|Ithaca College, May 15, 2005|
Thank you to each of you [in the senior class] for organizing and making this wonderful gift to the College. We appreciate your generous support and your philanthropic spirit. You have certainly left your mark at Ithaca College. Your giving has surpassed your goal and set a new Ithaca College record. The support you have provided for collaborative work space in our library will be a meaningful legacy for years to come. Thank you, Leigh Ann [senior class president], for your wonderful words on behalf of your classmates.
Graduates, this is your day. And all who are here in the stadium today are here because of you -- members of the College community, your family, and your friends are all here to share this very exciting time with you. I know you have enjoyed your years here, and I hope you have enjoyed this past week, spending time with one another; visiting your favorite places, and enjoying the wonderful Commencement Eve Concert and spectacular fireworks last evening. This has been a time to celebrate your years at Ithaca College, as well as to celebrate the wonderful friendships that you have developed here, and I know you will stay in touch with one another in years to come.
Today we celebrate with pride your success and your achievements. This pride is shared by many people who have been mentioned today, most notably your family, friends, faculty, and staff. So, let’s take a moment to thank this special group of people who’ve helped you reach this milestone. Let’s recognize your parents, grandparents, families, and friends here today for their support of your education. Their sacrifices and their support have made this day possible. Please stand and show them your appreciation. What they have done for you, they have done out of love for you and faith in your abilities and potential. They’re very proud today, as are all of the rest of us here in the stadium.
Graduates, you joined the Ithaca College community just a few short years ago. At that time we welcomed each of you into the college family, and we shared your excitement for the possibilities and opportunities that lay ahead for you. At your fall Convocation I shared my hopes and dreams for you and your time here on South Hill. During the intervening years you were shaped by many people and experiences, and have become the individuals you are today. You came to Ithaca College as adolescents, and you leave today as adults.
You had the privilege, during your time here, to share and experience diverse and divergent perspectives and points of view. This is a unique aspect of life in the academy. And now, as you join new communities, you have an opportunity to serve as an inspiration for critical, thoughtful, and civil dialogue. You also have the responsibility, as educated citizens, to continue to be informed, to continue to share your thoughts, to continue to invite and listen to the perspectives of others -- especially when they differ radically from your own -- and to find your special role for making this world a better place. I encourage you to draw on all aspects of your Ithaca College experience as you embrace the new opportunities that lie ahead.
This morning members of the Ithaca College Community Alumni Association gave each of you a special medallion. The presentation of medallions by our alumni who work at the College is an important tradition that we established during the College centennial year in 1992. On one side of your medallion is the official College seal, recognizing the history, tradition, and mission of Ithaca College. The other side of the medallion includes a quotation unique to your graduating class.
This year’s quotation is from the English poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning, who was the most respected female poet of the Victorian era. The quotation reads, “Light tomorrow with today.” Elizabeth Barrett Browning is urging us to use this day and every single day of our lives to create a better and a brighter future. Her words urge us to do all we can to effect change. But she is not only encouraging us to be action-oriented; she wants each of us to achieve our loftiest goals and to settle for nothing less.
This quotation could be directed toward anyone. But I believe these words are fittingly and best directed to young, optimistic adults like you -- for it is the young among us who have the will, the desire, and the energy to create a bold, new future. Young adults like you break down barriers, question assumptions, and have the guts to try new ways of solving old problems. Your Ithaca experience, or your “today,” provides you with the tools and perspective to begin your new adventures.
Today I feel a bit like Thomas Jefferson must have felt when he sent Meriwether Lewis and William Clark on their great transcontinental adventure to map the course of the Missouri River to the Pacific Ocean. Jefferson had great confidence in Meriwether Lewis and believed that he and William Clark were well prepared for their journey. Still, who could have known what they would discover, what natural wonders awaited them, what hardships they would encounter, or how their discoveries would help shape our young nation?
Thomas Jefferson gave Lewis and Clark the provisions, the encouragement, and the support they needed to get started on their journey. So, too, I believe Ithaca College has given you what you need to get started on your journey of discovery and adventure.
Are you ready to take your place in society? Are you ready to work hard for what you want? Are you ready to be a leader in your chosen field? Are you ready to create a life that fulfills you and challenges you yet also gives significantly back to society? I believe you are, and we have every confidence in you.
As one proud parent of a graduating senior wrote me this week, and I quote, “Having invested so much in these vibrant young adults, we watch them fly away on wings of joy. We lose them at their best moment, don’t we? And we send them out now with their own identities -- hoping and trusting that the best part of us goes with them.”
We do lose you at your best moment. And in this moment you are also well prepared for the many moments that lie ahead. I believe that all doors are open to you, that your possibilities are limitless, and that each of you will, in your own way, “light tomorrow with today.”
Graduates, as we bring this ceremony to a close, I thank you from all of us for choosing Ithaca College. You have truly enriched our community. We wish you well in all that lies ahead, and we look forward to continuing to celebrate your accomplishments as members of the Ithaca College family, and also to welcoming you back to South Hill many times in the years to come.
Let me end with the words of Garrison Keillor, from his famous radio show, A Prairie Home Companion: “Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.”