IU Bloomington Undergraduate Commencement

IU Memorial Stadium
Bloomington, Indiana

Saturday, May 04, 2019

IU President Michael A. McRobbie addresses the Class of 2019 during the undergraduate commencement ceremony at IU Bloomington. Photo by Chaz Mottinger, Indiana University

Celebrating Indiana University's rich history

Trustees, Provost Robel, Ambassador Power, Mr. Shoemaker, Dr. Talbot, honored guests, colleagues, and members of the Class of 2019:

In less than two months, the celebrations for Indiana University’s Bicentennial Year will begin. And on January 20, 2020, we will observe with the greatest of pride the university’s founding 200 years ago. Today, we congratulate you, the members of the Class of 2019, the last graduates of Indiana University’s second century, on all you have achieved on your years here. But in congratulating you, it is also fitting that we reflect on the immense achievements of those who have gone before you, and on the remarkable impact that so many of the alumni and faculty of the university have had on the state, nation, and world. For the character of their achievements provides a measure for all that you will achieve in future years.

Five giants of Indiana University

In just the last few weeks, we have seen the passing of four such giants of Indiana University—George Taliaferro, David Hamburg, Senator Birch Bayh, and Senator Richard Lugar. And this year also marks the 10th anniversary of the awarding of the Nobel Prize in Economics to the late Elinor Ostrom, a scholar of outstanding excellence.

Alumnus George Taliaferro was one of the greatest players in IU football history and the first African-American to be drafted by the NFL, where his career was no less remarkable. During his time as a student—when segregation was prevalent across our state and nation—Mr. Taliaferro fought to integrate the Bloomington community, and he continued throughout his life to be a champion for fairness, compassion, and equality.

David Hamburg graduated from the IU School of Medicine and went on to reach the loftiest heights of leadership in the medical and psychiatric fields. But much of his life and career was also dedicated to public service and philanthropy, and he worked tirelessly to improve the health and well-being of children and to end violent conflict around the globe.

IU alumnus and former U.S. Senator Birch Bayh was the only lawmaker since the Founding Fathers to author two constitutional amendments. If you voted in any federal American election before you turned 21, you owe a debt to Birch Bayh. He authored the 26th Amendment, which lowered the voting age to 18. And his co-authorship and fearless championing of the 1972 Title IX legislation made possible equal opportunities in both sports and education for literally tens of millions of women in universities across this country, and the impact of his work on Title IX endures to this day.

Former Senator Richard Lugar was one of our nation's most illustrious and visionary statesmen. His accomplishments were myriad. Among them was the Nunn-Lugar Act, which eliminated more than 7,500 nuclear warheads from Russia and other parts of the former Soviet Union. Our nation and world are safer because of him. From 2013, he served as a distinguished scholar and professor of practice in IU’s Hamilton Lugar School of Global and International Studies, named just last year in his honor and that of his former colleague, Congressman Lee Hamilton.

And this year, we also celebrate the 10th anniversary of the awarding of the Nobel Prize in Economics to IU Professor Elinor Ostrom. She is he only woman to ever win the Nobel Prize in Economics. Professor Ostrom and her husband Vincent, founded IU’s legendary Ostrom Workshop in Political Theory and Policy Analysis, also named in their honor. She was known for her courageous and groundbreaking research which demonstrated by meticulous and sustained empirical studies, that ordinary people are perfectly capable of creating rules and institutions that allow for the sustainable and equitable management of shared resources, confounding decades of economic orthodoxy.

A set of shared skills and virtues

The extraordinary achievements of all five of these IU legends demonstrate how an education at Indiana University can prepare you for careers of sustained excellence in statecraft, politics, science, public policy, athletics, and the fight for justice, equality, and civil rights.

But what qualities, what character traits and virtues did these five possess that allowed them to achieve greatness in their fields?

