A day of reflection, remembrance and revelry

Indiana University Bloomington held its annual Winter Commencement this morning at Assembly Hall, giving the university’s newest graduates an opportunity to look toward a future of promise and also to reflect on the many historic events that have marked their years at IU — events, said IU President Michael A. McRobbie, that have “touched the lives of people around the world.”

Sadly, it was impossible not to feel the shockwaves and sorrow from one of those events: yesterday’s tragic shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., which claimed the lives of 20 children and six adults.

Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels addresses IU's Winter Commencement graduates as Indiana University President Michael A. McRobbie looks on.

Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels addresses IU Bloomington’s Winter Commencement graduates as IU President Michael A. McRobbie looks on.

“Commencement is traditionally a joyous time when we celebrate all that our students have achieved in their studies at Indiana University as they commence the rest of their lives,” President McRobbie said at the start of the morning’s proceedings. “But the innocent children, wantonly and savagely massacred yesterday in an act of pure evil, will never know their own commencements. And the parents and teachers slaughtered with them will never celebrate the commencements of their own and other children.

“As an educator and as a parent, I echo President Obama’s words from yesterday: Something must be done,” McRobbie continued. “This has happened too often. In the face of such unimaginable horror, words are simply inadequate.”

After a moment of silence for the murdered children, parents and teachers of Sandy Hook Elementary School, McRobbie introduced Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, soon-to-be president of Purdue University. Daniels told members of the IU Bloomington Class of 2012 that this would not be their last commencement, but instead the first of many new beginnings.

“Every commencement means leaving behind the familiar and entering — it will often feel like plunging — into the unknown,” Daniels said. “A new job, a new city, maybe a new continent, parenthood for sure — each will take you from a comfort zone to a zone of distinct discomfort. I’m here to argue that’s a good thing, something not to dread but to look forward to.”

Daniels also urged the new class, whose members, he said, comprise the nation’s “knowledge elite,” to resist the temptation to insulate themselves from those individuals who come from a different socio-economic class or who might not agree with them.

Members of IU Bloomington's Class of 2012.

Members of IU Bloomington’s Class of 2012.

In his remarks, President McRobbie talked about just how engaged IU graduates have been with the world around them during their years studying at IU. Members of this year’s graduating class, McRobbie said, have worked to improve the lives of members of their local communities as well as of citizens around the world, from mentoring at-risk school children in Monroe County and helping build homes for county families to working to build schools in Uganda and providing disaster relief both here in the U.S. and abroad.

“It is to you, and thousands like you graduating all over the country,” McRobbie told the Class of 2012, “that the world now looks for your commitment as citizens, for your energy and seriousness of purpose as you grapple with the most formidable problems that confront us, for your commitment to human dignity and freedom, and for all you can do to renew the global economy, to innovate, to invent, to build, to heal and to teach.”

On a day filled with reflection, remembrance and revelry, McRobbie’s concluding words were a fitting send-off to IU graduates as they prepared to embark on the next phase of their lives.

View a photo gallery capturing the pageantry and celebration of this year’s Winter Commencement.

Read the president’s full commencement address.

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