sealPurdue News

December 16, 2001

Purdue president urges grads to value freedom, education

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – Purdue President Martin C. Jischke today (Sunday, 12/16) reminded graduates that in the face of uncertain and troubled times, education is the foundation for building a better future.

Jischke spoke during the first of the university's two winter commencement ceremonies today at the Elliott Hall of Music on the West Lafayette campus. Approximately 2,948 students – 2,161 undergraduates and 787 students in graduate or professional programs – were candidates for graduation.

Frenchman Alexis de Tocqueville's tour of the United States in 1831 provided the historical context for Jischke's comments. Tocqueville – then only 25 years old – came to study the American penal system. But he also was concerned about political and social developments in France and intrigued by the notion of democracy in the young nation.

"In America, Tocqueville found boundless promise and opportunity," Jischke said. "Today we live in a time of grave danger, and a time when some people question whether promise and opportunity remain within our grasp. They are shortsighted. They have forgotten that all people, through all history, have lived in times of grave danger. And yet, promise and opportunity have prevailed.

"We are gathered here today, 170 years after Tocqueville's search for America, to celebrate the progress of democracy, which lives in the enormous promise and opportunities of the Class of 2001. You are the latest issue in the progress of democracy. You are also the ones who will take the next great step in democracy's journey forward through time. You begin this progression with the greatest gift ever to emerge from American democracy: education.

"Not everyone in this world is as fortunate as those of us gathered here today. Of all the billions of people on this planet, you are among a handful who have had the opportunity to attain a university education. Of all the billions of people in this world, you are among the few who are completely free – free to dream, free to prosper and grow in a society that believes every man and every woman should be valued. Diversity is the celebration of democracy. And education is the safeguard of both.

"Education is the key you will use to unlock the promise and opportunities that will shape your tomorrow. It is also a key you can use to help alleviate poverty, hunger, suffering and disease. It is a key you can use to bring an end to the hatred, intolerance, bigotry and bloodshed. You have the power to help to make learning and education even more widely disseminated tomorrow than it is today and ever has been throughout time.

"Some of you have come here from far-off places. Take back with you what you have learned. Help others to follow. Some of you, like me, are the first in your family to attain a university degree. Others are part of a progression of learning that reaches deep in your heritage. You can help others accomplish what you are celebrating today. Through education, you can spread democracy, promise and opportunity throughout this world.

"It has been said many times in recent months that the world has changed forever. And we all quite agree. But as you begin your journey into tomorrow, consider the promise in this opportunity: Perhaps today is the moment when the world will change forever for the better."

Purdue Calumet's commencement will be at 6 p.m. Tuesday (12/18) at the Radisson Star Plaza Theatre in Merrillville, Ind. Jischke also will be the keynote speaker for the Calumet ceremony, in which 546 winter candidates and 149 summer graduates are eligible to participate.

Writer: Sharon A. Bowker, (765) 494-9723

Source: Martin C. Jischke, (765) 494-9708

Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096;

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