The Friday Letter Archive

A collection of the president's weekly messages to the Vandal family


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Friday Letter 2016-12-09:
The Story Our Graduates Write

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This Saturday 634 Vandals cross the stage at our fall Commencement and take their place among the more than 116,000 graduates of our state’s leading national research university. We celebrate their accomplishments, their hard work, their persistence and their creativity. Our Vandals have spent long days, nights, weeks and years getting to the Kibbie Dome this Saturday. They are prepared for the great career and satisfying life that come with a University of Idaho degree.

Graduation is one of the pivotal moments we have in life. It’s a chance to reflect on who you are and who you will be.

During the holiday season, one timeless tale that touches on those themes of personal growth and reflection is Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol.” This December, our Theatre Arts Department in the College of Letters, Arts and Social Sciences is staging its fourth consecutive and final production of this Christmas classic, which offers universal lessons, transcending any particular faith or creed. I will draw on lessons from the story to share with our graduates tomorrow.

The story is familiar to many — Mary Beth and I enjoyed it with our children countless times. Ebenezer Scrooge is a wealthy but miserly man who receives visitations from a series of ghosts — specters from the past, present and future. The first shows him the love and warmth he forsook for greed. The second shows him the joy others experience in the holiday season, even amid the hardship faced by the Cratchit family. The last shows Scrooge a world where his death is not mourned, in contrast with the untimely passing of Tiny Tim. 

It is a haunting vision, and Scrooge emerges a changed man. He’s received an opportunity that only occurs in novels and movies, unfortunately — the chance to see your future made real and change it before it comes to pass. That’s the important lesson I want our graduates to take away: retain the capacity to change, both personally and to impact the world around you. 

Our graduates have the chance to be the person they want to be — thinkers, doers, leaders, friends and helpers. People who are both ambitious and generous. Beyond their own success, I’ll ask them to think about the impact they want to see around them. What challenges need their skills? What injustice requires their attention? What broader opportunity can come to life with their diligence? Vandals are leaders and successful in all walks of life — they are uniquely positioned to make the world around them a better place. In the words of “A Christmas Carol” co-directors David Lee-Painter and Daniel Haley, “Be the blessing.” One can think of that as “Be that future” — embody the future you want to see, and work to create it.

Those are chapters that our graduates start to write this Saturday. They are prepared with an outstanding education, with a network of friends and mentors, and with a Vandal alumni family whose passion is unmatched.

Go Vandals!

Chuck Staben