Congratulations to the Graduate School Class of 2017! The successful completion of your graduate degree is an extraordinary achievement, and one that you should be extremely proud of. I know how much work and sacrifice has gone into you achieving this important academic milestone, and you should take this moment to look back on what you have accomplished. Along with recognizing your achievements, however, I also want to recognize those who helped you along this path. First, to your faculty mentor(s), many of whom were with you at graduation, for the contributions that they have made to making you the scholar that you are today. Second, to your friends who provided a support structure that enabled your success. And finally, to your family, who, intentionally or not, set you along this path, and who were unwavering in their confidence in you and your abilities and in the pride that they feel for your accomplishments.
A special congratulations to Dr. Emily Alden Hennessey, the Graduate School Founder’s Medalist. And a special thank you to our banner bearers: Dr. Myra Harbin, Candace Carducci, and Anjali Kulkarni; our student marshals: Dr. Kelsey Beavers, Dr. Jane Hirtle, Dr. Nicole Sexton, Dr. Matthew Varga, Kofi Christie, and Tenele Dlamini; and our faculty marshals: Dr. Stephen Camarata, Dr. Steven Townsend, Dr. James Byrd, Dr. Sarah Igo, Dr. Dana Nelson, Dr. James Patton, Dr. Bridget Rogers, Dr. Daniel Ashmead, Dr. Steven Goodbred, and Dr. Velma Murry.
Now to the challenge.
Regardless of where you sit on the ideological and political spectrum, I think we can all agree that this has been an incredibly tumultuous year. Of particular note for me has been the volume of the voices at the extremes, and how polarized and polarizing the opinions and perspectives are on either side of any given debate. Don’t get me wrong—extreme views are invariably a part of any substantive issue, and these views need to be articulated and heard. However, and this is where the challenge lies, they cannot be the only perspectives that are voiced...