"'A Generation of Change': Herbert Presidential Scholars"

Herbert Presidential Scholars Reception and Dinner
Alumni Hall
January 30, 2009


In his inaugural address last week, President Obama asserted that “[i]n reaffirming the greatness of our nation, we understand that greatness is never a given. It must be earned. Our journey has never been one of short-cuts or settling for less. It has not been the path for the faint-hearted—for those who prefer leisure over work, or seek only the pleasures of riches and fame. Rather,” he continued, “it has been the risk takers, the doers, the makers of things—some celebrated but more often men and women obscure in their labor, who have carried us up the long, rugged path towards prosperity and freedom.“1

Such a singular and auspicious moment on the national stage brings to mind America’s great history and heroic and iconic Americans like Betsy Ross, Abraham Lincoln, and Martin Luther King.

Historic Figures at Indiana University

Here at IU, we have had our own historic figures: like IU’s first female student Sarah Parke Morrison, who graduated in 1869; like Nobel Prize winner and IU faculty member Hermann Muller; and like IU’s first African American president, Adam W. Herbert.

We are pleased that Dr. Herbert, the namesake of the Herbert Presidential Scholars program, was able to join us this evening. Would you join me in welcoming him?

Dr. Herbert will be speaking in a few moments.

Leaders of a Generation

You, too, are leaders of your own generation. You are what President Obama called the risk-takers, the doers, the makers of things.

Take Billy Bennett, a member of the inaugural class of Herbert Presidential Scholars. In addition to organizing activities for scholars across the Bloomington campus, Billy served as President of Kelley Student Government, studied at the University of Seville and in New Delhi, and last spring placed second in IU’s Circle of Life Mini-Marathon.

And this is a mere snapshot of his accomplishments at IU.

For some, such accomplishment is a family tradition. The inaugural class of Presidential Scholars also included two members of the Sempsrott family, twins Peter and David. This past fall, their younger brother Kevin joined them as a Presidential Scholar at IUPUI. Peter received the Freshman Chemistry Achievement Award, and David was named a Bepko Scholar for outstanding achievements in his junior year. This is the kind of achievement for which Presidential Scholars have become known.

In your time at IU, you are living up to—and exceeding—the great potential so many people have recognized in you.

Among your many achievements, you have served as concertmasters, as IU STARS researchers, as student government leaders. You are Kelley Scholars, Druck Scholars, and Hudson-Holland Scholars. You rank at the top of your classes and offer models for others to follow. You are part of the rich and vibrant fabric of Indiana University.

You have traveled around the world for study in great and historic cities and towns like London, Athens, Brussels, Freiburg, and Canterbury, among other places. In fact, two students from the 2006 Freshman Class are planning to study abroad this semester in Rouen, France and in Shanghai, China.

These details merely hint at the unwavering support of your family over the years. This spring, that support will lead to the graduation of the inaugural class of Presidential Scholars. Of course, this is a wonderful milestone, and it is my pleasure to offer an early congratulations. But as a parent, I feel it is my duty to remind you that you do have a few months of study left before commencement in May.

Conclusion: “A Generation of Change”

By way of conclusion, I would like to turn to an essay written by one of our Presidential Scholars, Sophie Faught.

In it, she wrote movingly about her desire to engage more fully with the world around her. That desire led from her initial focus on musical performance to her current major in International Studies.

She closed her essay with the following statement: “If the issues of global economic, racial, and gender inequality are ever to be resolved, or even addressed, it will take a generation of culturally aware, inquisitive, energetic problem solvers, actors dedicated to defying historical precedent, resisting powerful archetypes. I strive to become a member of this generation of change.”

You are, indeed, a generation of change.

You are the risk-takers, the doers, the makers of things, and we are proud that you are such an important part of Indiana University.

Thank you very much.

Now I am pleased to introduce Dr. Adam Herbert.

Source Notes

  1. Obama, Barack. Inaugural Address. Washington, D.C. 20 Jan. 2009. The full text of President Obama’s Inaugural Address can be found at http://www.time.com/time/politics/article/0,8599,1872715,00.html?imw=Y