The 2018 Freshman Induction address
Aug. 15, 2018
Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall
Indiana University Bloomington
Aug. 15, 2018
Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall
Indiana University Bloomington
Welcome, Class of 2022!
Let me start with a big and warm welcome from all of the faculty and staff on Indiana University’s Bloomington campus to all the parents and other family members joining us today.
As a parent, I know what it is like to face the frenzy of getting a child into a residence hall—with all the desk lamps, oddly-sized sheets, and lumpy packages of Ramen noodles that entails—only to face that moment when the world narrows and quiets to saying goodbye. And whether this is the first of your children you have brought to IU, or your third (although I will admit, the third is a little easier), you also carry all the emotions and hopes that surround bringing a beloved child to college. I want you to know that we are honored that you have entrusted your students to us, and we take that trust very, very seriously. Thank you for all you have done to develop their minds, their integrity, their character, and their souls to this point.
To the Class of 2022: Welcome to IU!
What a wonderfully diverse, academically accomplished, and interesting group of humans you are! I cannot wait for you to get to know each other.
The youngest among you is 15; the oldest 31. There are 33 sets of twins in this class. Special thanks to the parents who had THAT moving task this week!
You have found your way to Bloomington on this day from every county in Indiana—hello, Switzerland County—from 45 of these United States, and from the District of Columbia. There are even 68 of you from Lafayette and West Lafayette—the first of what I hope will become a tradition of friendly border crossings for you. Forty-four of you have served your country in the armed services, and we are especially grateful to have you home safe with us and for the experiences and maturity you bring to this class.
And a very special welcome to our international students, who have gathered from every continent (except Antarctica) and from 37 different countries around the globe. You come to study here from South Korea and India, from Brazil and Venezuela, from as close as Canada and Mexico and as far away as Myanmar and China.
It takes a special kind of bravery, fortitude, and seriousness to travel to another country to pursue your education, and we are honored that you have chosen to study with us. Wherever in the world you have come from, you bring to us something unique to contribute to this campus, and your new home in the City of Bloomington.
Together, your distinctive attributes and divergent talents form a remarkable, formidable, and global class of Hoosiers.
Let’s start with your academic gifts. More than one third (35 percent) of you graduated in the top 10 percent of your high school class; 92 of you were high school valedictorians. This class collectively brings an average GPA of 3.83 and SAT scores averaging 1293. Every single student here today has shown the discipline and drive to succeed here academically.
You chose IU Bloomington for a reason that is unique to you. I’d like to highlight three opportunities that choice gives you: the opportunity to choose excellence; the opportunity to choose informed citizenship; and the opportunity to choose friendship and service.
You probably already know a lot about what makes IU Bloomington excellent.
Over the years, IU has been home to many Olympians, including senior Lilly King, who in 2016 won an Olympic gold medal for Team USA in the 100 breaststroke and just a few weeks ago won another gold medal at the Pan Pacific games in Tokyo. IU has also been home to eight Nobel Laureates, most recently Elinor Ostrom, who in 2009 became the first woman ever to win the Nobel Prize in Economics, and many Grammy, Emmy, Tony, and Oscar recipients as well.
When you learned about the discovery of the double helix in DNA, you may not have known that James Watson, who with Francis Crick made that discovery, had earned his Indiana University doctorate just three years before. When you sang along to “Under the Sea” from The Little Mermaid, or the theme from Beauty and the Beast, you may not have known you were singing along with songs composed by Grammy Award-winning IU graduate Howard Ashman. Indeed, if IU were its own nation, we would be 166th in the world in population, but 35th all-time in Olympic medals, and ninth in Nobel Prizes. You’ve come to a very special place.
IU has been home to innovators in science and business, civic leaders, world-renowned artists, and generations of teachers. And all of them started at IU just like you are starting today.
People who reach these heights go very deep into the fields in which they excel, and you will have that same opportunity to challenge yourself to go deep as well, as you choose your fields of study and your majors. As you all learned during orientation, with over 550 academic programs and more than 200 undergraduate majors, IU certainly gives you that opportunity. Our university has worked hard to ensure that your education will prepare you well for whatever comes after it.
