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* Purdue President Martin C. Jischke delivers his last commencement address, describing the American Dream to the class of 2007. 2 minutes 57 seconds
* 'You are the American Dream,' Jischke tells graduates

* University says 'Hail Purdue' with honorary degrees for Jischkes
* Purdue graduates to take part in commencement ceremonies

May 11, 2007

Jischke to class of 2007: 'We're graduating with you'

Michael and Haley Martin
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In the final commencement address of his 48-year higher education career, Purdue University President  Martin C. Jischke on Friday (May 11) encouraged 2007 graduates to go out and live the American Dream - just as he has.

Jischke said that dream is about much more than fame or riches.

"The American Dream is opportunity," he told the graduates during ceremonies at the Elliott Hall of Music. "When coupled with desire and hard work, opportunity can fulfill our greatest dreams."

Jischke on Friday (May 11) spoke to graduates from the School of Management and College of Technology, their families and friends during the first of four spring commencement ceremonies. Additional ceremonies also are scheduled for 9:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. Saturday (May 12) and 9:30 a.m. Sunday (May 13).

This weekend marks the university's 201st commencement.

Jischke is retiring this summer after seven years as Purdue's president and has led four universities over the last 22 years. He used his final commencement to reflect on his own life and career and to look ahead to what graduates can offer the world as they begin their own careers.

"I will always have a special bond with the class of 2007," he said. "In a sense, this weekend my wife, Patty, and I are graduating with you."

The grandson of an immigrant from an area that is now part of Poland, Jischke told of how his father wanted to be a physician. Instead, the Great Depression made attending college impossible, and he became a grocer in Chicago.

Martin Jischke became the first in his family to graduate from college. Upon receiving his doctoral degree, he went home for a visit and gave his thesis to his parents. He had dedicated it to them.

"When my father saw this, he started weeping," Jischke said. "I will never forget it. I wonder what my father would think if he could see me standing here today as president of one of the world's best universities. I have far exceeded his greatest dreams - and mine."

The story, he said, is not about him. It's about the power of education.

"I believe in the power of education to change lives," he said. "I believe in the power of an educated people to change the world. I believe this intellectually. And I believe it personally and emotionally, as well. I have seen the power of education in my own life."

That power, he said, helps fulfill a promise that was first identified by a little-known American historian, James Truslow Adams. In his widely translated book, "Epic of America," Adams coined the term "The American Dream."

"Wherever you come from in the world - and we have many international graduates here today - you have heard of the American Dream," Jischke said. "It is part of American culture and heritage. It is the essence of what we, as Americans, believe about ourselves and our nation."

The term was introduced in 1931, in the early years of the Depression. U.S. unemployment was at 16 percent, and 8 million people were out of work. But somehow, Jischke said, people believed Adams when he said "the American Dream."

Adams defined the phrase as the opportunity for everyone to attain a richer and fuller life, regardless of birth or position.

"Standing here before you, the grandson of a Polish immigrant with little education, the son of a grocer, I have experienced the incredible opportunity of serving as president of Purdue," Jischke said. "I am surely living the American Dream.

"I believe the American Dream is the dream of this nation.

"I believe the American Dream is the opportunity to live in a nation in which diversity is celebrated as the source of strength and beauty.

"I believe the American Dream is the opportunity not only to acquire, but also to give and to serve people in need.

"I believe the American Dream is the opportunity to pursue knowledge freely.

"I believe the American Dream is the opportunity to share these great possibilities with people throughout the world, no matter where they live, no matter what their circumstance."

He implored graduates to believe that the dream is still alive. He recounted words from Brooks Atkinson, a 20th century drama critic.

Atkinson said the nation's pioneers weren't afraid to fail. He said scientists weren't afraid of the truth, thinkers not afraid of progress and dreamers not afraid of action.

"What is the American Dream?" Jischke asked the graduates. "Ultimately, you are the American Dream. ... You are the culmination of all the dreams of all the people who have dreamed before you. You are the best-educated generation in the history of the world. Your opportunities are limited by the depth of your resolve and the height of your ambition.

"This is among my final commencements. This is my final message to you. You are our American Dream for a better tomorrow."

Writer: Jim Bush, (765) 494-2077,

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

Christine Dehahn, assistant registrar, (765) 494-6163,

Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096;

Michael Martin, a Purdue civil engineering class of 2007 graduate from Fort Wayne, Ind., has his photo taken by his sister Haley Martin after Saturday morning commencement exercises on the West Lafayette campus. An estimated 5,677 degrees will be presented this weekend, including 4,295 undergraduate degrees, 223 professional degrees, 803 master's degrees and 356 doctoral degrees. (Purdue News Service photo/Dave Umberger)

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