Graduates – Commencement is a beginning. But beginnings only come from something else ending. And this year, that ending did not look anything like what we anticipated. Rather than struggling with senioritis, you found yourselves bound in one of the largest social movements in history. A banding together of individuals, all with hopes and dreams and personal circumstances, to selflessly sacrifice to protect the broader community. To protect the people who raised us, the people we love, and even people we’ve never met.
Your involvement in the response to COVID-19 shouldn’t surprise us. You have been a part of the Tippie College community for the last several years. You were here to pursue your individual dreams. To develop your talents and change your lives. But as a part of this community you also made sacrifices for the greater good. You volunteered hours of your time for non-profits, helped study partners with difficult assignments, consulted for small businesses on perplexing problems, and nominated others for prestigious awards. You have mastered the skills for pursuing your personal dreams, while simultaneously uplifting and supporting your community.
After today, there are new goals waiting, and new challenges to go with them. Through your experiences at the University of Iowa you have learned what it takes to face these challenges while continuously moving forward. Your immediate path may be different than what you planned when you registered for your first business class. It’s OK if it is. I hope that it is richer, and more varied than you ever could have imagined. Because life is messy. It is beautiful, and complicated, and unpredictable. I hope that your education at the University of Iowa has given you new lenses to see its complexity. There is so much more to learn, but I hope that you leave here with the confidence that you are a Tippie College Class of 2020 graduate. That means you are competent. You are a hard worker. And you are resilient.
The American Psychological Association defines resilience as “the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats or significant sources of stress.” Being resilient doesn’t mean that you don’t experience stress, it means that you recognize that stress – accept that it has affected your life – and that you can learn from that life changing experience. You can strengthen resilience in four key ways — building connections, practicing for mental and physical wellness, engaging in healthy thinking and doing meaningful work. Many of these things you have practiced and learned at Tippie. But they are life-long learning challenges. By continuing to connect with others, making your mental and physical wellness a priority, engaging in healthy thinking about challenges leading to growth opportunities, and by doing work that has meaning to you and to others – you will get more, and give more in life.
You came to the University of Iowa to learn from others. But along the way, you became an integral part of our lives – part of the Tippie College legacy. The story of your graduating class, on of unique circumstance, is one of community and resilience. It’s been an honor to be a part of your life journey, and I wish you every opportunity for happiness in the future.