I am honored to join you today for Manchester College’s celebration of the achievements of the graduates of 2010. I congratulate each scholar for the diligence and sacrifice that has led to this day. Together with your families and the Manchester College community, I look forward to all that you will achieve.
As you reflect on your college experiences, you should pay special attention to what this day of celebration means to your family. Some of you are accompanied by parents and grandparents, others by spouses and children, others by brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, and lifelong friends. For many of your family members, this day is the culmination of years of loving sacrifice that allowed you to seize the opportunities available at Manchester College. They can see how much hard work you have devoted to your own development. They see the differences in you – the confidence, the knowledge, the friendships – and they are gratified by what you have done at this college, with these professors. Their sense of accomplishment, pride, and perhaps relief at seeing you graduate is one of the best parts of this day.
Like each of you, I had the benefit of attending a small college that expanded my horizons and facilitated lasting friendships. At their best, small colleges are devoted to the lofty goal of developing whole people who can navigate the intersections among financial futures, private lives, public duties, and spiritual cores. No other institution in America takes on this ambitious task with such purpose and confidence, and no other institution succeeds at it so routinely. Through art, business, science, the humanities, management, or other talents developed here, you will be a productive individual who will be willing and able to take action in the service of moral values and human welfare.
As we celebrate individual accomplishments today, we also celebrate the innovative dedication of this College as an invaluable resource for Indiana and beyond. Among other initiatives, Manchester College has responded to the need of some students for an accelerated degree program with “Fast Forward,” a course of study that yields a bachelor’s degree in just three years. The program contributes to building Indiana’s workforce and allows students to reduce the overall costs of their education.
Manchester College also has devoted itself to “experiential learning” – encouraging students to engage in hands-on intellectual endeavors like internships, field research, and semesters abroad.By sending students to these new environments, Manchester not only deepens the experiences of its students, it urges its student body, staff, and faculty to embrace a life of service and thoughtful reflection about their roles in the world.
I have been impressed, especially, with Manchester College’s commitment to energy conservation and environmental stewardship.Today, the United States is dealing with unprecedented environmental concerns and growing demand for energy resources. These problems – most of which barely registered in our consciousness a generation ago – are likely to be the central moral issues of the next several decades.
In 2008, the Manchester community consolidated its many environmental projects into the Green Campus Initiative. From decentralizing the heating system with energy-efficient boilers to posting its daily natural gas and electricity usage online, the College has affirmed its dedication to reduce wasteful energy expenditures. It started a recycling program more than 25 years ago, and it boasts one of the first environmental studies departments in the country.
The College also launched the Middle Eel River Watershed Initiative, a $1 million project where students and faculty collaborate with the agricultural community to minimize watershed pollution and to learn how nutrient exports affect the water quality from Indiana to the Gulf of Mexico.Students and faculty identified a problem and are working together to devise a solution that will benefit individuals living throughout the watershed.
The Eel River conservation project is just one example of Manchester College’s tradition of service to others. As a student body, you contributed more than 19,000 service hours to the surrounding communities during the 2008-2009 academic school year. Across all majors, Manchester students have embraced a duty to serve your community.
Even as you have engaged in public service, much of your time in school has been focused on preparations for building a career in a very challenging economy. For many of you, this process has included uncertainty, and perhaps frustration. But I am hopeful that all of you have a sense of how much opportunity lies before you in the years ahead.
In fact, economic uncertainty and economic opportunity now frequently flow from the same wellsprings. Rapid advances in communication and transportation technology have created a global marketplace of ideas and skills that have subjected many professions in the United States to international competition for the first time. Meanwhile, strains on fundamental global resources, including food, water, and energy, have become increasingly acute as populations have grown and become more affluent.
Increasingly, industrial advances and job creation depends on cutting edge technology supported by broad knowledge of computers, highly efficient use of resources, and even foreign language skills. It is much more difficult than it once was to base a lifelong career on a single set of skills practiced in a single market place.
This emerging economic reality may seem discomforting for the United States, which has enjoyed more than a century of global economic preeminence. But we should understand that the current climate of international economic dynamism rewards education above all other commodities. It rewards those with multiple skills who dedicate themselves to a lifetime of learning. As the undisputed leader in higher education, the United States is well positioned to remain the global economic leader and trendsetter.
Each of you should have faith in your own training and abilities. Each of you possesses the fortitude to build on your talents to be a productive individual who can support a family and contribute to a community, while competing in a global marketplace.
On this day, I want you to know that there is good reason to have confidence in your future and the future of our country and the world. History does not move primarily in negative directions. Downturns can and do happen, but they are not destined to happen. The human spirit possesses remarkable abilities and energies that can be brought to bear on our conditions. You should have optimism that the next diplomatic breakthrough, scientific advancement, medical cure, artistic milestone, or landmark policy is just around the corner, waiting to be brought forth or implemented by graduates such as you.
All of you – whether you plan to continue in school or whether you are about to enter your chosen career – are capable of making a lasting contribution. I am confident that what you have learned and the people you have met at Manchester College will stimulate your imagination and your ambition for a lifetime. You will affirm the importance of the diploma you have earned today, growing in your ability to continue learning, to expand your capacity to love and to build a strong family. You will surely find excitement and personal fulfillment in a world without limits that now invites you to enter.