“An Education for the Future: Presenting the Class of 2007”

Spring Commencement 2007
Assembly Hall
Indiana University, Bloomington, IN
May 5, 2007

Poised on the Cusp of Tomorrow

In his 1961 State of the Union Address, President John F. Kennedy advised, “The prudent heir takes careful inventory of his legacies and gives a faithful accounting to those to whom he owes an obligation of trust.” 1

President Kennedy could have been speaking of this momentous day.

At crucial times of change, you must pause to gauge the distance you have traveled, the challenges you have overcome, and the accomplishments you have achieved. You must take careful measure of all that you have done. This you owe to yourselves and to those who have dedicated their lives to helping you reach this singular moment.

This day marks the culmination of years of hard work driven by your intense desire to learn.

But this is also a day of new beginnings with the shining beams of possibility lighting your way towards tomorrow. You are the prudent heirs of all that Indiana University has to offer. You must carry that glorious legacy toward the distant horizon.

A History of Accomplishments

Take a moment to think about what you have achieved in the years leading up to this day. In addition to committing yourselves to academic excellence, some of you have selflessly dedicated your time to the on-going hurricane relief effort, by volunteering in the Gulf Coast region over spring break. You helped to raise tens of thousands of dollars that have funded essential renovation and reconstruction projects there.

Others have conducted scientific research in some of the university's preeminent laboratories—research that will have an impact long into the future. Whether studying botanical genetics or psychiatric disorders, you are working to unravel the puzzles and mysteries of nature.

Still others have set their sights on perfecting their performance as members of the Marching Hundred and other talented musical groups.

And these are just a very few examples of this class's remarkable achievements.

The breadth and depth of your service and learning activities show the deep and lasting power of an IU education.

By the finest faculty, your characters have been shaped. Amid beautiful surroundings, you have honed your sensibilities. In search of wisdom, you have achieved excellence. Yours is a legacy of foundations strengthened, of lives changed, of potential realized. The shadows of memory that stretch in your wake tell the tales of all that you have accomplished as scholars and as citizens.

Prudent Heirs of Memory

This is the time to take careful inventory and to be a prudent heir of memory.

I think of my own daughter Josephine who is graduating here today. The parents of all of the students we honor, can, like me, recall many of the shining moments in their children's lives and mark today as a glittering highlight.

Take the Wilson family from Muncie. They have three reasons to be proud as their triplets are all graduating from IU Bloomington today. 2

To the parents of each of our graduates, let me say I share your pride.

To the students, let me say, remember all that your parents have done to make possible your graduation from this great university

Its traditions have grounded you in a rich history of pioneering scholarship, committed civic engagement, and athletics of the highest order. Although most of you were studying for finals, some of you may recall the excitement of Little 5 just last month. These traditions bind us to one another.

Our past will teach us about our future.

Shaping a Life of Meaningful Action

Indeed, the eyes of the university are trained on tomorrow. Our mission is guided by the firm belief that each of us can make a difference. You have been educated to make that difference as you commence your life after graduation.

Indiana University has helped you imagine what shape your dreams may take and what your future may hold. It has given you a solid foundation from which you can launch these dreams. Look at yourselves and you will see the leaders of tomorrow. Look beside you and you will see your partners in building this country's future.

As you step towards that future, recall the words of the Renaissance genius Leonardo da Vinci: “Iron rusts from disuse... inaction sap[s] the vigor of the mind.” 3

Your education has prepared you for a life of meaningful and vigorous action. It has provided the tools of logic, analysis, and engagement. One of our graduates today will take these tools abroad this coming year in a volunteer corps in the Middle East. Another has spent years studying the Lakota language and plans to dedicate her life to public advocacy for Native Americans. Many of you will join the ranks of this nation's best teachers, committed to changing the lives of children through the power of education.

Responsibility to the Future

Whatever your plans, you are charged with responsibility by virtue of your education. You are joining the ranks of Indiana University graduates whose tremendous impact is felt throughout the state, across the nation, and around the world.

You are poised on the threshold of your future.

Listen to the voice of destiny and take that next step towards the horizon.

Mr. President, with great confidence in their future, I present to you the Class of 2007.

Source Notes

1. Delivered to the United States Congress on January 30, 1961.

2. The Wilson family also includes twin boys who graduated several years ago. Four out of the five Wilson children graduated from the Kelley School of Business.

3. da Vinci, Leonardo. The Notebooks of Leonardo da Vinci. Trans. and Ed. Edward MacCurdy. New York: George Braziller, 1954.