Good morning, and welcome to the graduates, to my faculty and staff colleagues, to other University of Iowa students, to family and friends, and to honored guests. It is my great pleasure to share with you this once-in-a-lifetime occasion. Many people have made this day possible. Out there in the audience are parents, grandparents, husbands, wives, partners, significant others, children, brothers, sisters, and many other relatives and friends of the graduates. We thank you, too—everyone here who has made this day possible!
The December commencement always has something of a different feel to me compared to our May ceremonies. Perhaps it’s because it takes place in the season of light. In this darkest time of the year, many cultural and religious traditions celebrate the coming of light. The shining Star of Bethlehem is a powerful symbol for the Christian celebration of Christmas. In Jewish homes, the candles of the menorah are lit for eight nights during Hanukkah. Burning the Yule log is the centerpiece of many traditional and indigenous ceremonies. And even if you are part of no spiritual tradition at all, your homes may very well be adorned with twinkling lights at this time of year.
The University of Iowa is a public, secular institution, so we conduct no religious ceremonies. But today—commencement day—is also a celebration of light. In many ways, your entire collegiate journey has been about light. In the academic world, we often use the image of light to describe our mission of discovering knowledge. The lamp of knowledge is a common educational icon that goes back centuries, symbolizing how we seek to shed light on the unknown and bring enlightenment to ourselves and to our society.
And I like to think that the light of knowledge continues with you after you leave the University of Iowa. The knowledge we teach and discover is not meant to be kept here within the confines our campus. It is meant to be spread widely for the benefit of society. And you—as graduates of this institution—are the most important purveyors of that light. Each and every one of you is, so to speak, a lamp of knowledge.
As your talents and your newly minted education shine brightly in your professions and your communities, your light will continue to grow—and you may very well become a star in whatever you pursue. But we will always remain proud that the light of knowledge that you will share with the world was nurtured—and maybe even lit—right here at the University of Iowa.
Congratulations once again to you all—on your path hard-traveled, on your achievements well-earned, and on your future brightly lit. And thank you, as graduates of this magnificent institution, for being—once and always—proud to be an Iowa Hawkeye!