When you arrived here four years ago on a warm August day, the College invited you to a ceremony and gave to you a medallion as a symbol of our past and, more importantly, the future possibility we believed you possessed.
This medallion carried with it a bit of College history; how on June 10, 1846, the members of the Iowa Band had a vision; a vision to found an exemplary college. Amid debates concerning the formation of our college, James J. Hill ceremoniously laid a silver dollar before those assembled and sounded a call to action. Hill said his single dollar would be the first step, the cornerstone of an endowment to support outstanding students and faculty.
From that simple act, Grinnell College became a reality. More than 160 years have passed since Hill challenged the Iowa Band to secure the future of Grinnell College as a superb liberal arts institution with a tradition of excellence.
Hill’s simple deed marked the genesis of an extraordinary college. You will find that your Grinnell experiences propel you toward your own world of extraordinary possibility. It is important to remember, however, that this College only opened the doors for you. You had to walk through them. And you have.
In your time here, you have worked hard – 78 of you are graduating today with double majors and another 69 of you with concentrations. 184 of you took advantage of travel opportunities to study off campus. 150 of you completed a total of 278 Mentored Advanced Projects, directed research projects, and independent studies. And your involvement goes far beyond academics.
Grinnellians are known for their passion, and your passions are as diverse as your backgrounds. You come from 48* states and 18 foreign countries, and have participated in such varied activities as the Liberal Arts in Prison Program, Stonewall Resource Center, intercultural groups, and religious organizations. You’ve performed in music ensembles, competed in intramural and varsity athletics, danced – and other things – at Harris parties, and participated in open mic nights and community service. Mac Field has been the site of many a DAG field day, or an Ultimate Frisbee practice – Congratulations, teams, on your trip to Nationals!
In your time here, you have witnessed the physical transformation of campus through the completion of the Noyce Science Center and the Bear Recreation and Athletic Center. You helped elect our nation’s first African-American President through your participation in the Iowa caucuses, and you’ve welcomed me as the newest president of Grinnell College. In your personal lives you have both struggled with the loss of friends and created relationships you will carry with you for the rest of your life. And you have expressed strong dedication to issues of Social Justice by speaking out against bias and voicing support for the newly created Young Innovators for Social Justice Prize.
Through all of these experiences, you have learned, you have grown, and you have developed the coping skills necessary to go out into the world.
And now as you leave Grinnell for that Greater World, I’d like to revisit the theme of the campus forum I held last fall entitled, “Choose Civility”. Communities that make a conscious effort to be civil can converse respectfully, good-naturedly, and most of all very productively. By making the effort to be generous with one another and assume that we are all doing the best we can with the best interests of our world at heart, even when we hold differing opinions we can do amazing things.
The possibilities are endless. The medallion we shared with you symbolizes the possibilities you embody as a Grinnellian. I charge you, years from now when you see this medallion, to remember your time at Grinnell College and the place you forever hold in this community. Remember to walk through those doors of possibility by acting with passion and civility in your communities and in the world. And also remember to be generous so that future students will continue to be able to attend this College and be afforded the same opportunities and experiences you have had.
I give you my warmest wishes and greatest hopes. May you continue to flourish, bringing with you on your journey your visions of excellence, action, and the possibility for a greater reality.