Thursday, April 12, 2012

Welcome to the President’s Residence, and welcome to this marvelous group of students and special guests. The President’s Leadership Class and President’s Leadership Society have given me the privilege of working with some of our university’s most talented students, and I am honored—and humbled—to gather with you at this lovely reception.

First, I would like to offer my personal congratulations to all of our graduating seniors. It is very exciting for me to see such remarkable students come into our university as first-year students in the President’s Leadership Class—and it’s just as exciting to see them at the end of their studies, ready to go out into the world and share their leadership talents with their communities and our society at large.

When I came to the University of Iowa in 2007, one of my earliest initiatives was to organize the President’s Leadership Class. One of the most important obligations of our educational mission is to develop and nurture our society’s future leaders. And for me personally, I felt I could fulfill my job as President of this great university best by staying connected to our students.

So within a year, the President’s Leadership Class was up and running. Through the work you’ve done with me and with many university leaders, alumni, local and state political leaders, and current student leaders, you’ve come away from the class with a better sense of how the university operates, what university leaders do, and how leadership works in our community, state, and beyond. My goal has been to provide students with a broad perspective on what leadership is and what opportunities lie before them within the university and in society.

After several years now, I can state without hesitation that the class has been a success. But an even more powerful statement of the success of the President’s Leadership Class is this group of remarkable PLC students from this year, PLC alumni, and the organization they have formed, the President’s Leadership Society.

Leadership is not something you learn in fifteen weeks, and it does not come from a certificate you get at the end of a course or a line on your transcript. Leadership is learned in its practice. The same goes for education in general. Education is a lifelong, ongoing process, not something that you take home in a package at the end of a semester or on a diploma at the end of a graduation ceremony. By forming the President’s Leadership Society, you have done exactly what you should have done, and what I knew you would do—practice leadership and extend your education.

This evening and the accomplishments we are celebrating come from the initiative, vision, enthusiasm, ambition, and talent of remarkable students. Each semester, we grow pretty close in the President’s Leadership Class. So I don’t think it’s an inappropriate analogy for me to say that I feel like a proud parent seeing her offspring grow and flourish so wonderfully and well.

Of course, the President’s Leadership Class—and all that comes from it—is a team effort. So I do want to thank the Division of Student Life, the Office of Admissions, and everyone else who helps organize and coordinate the class. I also want to thank all of the university, community, and state leaders who share their time and insight with our students, some of whom are gathered with us here this evening. And I want to thank everyone involved in organizing and running the President’s Leadership Society. With the Society, we see that it all comes back to our students. The way you are putting your leadership skills to work is more than impressive. Clearly, the future is in great hands.