WSU is advancing Washington industries …
WSU teams with aviation to develop sustainable aviation biofuels …
WSU partners to develop bioproducts that reduce dependence on petroleum imports …
WSU works with state commodity commissions to conduct needed agricultural research …
WSU developed the technology used for wood-plastic composites used for buildings …
WSU researchers work to improve dairy productivity and reduce disease …
WSU research has made Washington one of the world’s most productive wheat-growing regions …

Cougar Chat, The state of higher education in Washington State

Continuity, Commencements, and Civic Engagement

May and June are the months of graduation and speeches that often mark the ceremony. Sometimes, commencement speeches are met with a fair amount of derision — what can be inspirational to some, can be viewed as negative or boring to others. WSU Impact remembers well the excitement of the day; youthful attention was elsewhere and perhaps, not entirely on the speech maker. enthusiasm of the day!

However, we also remember that there have been commencement speeches that have gone into the historic annals of the world’s great rhetorical presentations. What memorable commencement speeches tend to have in common is that they engagingly and sometimes, provocatively ask graduates to think more, serve better, and stretch their civic selves to be the best they can be.

Fifty years ago, in June 1963, President John F. Kennedy addressed the graduating seniors at American University, located in Washington, D.C.. It is considered by some to be one of his greatest speeches and emphasized foreign policy in the Cold War era and the threats to world peace at a time of nuclear power proliferation.

In the face of these daunting challenges, it is remarkable that he also used the commencement pulpit to share his views on higher education and the value of universities. President Kennedy started the speech by going back 60 years and relying on the wisdom of Professor Woodrow Wilson, the 28th President of the United States, a Governor of New Jersey, and a President of Princeton University. Kennedy shared Wilson’s view  “… that every man sent out from a university should be a man of his nation as well as a man of his time.”

President Kennedy continued: “I am confident that the men and women who carry the honor of graduating from [American University] will continue to give from their lives, from their talents, a high measure of public service and public support.”  kennedy at American University

President Kennedy finished this part of the speech and spoke from the heart by relying on John Masefield to help explain the value of higher education and expectations for those who graduate with a college degree:

‘There are few earthly things more beautiful than a university,’ wrote John Masefield in his tribute to English universities — and his words are equally true today. [Masefield] did not refer to towers or to campuses. He admired the splendid beauty of a university, because it was, he said, ‘a place where those who hate ignorance may strive to know, where those who perceive truth may strive to make others see.’ 

It is in the spirit of soaring rhetoric and inspiration that we ask every member of WSU Impact to consider exercising their influence to “give from their lives” and with a “high measure of public service and support” for WSU and higher education. A lofty preamble to our request, for sure. But we are moved by Presidents Wilson and Kennedy and their clarion call based in part, on the well-known biblical adage, “to whom much is given, much is expected.”

WSU Impact’s goals to assist in civic engagement are straight forward. We want to bring awareness to the issues facing public higher education and WSU. We provide information, reports, and news that we hope, encourage citizens to explore what others across the political and public spectrums are saying about higher education.

We also urge our members to critically analyze higher education issues. Higher education affordability and accessibility can obviously create relatively complex policy, economic, and social questions. WSU Impact provides resources to encourage citizens to ask the “why” and “how” questions — how and why did things get where they are with public higher education? How are the issues being addressed in the public policy arena and what constructive roles can citizen voluntarily play?

coug mode onFinally, we aim to provide the tools and communication platforms to enable members to act in the belief that change is possible. Arguably, citizen advocacy is most effective when citizens act with resolve yet within the spirit of hope and imagination. To solve a problem, we must be able to imagine the solution first. In turn, we have to believe that efforts to create constructive change are possible and doable, especially by engaged and informed citizens who act, in equal measure, with both courage and humility.

We encourage our WSU Impact advocates to take action during the upcoming special session of the Washington State legislature. We ask all of our 854 members to consider contacting your legislators during the next four weeks and let them know you care about WSU and higher education. Thank you for your membership in WSU Impact. We hope many of you volunteer to take action and communicate with your legislators.


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