August 9, 2003
Purdue University President Martin C. Jischke delivered this speech to the West Lafayette Commencement on Saturday (8/9) in the Elliott Hall of Music.
Education a powerful tool to build future, serve others
This is a joyful day!
Speaking as a university president who has been through this often, I can tell you there is no happier time on campus than commencement.
It is a celebration of success. It is a celebration of people.
We have a great deal to celebrate in the lives and successes of these wonderful graduates gathered here this morning.
In addition to a celebration for our graduates, this is also a celebration for our faculty, staff and administration for everyone at Purdue University.
Contrary to what you might have believed as you staggered from an early morning final exam or burned the midnight oil finishing a paper, our goal has not been to stop you from graduating.
Our goal has not been to keep you here forever. Our goal has been to help you succeed. Our job has been to challenge your abilities and stretch your potential.
The work assigned to you was difficult as it should have been. You are well prepared for what lies ahead.
This ceremony is an affirmation that your professors have done their job well. Your success is Purdue's success.
This is also a great moment for the parents and families of our graduates. They have shared in this experience with you.
There is no greater feeling in the world than watching someone you love succeed in their work and dreams. Your families have worked hard to help make all this possible. Today they are enjoying the successful outcome of their efforts. They are celebrating the conclusion of this phase of your life.
And today, in no small measure, they are also celebrating the conclusion of an era in their own lives.
It was an era of tuition checks, book bills, worried telephone calls after those tough exams your families are very happy today!
This commencement ceremony is a wonderful opportunity for all of us in the Purdue family to join together and celebrate this great accomplishment and happy moment.
Last week our nation and the world lost a man who spent his lifetime bringing happiness and laughter to others.
Bob Hope died at his home in California two months after celebrating his 100th birthday.
On at least six occasions from 1948 to 1968, he performed on this Elliott Hall stage on which I stand and which our graduates soon will cross.
More than a comedian, Bob Hope was a humanitarian who believed in the power of laughter and happiness in our lives. He believed in the importance of uplifting the human spirit, and he used his talents in a way that helped people.
During his long life, Bob Hope gave many commencement addresses. In 1978, he spoke to graduates at Gonzaga University and discussed his own lack of education.
"I never went to college," he said that day, and "all because of (one) little technicality high school."
Often when he spoke at commencements, he noted that graduating classes are repeatedly told to "go forth into the world." This caused him to consider the state of the world, international problems, unrest, uncertain markets and he concluded:
"As you prepare to leave these hallowed halls of learning, these bastions of knowledge, these citadels of scholarship, I just have two words of advice: Don't go!"
Bob Hope received more than 60 honorary degrees in his life. But perhaps his greatest honor came from the University of Southern California, which presented him with an honorary parking space.
Getting a degree from a university is one thing. Getting a parking space is something else all together. It's a lot tougher!
But Bob Hope valued education, and he knew how to take it seriously.
He said, "... education is ... the most valuable commodity a young person can strive for."
Each one of you graduates today carry within your heart a dream for your own life. There is a vision of the future that is guiding you and exciting you.
In spite of Bob Hope's warning you are anxious to go forth and fulfill your promise. We all wish you great success in accomplishing your plans.
As you do so, I hope you remember the advice of another Purdue graduate who left this university many years ago for a very successful career.
John Wooden became one of the most celebrated basketball coaches in the nation and world. In the process, he focused on values and personal conduct and is accepted as a leader with a great philosophy on life. Wooden has never measured success in terms of wins and losses.
He says: "You can't live a perfect day without doing something for someone who will never be able to repay you."
That is a message we are striving to teach at Purdue.
It is our hope that you will use this great gift of education not only to accomplish success in your own lives, but to advance the quality of life for other people.
The year 2003 is the 100th anniversary of flight.
Amelia Earhart, one of the world's greatest aviators, used her wonderful talents not only for her own success, but also for the benefit of others. She was the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic, the first woman to fly solo round-trip across the United States. She set speed and altitude records and became the first person to fly solo from Honolulu, Hawaii, to Oakland, California.
There was much, much more.
Amelia Earhart had a strong connection to Purdue. She served as a counselor to women students at the university. Purdue was the first university in the country to have a specific position to counsel women about careers.
Earhart believed that women should have choices about what they could do with their lives. She believed that women should be engineers or scientists, physicians or nurses. They should manage businesses.
Earhart was a catalyst, using her talents to help other women aspire toward lofty goals.
She addressed the need for all of us to follow this example.
She said: "No kind action ever stops with itself. One kind action leads to another ... A single act of kindness throws out roots in all directions, and the roots spring up and make new trees."
As you go forth, your acts of kindness, your service to other people, will have a profound impact on the world.
One of the remarkable people from U.S. history is George Washington Carver. His life spanned the Civil War to World War II.
Carver was born a slave. He became one of the great scientists of his time, widely read, widely studied, and his influence spread far and wide.
In the end, Carver did not measure the success of his life in terms of accomplishments that enriched his own existence and brought him fame.
Carver said: "It is not the style of clothes one wears, neither the kind of automobile one drives, nor the amount of money one has in the bank, that counts. "It is simply service that measures success."
He said: "No individual has any right to come into the world and go out of it without leaving behind distinct and legitimate reasons for having passed through."
You will build a better world by helping others.
"If you haven't got any charity in your heart," Bob Hope said, "you have the worst kind of heart trouble."
As you leave Elliott Hall today, you are taking Purdue University with you.
You are a part of this institution. You will represent it everywhere you go, in everything that you do.
This ceremony is not a separation. It is not an ending.
It is the commencement of a new and wonderful relationship.
In this 21st century, you will need to stay connected to your university for a lifetime. The demands of the world today and tomorrow are creating a need for lifetime learners people who are constantly preparing themselves to face the emerging challenges and possibilities.
Just as you need to continue your own involvement with learning, we also need you to help continue making higher education available to the generations that follow.
The importance of education in the lives of individuals and in our worldwide community has never been greater. It is a major responsibility of each generation to educate the generation that follows.
As the example of our honorary degree recipient Dr. Anna Pao Sohmen so vividly and so
amply demonstrates, you can stay connected to Purdue from anywhere in the world. And you can help make higher education available to the coming generations all over the world.
We indeed the world will need your support to face the challenges that lie ahead.
Bob Hope, in one of his commencement talks, spoke to the challenges you will face.
He said: "There's never been a time in our history where young men and women like you were better prepared to lead us into the 21st century. We're proud of you because you're going to start carrying the torch of freedom and knowledge. And, someday, you'll have to pass that torch on to others. When you do, it should be burning stronger and brighter. That's the job that's ahead of all of you."
Having come to know our Purdue University students, I am quite confident in the future these graduates will shape.
This is a very happy day!
It is the start of something great and exciting.
On behalf of the Board of Trustees, the administration and our faculty, congratulations to the Class of 2003!