Friday, May 7, 2010

Good afternoon, and welcome to today’s honorees, to my faculty and staff colleagues, 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 students!

Many people have made this day possible. Out there in the audience are family members, teachers, mentors, friends, and other important people in these students’ lives. Now, would all the students we are honoring today please join me in applauding these loved ones who have made this day possible!

We are very proud of you today, the first class to complete the REACH program. At The University of Iowa, our number one goal is to provide an education to those who are qualified and want it. We have many different kinds of educational programs, with different requirements for admission and completion. Today, we are proud that you join thousands of other Iowa Hawkeyes who have completed their programs successfully through your talent, hard work, and dedication to your goals.

While you have been UI students over the past two years, you have also brought much to our campus. You have brought your own unique talents and perspectives to our University community and have enriched our campus culture by your presence. We thank you for all you have contributed to us at the UI as REACH students.

REACH is such a wonderful name for your program. So let me share with you today a few thoughts on the idea of “reaching” from some well-known people—and maybe some thoughts that you can take with you into the next phase of your life.
Harriet Tubman was a great Civil War abolitionist, humanitarian, and, later, fighter for women’s right to vote. She once said, “Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world.”
You are certainly all dreamers. By coming to Iowa and completing your program, you have shown you have what it takes to be successful. And I have no doubt you will continue to reach for the stars and change the world.
We will always confront challenges as we reach for our goals, and we don’t always succeed in every task. That wise American Benjamin Franklin once said, “Do not fear mistakes. You will know failure. Continue to reach out.” Reaching—and continuing to reach—is always the most important thing.

The great spiritual leader Gandhi said, “Glory lies in the attempt to reach one's goal and not in reaching it.” As I said earlier, none of our successes are accomplished alone. There are always people who care about us, who support us, and who help us along. We can never forget those very special people. We must always reach out with our own love for them and embrace their love for us—every day. As the great humanitarian Mother Teresa once said, “Love is a fruit in season at all times, and within reach of every hand.”

As I’ve been suggesting all along, today is not the end of your reaching. You will always dream, and you must always reach. As the great writer Louisa May Alcott said, “Far away there in the sunshine are my highest aspirations. I may not reach them, but I can look up and see their beauty, believe in them, and try to follow where they lead.” Today, as successful University of Iowa REACH students, we ask you to believe in your dreams, see the beauty in them, and follow them wherever they may lead you. I have every confidence you will reach them.

Congratulations once again to you all—on your path skillfully traveled, on your achievements well-earned, and on your future brightly lit.