And here’s what you can do to really get the most out of your education here: make sure that while you are going deep, you also make time for courses and experiences in fields, such as the arts and the humanities, that also challenge you to think deeply about what makes us uniquely human. Time and again, we hear from employers that they’re looking not only for expertise, but breadth and critical thinking. They want, and the world needs, people who are curious, creative, and able to understand and discuss a wide range of subjects. Employers want to hire people who understand that we live in a world of connections that cross borders of all kinds—of language, culture, and politics.
Regardless of your major and future career path, the habits of mind you develop through an education that explores our humanity will certainly be key to your future success. So while you are learning to create machines and artificial intelligence, make sure you are also studying the kinds of creativity that only humans engage in. As Joseph Aoun wrote in his most recent book, Robot-Proof: Higher Education in the Age of Artificial Intelligence, it is that “human literacy” that “equips us for the social milieu, giving us the power to communicate, engage with others, and tap into our human capacity for grace and beauty,” that will truly make you “robot proof” after you graduate. Choose excellence. Choose challenge.
And choose informed citizenship. Many of you will be voting for the first time while you are here. Take courses that prepare you to be an informed citizen; that teach you about the philosophical and pragmatic underpinnings of our democracy and laws; and that make you scientifically literate. Stake out your ground, inform your positions, and challenge each other’s views with civility and intellectual rigor.
We believe in intellectual freedom on this campus; indeed, it is the only thing that can ever support the search for truth in any field. Give each other the generous assumption of good—will and good faith as you make and test your arguments. Given the divisions that are so often at the forefront of the news, generous and kind engagement with each other, across the brilliant and varied backgrounds you bring to this class, is utterly and critically important to our future as a nation. This is the right place for you to undertake this wonderful and challenging work. This is the place to listen and consider different viewpoints with empathy and openness. This is the place to question your assumptions about your world and your role in it. This is the place to practice civility and respect to each other, as much when you disagree as when you find common ground.
Then participate in our Big Ten Voting Challenge, which is a voter registration drive that all of our Big Ten campuses are conducting this fall, so that whatever your political views, we can beat Purdue in this arena as well as on the football field and the basketball court.
Finally, choose friendship and service. During this coming year, most of you will be living in the residence halls with 8000 other people from all over the state, nation, and world. This is a home where you can seek to understand and become friends with those who have lived lives both quite similar and very different from your own; who have views like yours and very different from yours; who follow traditions and speak languages that may be familiar or unfamiliar to you. You have the ability, through the community you create in those residence halls and in your classes and on the campus to learn to talk with civility and thoughtfulness across similarities and differences. Those are the conversations that lead to life-long friendships, perhaps between our students who arrived from Mongolia and our students who arrived from Muncie. This is the thrilling opportunity of college.
During your time here, you will find opportunities at every turn to meet new people, to experience new cultures, and to explore new ideas. Start with CultureFest tomorrow, hosted by First Year Experiences in the Fine Arts Plaza just outside IU Auditorium. Meet new friends at the First Thursdays Festival, a monthly celebration of the best in arts and humanities from all across campus. Go see the Poet Laureate of the United States after that in the Neal Marshall Black Culture Center (One of our own poets, Adrian Matjeka, is the Poet Laureate of Indiana). Take part in some of the many incredible events and activities that are part of this year’s Themester, dedicated to the interaction between humans and animals. And join the thousands of students who take part in volunteerism and service to others through IU Corps, a campus network connecting our students to service opportunities in Bloomington, throughout the state and the nation, and all over the world. During your education, use IU Corps to find a way to participate in service from Bedford, Indiana to Bangalore, India. You will be a better citizen if you do.
You can start this magnificent journey by introducing yourself to someone as you leave the auditorium this afternoon. Welcome to IU, your new home, and a home you will keep in your heart forever.
Welcome to the Hoosier family!