So then one might ask, "What is an education for?" The answer is simply that with specific knowledge and skills we are able to help more people in more ways. We are more useful; we can be of better service.
Why do some seek out a diverse, well-rounded higher education at a place like the University of Colorado? Because somewhere in the process of getting an education, we might forget our purpose. We might begin to feel powerful and self-important, maybe superior. And we might forget to be "ever-mindful of the needs of others." We need reminding, we need guidance, we need the examples of others and we need, above all, practice. We need to acquire "ethical intelligence," because as we enter adulthood, some decisions are going to be very difficult. We will have to decide whom to trust and where to get our information. We will have to ask questions, we will have to do a lot of listening to the voices of caring experience and we will have to do our homework, so to speak, so that we can have the wisdom and discernment to know what is needed from each of us as a parent, as a neighbor, as an employer or employee, as a citizen of this magnificent experiment in democracy, and as a member of the CU community.
So if we know what people are for, and we know what a strong University of Colorado education is for, what obstacles are standing in the way of fulfilling our purpose? In our culture, in our time, not for all, but for a vast majority, the obstacles are distraction and saturation. We are over-entertained and under-informed. We are standing in the buffet line of an all-you-can-consume life and our plates are already full.
If it is not things we are consuming, it is activities. We find importance in our busy-ness. If I am busy, I must be important. If I am very busy, I must be very important. Let me remind you, as Gandhi once said: "There is more to life than increasing its speed."
Blessed are those who have found the discipline to be less busy and to be physically and emotionally available to someone else once in a while. We must decide whether to have, or to be."
For those of you administrators, professors, and specifically you student-athletes here today, I believe the choice has already been made. You have chosen "to be." Amid the distraction — the media, the meetings, the traveling, the hours of preparation and practice — you have excelled, and you have a lot to be proud of. This all comes with sacrifice — staying in an extra night of the week to study, putting in a few more hours of research, seeing family only a few times a year — but you must realize that the special thing about what you're doing and why you are here today, is that you have passion, on the court, the field, the course, the track, and also in the classroom. You are doing very well in representing CU student-athletes, and you do it all with a smile.
In representing the university, the athletic department, our teams and ourselves, we have a very valuable resource available to us: the inspiration of others. Solzhenitsyn titled his Nobel acceptance speech "Beauty Can Save the World." I see beautiful inspiration all around me.
Maria Persson-Gulda, for those of you who don't know, has played for the women's golf team for four years while achieving a GPA near 4.0 over that time while studying Engineering Physics. What's perhaps more impressive is that she comes from Sweden, and has found a way to adjust to language and cultural changes here in Colorado, while starring on the golf course, in the classroom, and as a glowing person to be around. I am awed by the beauty of her ambition and her spirit.
New head women's basketball coach Kathy McConnell-Miller has started an exciting new era for the women's program here at CU, and she's done it all this season with three small children running around the Coors Events Center, usually in three different directions. I am inspired by the beauty of her composure and the leadership she is bringing to CU athletics.
Several of the assistant football coaches here at CU are living at the Bear Rock apartments down the road, in the midst of a life transition away from their out-of-state families. I am humbled by the beauty of their sacrifice.
Eric Arcurie, my next-door neighbor and an avid sports fan, suffers from a disability he's had since birth. Each Friday he volunteers in the Dal-Ward weight room, cleaning floors and talking sports. I am awed by the beauty of his optimism.
Jana Rehemaa has won two individual national championships for the 5K and 15K Nordic skiing races. What's more impressive still is that she's from Estonia. English is her third language, and she had to complete 52 credit hours in one calendar academic year to be able to compete for CU — and she did it with over a 3.0 GPA. I am inspired by the beauty of her dedication.
Mr. Mark Simpson, the late head coach of the men's golf team, was a well-respected and mature leader of young men here at CU. We were all inspired by his presence, and by the reflection of his presence he left in others.
The list goes on and on, and so does the inspiration.
Today is as much a gathering for awards and recognition as it is for networking, community, remembrance, and recognizing that this time for our country, our state, and our campus is one in need of strong leadership — years from now it will be no different. Another resource we need for leadership is ultimately the most important, and that is courage. John F. Kennedy, in closing his book, "Profiles in Courage," described it as follows:
"To be courageous requires no exceptional qualifications, no magic formula, no special combination of time, place, and circumstance. It is an opportunity that sooner or later is presented to us all. In whatever arena of life one may meet the challenge of courage, whatever may be the sacrifices he faces if he follows his conscience — the loss of his friends, his fortune, his contentment, even the esteem of his fellow men — each man must decide for himself the course he will follow. The stories of past courage can define the ingredient — they can teach, they can offer hope, they can provide inspiration. But they cannot supply courage itself. For this each man must look into his own soul."
I see great potential for courage and leadership all around me this afternoon, and the examples of these individuals in our athletic department confirm this. Congratulations to all you student-athletes on a job well done, and remember the impact you have on teammates, friends, children, and communities — to whom much is given, much is expected.
Thanks to all you beautiful people for listening, and enjoy your day!