Speeches and Writing

President Kaler’s Convocation Speech to the Class of 2016

 (As delivered)

August 30, 2012

Good morning! This IS the beginning—the starting line for you, the Class of 2016.

I’m very happy to share this moment with you. I am also pleased to have so many of our Regents here today, including Chair Linda Cohen and Vice-Chair David Larson and Regents Rick Beeson, Tom Devine, and Dean Johnson. Welcome to our deans, to our faculty, and to our staff. And welcome to that beautiful girl you saw in the video, my wife, Karen Kaler.

Now, back to you—the stars of this show, our first-year students—a fantastic collection of energy, smarts, community involvement, and, I hope, a sense of good fun and humor. You know, there were more than 38,000 high school seniors from across the country and world who wanted to be here with you. Only 5,500 of you made it. Congratulations. You are a wonderful group, an incredible group. You are also a smart group. You have the highest average ACT scores in University history. And I know you will thrive here.

Now I also know that all of you took the StrengthsQuest assessment. I’m sure you enjoyed the thrill of quickly answering all those probing questions about your innermost personality traits, likes, and dislikes. I took that test too. So did our Regents and all of the senior leaders on campus. Here’s what I learned about myself. The assessment was actually pretty accurate.

I’m an Achiever—I like being busy and productive. I think that’s a good thing. I’m Analytical, as you would expect a chemical engineer to be. And how many of you want to be engineers? Competition is one of my strengths—excellent for someone who wants the University of Minnesota to be among the nation and world’s leading institutions. I’m good at Individualization, which is getting different kinds of folks to work together. And I’m a Learner, which makes sense for someone who spends most of his time on a college campus.

I’m sure you learned some new things about yourself through StrengthsQuest, too. Please use that knowledge over the next four years to help you grow and take advantage of all the opportunities you will encounter here on campus.

Now, as you can tell from the opening video, my first-year roommate was Goldy. Goldy is a trip. Just never stopped jumping around. Always doing push-ups. Constantly grooming his tail. Always flossing his tooth. And that spinning head is just over the top. Hopefully, your roommate experience will be a bit lower key. But maybe not.

The fact is, most of you—about 86 percent of you—will be living away from home and your parents. So, classroom aside, you are entering a new zone of personal responsibility and accountability. You are embarking on a great exercise in self-discovery. Please be smart in your new world. I don’t want you to find out that a big mistake can last a lifetime.

To put it simply: Don’t do anything stupid. Please. We are all here for you, to support you, in and out of the classroom. Please, make us proud. And—as I did for Goldy—look out for your new friends, roommates, and Class of 2016 colleagues. Take care of each other. Do new and important stuff. Find students like you and, even more importantly, different from you. Wear maroon and gold. Lots of it. Be Gopher fans. At all costs, avoid those other, less attractive rodents—Wolverines and Badgers.

But know this: Going to college, studying at this University, is serious business. As president, it is my obligation and that of this University’s faculty and staff to provide you with a rigorous world-class education, a broad global outlook, and four years of growth, development, and excellence.

Class of 2016, today you take to the starting line. In four years—four unforgettable years—we expect you to cross the finish line as a polished, prepared, and proud Class of 2016. All of us here at the University of Minnesota are rooting for you.