Sunday, September 29, 2013
Hubbard Park


I am delighted to welcome you to this year’s Celebrating Cultural Diversity Festival!

This marks the 23rd annual celebration of diversity, one of the university’s largest and longest-held traditions. This year is especially exciting.  Although the festival has long been a springtime event, we are thrilled about the festival’s new spotlight in the fall semester as the official kick-off to Homecoming Week. I know the fall festival will draw our core supporters who come year after year.  But we also hope that by bringing together these two important campus traditions, the festival will invite more UI students as well as alumni who are returning home to campus.

This seasonal move reflects the university’s strong commitment to diversity and inclusion, and it affirms that our differences enrich and strengthen the Hawkeye community. No matter the season, we at the UI proudly embrace, celebrate, teach, and learn about diversity in many ways, and we do so every day. We believe that diversity is not only an important part of the educational experience, but it is also essential to our human condition. As the writer bell hooks said, “Finding out what connects us, reveling in our differences—this is the process that brings us closer, that gives us a world of shared values, of meaningful community.”

At the Celebrating Cultural Diversity Festival, we proudly recognize our many national origins with dignity, and we showcase our varied cultural contributions to the community.  It is one of our university’s most important and wide-ranging diversity activities. The understanding that comes from celebrating cultural diversity has never been more important. Above all else, the University of Iowa is a marketplace of ideas.  The give-and-take of wide perspectives and varied worldviews provides the richest of learning environments. The essence of this marketplace, and our educational mission, is diversity in all its dimensions.  I have often said that “diversity” is not a specific corner of the university—it is the university. We all need to ask ourselves every day what we are doing to improve diversity.

Today, that answer is pretty simple—we’re here! The Celebrating Cultural Diversity Festival certainly helps us fulfill our educational mission. But it’s also just a lot of fun. I know you’re here to have a great time, and you will, as we enjoy all kinds of sights, sounds, and tastes from people, places, and traditions all over the world. Whether you’re moving to the rhythms of a Philippine dance, clapping along to the great music of Martha Redbone coming up in a few minutes, or enjoying some tasty food from a country you’ve never been to, we are all united today in celebrating cultural diversity!

I thank all of the individuals and organizations who have worked so hard to organize this spectacular event. Their dedication and vision have been essential to today’s success, as well as to bringing the diversity of our world to the community. The festival is sponsored by the Chief Diversity Office, with the support of the Center for Student Involvement and Leadership, the Iowa Memorial Union, Recreational Services, and Hancher. But it is the hundreds of volunteers, committee planners, performers, and vendors who make the festival such a beloved tradition.

And the festival wouldn’t mean anything without you, our audience, either, so I thank you for coming to this wonderful event. You’re getting a lot of enjoyment out of today’s festivities, but you’re also helping us all open up to the magic of diversity by learning about, interacting with, and experiencing the wonders of the human family.

Have a great afternoon, and continue celebrating cultural diversity tomorrow and every day!