First, all five shared a commitment to scholarship and rigorous academic study, and an unremitting dedication to the search for truth. This commitment did not end with their formal education, but continued throughout their lives. Dr. Hamburg and Professor Ostrom were renowned scholars, who never stopped questioning, exploring, and learning. Senators Bayh and Lugar were known for the discipline of study that made them experts among their senatorial colleagues on numerous critical issues of the greatest national and international importance. And when George Taliaferro entered professional football, he promised his parents that he would return to IU to finish his degree, a pledge he fulfilled, gaining a further degree some years later.

All five also shared a commitment to collaboration. The concept of "working together" was a defining theme of Professor Ostrom's career. Senators Bayh and Lugar were renowned for putting principle above party and for their commitment to working in a true spirit of bipartisanship to do what is right for our communities, our states, our nation, and the world. And Dr. Hamburg, who worked very closely with Senator Lugar on the development of the Nunn-Lugar Act, constantly demonstrated throughout his multifaceted career this commitment to collaboration in pursuit of his goals.

All five were also people of enormous integrity. Throughout their lives, they behaved with humility and modesty and treated others with decency and respect. They consistently stood up for what they believed was right, as George Taliaferro did when confronted with appalling discrimination and socially sanctioned segregation.

The qualities and virtues that allowed these five great figures from IU's history to succeed are the very virtues you have learned during your time at Indiana University.

Your IU education has taught you to search for, venerate, and defend the truth. You have learned that truth is an elemental component of our moral and ethical systems, and is a fundamental part of our relations with other people, not just for its pragmatic utility, but as a good in itself.

You have worked in the same collaborative, interdisciplinary, and participatory spirit exemplified by these five IU legends.

Your IU education has instilled in you the desire to ask—and the capacity to seek answers to questions about globalization, about prosperity and poverty, about energy, technology, and fundamental questions about right and wrong.

In the years to come, I fully expect that it will be your achievements that will also bring pride to Indiana University—and that others will stand on this very stage to extoll your virtues and achievements, and hold these up as a beacon to those who will come after you.

Celebrating the Class of 2019

Today, members of the Class of 2019, we celebrate your place in the history of this great university. All that you have already achieved during your years at Indiana University is testimony to the time you have invested so diligently in your education and to all that you have learned.

Your class, the IU Bloomington Class of 2019, the largest graduating class in the history of the Bloomington campus—includes graduates from all 50 states, and from 88 of Indiana’s 92 counties. Our oldest graduate is 72, our youngest 19, and among this weekend’s graduates are 19 sets of twins and one set of triplets.

The Bloomington Class of 2019 also includes graduates from 99 different countries, who reflect Indiana University’s fundamental commitment to international engagement and who confirm again that IU is one of the world’s leading international universities.

This extraordinarily accomplished class includes Boren and Gilman Scholars, and one of only five IU students to ever become a Churchill Scholar.

A quarter of you have traveled around the world for your studies, embracing the world in all its diversity and not shunning it or closing it off.

Many of you have helped to raise record amounts in support of the Riley Hospital for Children through your participation in and leadership of the IU Dance Marathon, one of the largest student philanthropic events at any university in this country. This year, the IU Dance Marathon raised nearly $4.2 million, marking the third consecutive year that it has raised more than $4 million to support Riley Hospital for Children. 

Called by circumstances to advance the common good

Members of the Class of 2019, in today's constantly changing world, the pressing tasks that are waiting to be performed are extensive, and the problems in need of solutions immense.

As graduates of Indiana University, you have been preparing for years to become the next generation to discover, to understand, and to apply all that you have learned.

May you be inspired by the lives and careers of those like George Taliaferro, David Hamburg, Birch Bayh, Richard Lugar, Elinor Ostrom—as well as today's honorary doctorate recipients, Ambassador Power, Mr. Shoemaker and Dr. Talbot, and the faculty with whom you have worked at IU—to devote yourselves to public service and advancing the common good.

May you have the clear-sightedness to perceive the problems that exist wherever you find yourselves, the wisdom to discern the most effective solutions, and the courage to respond when you are called upon to advance the common good. May you carry on the traditions of excellence that have brought you to this moment.

And may it be said in years to come that it was graduates like you—here and around the world—who confronted and conquered the most difficult challenges of today and gained the respect and gratitude of all.

Congratulations, Class of 2019!