Saturday, December 18, 2010

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 remarkable and once-in-a-lifetime occasion.

Before going further, please, everyone, join me in offering congratulations to these magnificent graduates!

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. Now, graduates, please join me in applauding these loved ones who have made this day possible!

Today is a very special day for all of you because of its signal importance in your lives. You are on the cusp of new beginnings, and it is so wonderful that you can share it with those who are important to you.

As you leave us as graduates of The University of Iowa, we are also at the cusp of new beginnings across our campus. This has been an especially exciting semester for us as we have announced that two prominent architectural firms will be designing the new Hancher Auditorium, Voxman School of Music, and Clapp Recital Hall. Pelli Clarke Pelli and LMN Architects are nationally and internationally renowned for their creativity and innovation in building some of today’s most spectacular performing arts venues.

As I have talked about our flood recovery and campus renewal with various groups over these past months, I’ve been talking a lot about creativity. One thing I’ve been saying often is that our new arts campus will define what creativity in the university setting is all about for the state, nation, and world for decades to come. Through this remarkable opportunity to rebuild out of adversity, we will advance our historic legacy of creative endeavor in remarkable new ways.

Today—and as you move out into the new world of opportunity before you—I ask you to think about how the University of Iowa’s creative tradition will be part of your personal legacy from now on, and I ask you to think about the important role that your personal creativity will play in the life ahead of you.

Professor Carl Seashore, Dean of the Graduate College, revolutionized education both here at Iowa and nationally in the first part of the twentieth century. He encouraged experimental techniques and new methodologies, championed interdisciplinary research, and spearheaded the innovations in creative endeavor for which we are known. Not only did The University of Iowa create the world-renowned Writers’ Workshop in this period, but we created the first academic degree focusing on creative work—the Master of Fine Arts. The first MFAs were awarded in the 1920s and 1930s in music, painting, and poetry.

Since that time, creativity has been a hallmark of a UI education, whether at the graduate, professional, or undergraduate level. The spirit of creativity is not limited to our visual, literary, and performing arts. We aim for creativity as a special mark of a University of Iowa education no matter which major, department, or college you’re graduating from. As new graduates, you are the new creators and new innovators of our world. As the great Swiss developmental psychologist Jean Piaget said, “The principle goal of education is to create men [and women] who are capable of doing new things, not simply of repeating what other generations have done—men [and women] who are creative, inventive, and discoverers.”

So when I talk about creativity at Iowa, I’m also talking about a group of students who recently invented a handheld, hand-cranked device that turns salt water into chlorine bleach to purify water, which could mean the difference between life and death for millions of people in poor countries.

When I talk about creativity at Iowa, I’m also talking about a recent Tippie College of Business graduate, Alex Cullen, who envisioned and co-produced a video with UI film student Steve Healy called “Road to the Mad House” that brought Jim Cramer and his Mad Money TV show to our campus.

When I talk about creativity at Iowa, I’m also talking about physics and computer science major Colorado Reed, who founded a student organization called “Creativity in Science,” which encourages multidisciplinary and creative thinking in science and science-related fields and aims to bring it to community schools.

When I talk about creativity at Iowa, I’m also talking about recent graduate Rebecca McCray, who worked with Art Education Professor Rachel Williams in providing a chance for girls in the Iowa Juvenile Home to foster positive relationships by staging a play that built self-esteem and artistic expression.

These interdisciplinary, collaborative, and imaginative efforts are happening all over campus. And that kind of creativity can and will happen as you bring your own talents, honed and sharpened here at Iowa, into your new workplaces and communities. Harvard economist Theodore Levitt said, “Creativity is thinking up new things. Innovation is doing new things.” That describes, I think, our Iowa graduates well. You’ve learned to think in new ways, but you’ve also learned how to put that creativity into action. That’s innovation.

In a few years, Iowa’s creative legacy will take physical shape in a new Hancher Auditorium along the Iowa River, in a new studio arts building, and in a new music building downtown. But Iowa’s creative legacy will also be at work throughout the state, across the nation, and around the globe—in you—in the imaginative work you’re doing in your own business, classroom, lab, studio, or organization, and in the creative collaborations that you’re involved with in your communities.

Iowa-educated creativity will come through in your new inventions, new companies, new processes, new books, new paintings, new nonprofit organizations, new philanthropic endeavors. Whatever your work will be, I know you will bring the Iowa spirit of innovation and creativity to it all. The great new things you will accomplish in the world is one of the best parts of Iowa’s creative tradition. Today, together, we begin building that collaborative new legacy with you through your graduation. So for my charge to you today as our newest graduates of The University of Iowa, let me borrow a few words from that great genius Albert Einstein. Einstein once said, “Creativity is contagious. Pass it on.”

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—the greatest of Iowa Hawkeyes!