Commencement: What it really means
Doane University President Dr. Jacque Carter presents a diploma at Doane's 2014 Commencement in Cassel Open Air Theatre.
As we near commencement, I’m drawn to reflect upon the mission of our little “College on the Hill.” As students eagerly prepare to make that walk on the green of Cassel Open Air Theatre, like so many generations of students before, we should take a few minutes to ponder why a Doane University degree is so important. Not just for the graduate but for all of us—faculty and staff, family and friends—who share in this special moment. We live in times when far too many of our leaders speak of a college education merely as a purchased commodity. What was once considered a calling or privilege, attending college is increasingly seen as just another choice we must make in our lives, requiring decision-making skills similar to what we deploy in buying a washing machine, big screen TV or a new car. Yet despite these unsettling trends in American society, I remain optimistic about the future because there is hope. I’m reminded again and again by the lessons of history that it hasn’t always been this way. I have hope because students inspire us daily by their many accomplishments and actions inside and outside of the classroom. Students are a living testament to the true power and purpose of a college education. As they walk out of Doane and into their lives beyond, they do so having studied, practiced and perfected the best that has been written, spoken, performed, reasoned and created over the centuries. Ninety three percent of Doane students not only get a job or go onto graduate school within six months of graduation, they also get a meaningful life, just as Socrates intended. Doane students leave as leaders who will not only enrich their own lives, but also those of others less fortunate. As they take their place in society they will move us closer to our nation’s ideals of prosperity, freedom and a respect for all people regardless of race, gender or culture. We are proud of our students for what they accomplished academically. We are grateful to our faculty and staff who challenged them, mentored them, enlightened them and inspired them along their journey. Doane is a model of what the college experience should be about—and our students are examples of what graduates should become. In closing, I encourage you to find a free moment to listen to a brief speech President John F. Kennedy gave at Amherst College on Oct. 26, 1963 on poetry, power and the artist’s role in society. It was his eulogy for Robert Frost. Three weeks later Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas. Not only is it an example of when politicians were also poets and deep thinkers, but also, more importantly, a celebration of the human spirit, and why colleges like Doane are indispensable to this great republic of the United States.