest universities in the nation—a university that is educating more students than ever before. Along with your fellow students in Bloomington and around the state, you are part of one of the largest universities in the United States—and you were just inducted into an association that serves the nation’s third largest alumni body.

As a major research institution, our faculty and students influence the present and the future through the most advanced work in a multitude of disciplines from life sciences to the humanities, from information technology to the social sciences, and many, many other areas. Many of you who are receiving advanced degrees today—as well as many undergraduates—have been partners in the enterprise of research and scholarship, and many of you, I am certain, will continue to make lasting and memorable contributions.

IU also influences the present and the future by preparing students to succeed in an increasingly interconnected world. Today, you graduate from one of the nation’s most international universities. Over a quarter of you have spent time studying abroad. In fact, IU Bloomington ranks 5th in the nation in terms of the number of students who study abroad. We offer 250 study-abroad programs in 17 languages in 52 countries.

More than 20 percent of the students who graduate today have come from outside the United States to earn an Indiana University degree. IU Bloomington ranks 10th in the nation in terms of international students enrolled.

The Class of 2013

The nearly 2,000 students who graduate today come from 29 different countries, from 46 states, and from 68 different Indiana counties. Our oldest graduate is 64, our youngest 18.

And you have excelled in the classroom. Among the members of this class are Metz Scholars, recipients of the Provost’s Award for Undergraduate Research and Creative Activity, and members of the nations oldest academic honor society, Phi Beta Kappa.

Many among you have already helped to improve the quality of life for members of this community and citizens of the world. Members of today’s graduating class have served as peer tutors, as sustainability interns, and as AmeriCorps volunteers.

You have helped to provide books to schoolchildren in Rwanda through the Books and Beyond project in IU’s Global Village Living-Learning Center, and you have helped to build homes for Monroe County families in partnership with Habitat for Humanity.

Many of you have helped to raise money for IU scholarships through your participation in one of our great traditions, Little 500, and you have raised record amounts—more than $2.6 million this year alone—in support of Riley Hospital for Children through your participation in the IU Dance Marathon, IU’s largest student philanthropic event and one of the largest events of its kind at any university.

As you reflect on your time at IU, your lasting memories may also include the achievements of student-athletes who dedicated themselves to excellence in the classroom, on the court, and on the field.

During your years at IU, you saw the men’s soccer team win the eighth national championship in the program’s history; you supported the IU baseball team in its most successful season ever, culminating in a trip to the College World Series; and, of course, you witnessed—in this building—the resurgence of our storied men’s basketball program.

Just two days ago, in fact, I was very pleased to announce that IU alumna Cindy Simon Skjodt has made an extraordinarily generous donation of $40 million—the largest gift ever received by IU Athletics—which will be used for a much-needed extensive renovation of this very building—IU’s iconic Assembly Hall. Her generous gift will allow us to preserve and improve one of the great venues in college athletics for the next generation of Hoosier basketball fans.

But in all sports at Indiana University, our athletes are, and always will be, students as well as athletes. The student-athletes who graduate today—and among them are a number of Big Ten Distinguished Scholars—embody the pledge we make to you and to all of our alumni that we will honor this great university by never pursuing athletic achievement at the expense of academic excellence. 

“Working In Consonance To Meet The Authentic Problems Of Our Times”

As graduates of Indiana University, you have been preparing for years to become the next generation to discover, to understand, and to apply all that you have learned.

When President John Fitzgerald Kennedy addressed the graduates of Yale University in 1962, he reminded them that, as educated citizens, they bore a responsible to help find to the solutions to the world’s most formidable problems.

As he said to those graduates: “you must participate in these days of our years in the solution of the problems that pour upon us, requiring the most sophisticated and technical judgment; and as we work in consonance to meet the authentic problems of our times, we will generate a vision and an energy which will demonstrate anew to the world the superior vitality and the strength of the free society.”2

More than 50 years later, it is to you—the members of the Indiana University Class of 2013—and thousands like you graduating around the Big Ten and all over the country, that the world now looks for your commitment as citizens, for your energy and seriousness of purpose.

May each of you carry the best of what we know—the best of Indiana University—into the future.

Congratulations and best wishes.

Source Notes

  1. Frank Harold Trevor Rhodes, The Creation of the Future: The Role of the American University, (Cornell University Press, 2001), 1.

  2. John Fitzgerald Kennedy, Commencement Address at Yale University, delivered June 11, 1962, The American Presidency Project, Accessed 12 December, 2013, URL: http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=29661