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Dartmouth College inaugurates Dr. Jim Yong Kim as 17th President

Dartmouth College Office of Public Affairs • Press Release
Posted 09/22/09 • Media Contact: Roland Adams (603) 646-3661

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President Kim urges students to unite “passion with practicality” in tackling the world’s most pressing problems

In front of an audience of more than 5,000 people, global health pioneer Dr. Jim Yong Kim was inaugurated today as the 17th President of Dartmouth College. In his inaugural address at a formal ceremony on the Dartmouth Green, President Kim challenged students to “aspire to change the world.”

“The historical moment in which we live demands that your generation unite — as never before — learning with action, passion with practicality” to address the world’s most pressing challenges, President Kim said. He argued that the liberal arts education they would receive at Dartmouth could uniquely prepare them to do so.

A physician, educator and infectious disease expert, Dr. Kim said it was “deeply humbling for me – the child of Korean immigrants from a small town in Iowa” to follow in the footsteps of his predecessors and lead Dartmouth College. Born in Seoul, Korea and raised in Muscatine, Iowa, Dr. Kim is the first Asian-American to be appointed president of an Ivy League school.

President Kim told students that “Your generation must dream, dream more ambitiously than any who have preceded you. But just to dream is not enough. You must deliver on the dream where previous generations have fallen short.” He argued that doing so required not only leaders who studied “practical disciplines such as engineering or economics” but also the arts and humanities.

“They deepen our understanding of what has been and open our imagination to what yet could be. They provide the experiences of beauty and shared meaning which are central to building a more just world. Understanding what ennobles human life, and intensifying our capacity to experience it is the very purpose of a Dartmouth education,” President Kim said.

Dr. Paul Farmer, co-founder of Partners in Health, a non-profit global health care organization, with President Kim, was among a range of other speakers. He said, “Dartmouth has the institutions and people it needs to make an ever greater difference in this world. And now Harvard and Partners In Health and the Brigham and Women’s Hospital have given you our beloved friend and leader. He will be a great president. I know whereof I speak."

“Passion and practicality: Either without the other will be inadequate to tackle the challenges we face today.”

President Kim described how working in impoverished communities in Haiti and Peru with Partners in Health, “instilled in me a belief in the transformative power of education.” He said, however, that “through 25 years of working to help improve health in some of the poorest communities in the world, what has became clear to me is that delivering on ambitious social goals requires more than principled individual action, more even than courageous social justice movements. It requires building and implementing systems that can deliver sustainable solutions.”

President Kim said his experiences working and studying how to enhance global health delivery inspired him to pursue the “two sides of the educational mission set forth by my predecessors, a mission that in this historical moment is more vital than ever: on the one hand, the passionate commitment to making the world a better place; on the other, the practical understanding of complex systems required to deliver solutions on a global scale. Passion and practicality: Either without the other will be inadequate to tackle the challenges we face today.”

“Let’s revive the Great Issues course to give today’s students a shared intellectual foundation”

Advocating the revival of a “Great Issues” course established by his predecessor John Sloan Dickey at Dartmouth in the 1950s, President Kim said, “Our legacy also shows that innovation and independence can thrive most richly when they build on a common intellectual foundation. One Dartmouth experience that I hear about again and again from alumni is the “Great Issues” course instituted by President Dickey. Students explored critical questions as an entire class, creating a common vocabulary through which differences in views and values could be examined and understood - making possible far deeper dialogue among classmates. Let’s revive the “Great Issues” course to give today’s students a shared intellectual foundation for taking on the most challenging problems of our time.”

President Kim emphasized that inspired teaching had been and would remain the bedrock of Dartmouth’s excellence.

“A legion of young people so inspired there is no challenge from which they will shrink”

President Kim concluded, “By inviting me to serve you as the seventeenth president of Dartmouth College, you’ve given me the highest honor of my life,” President Kim said. “In return, I offer you this promise, backed by both passion and practicality to the fullest measure of which I am capable: I will do all I can to enable Dartmouth to continue delivering the treasure of its centuries-old dream safely into the hands of those who will shape the future. To send a legion of young people out into the world so inspired by this place that there is no challenge from which they will shrink—all the while remaining true to the abiding sweetness of the College on the Hill.”


Note: Full texts of remarks by other speakers in today’s ceremonies will be available on the Dartmouth web site later today and video of the full inauguration ceremony will be available on Dartmouth’s YouTube channel as soon as possible.

Dartmouth has television (satellite uplink) and radio (ISDN) studios available for domestic and international live and taped interviews. For more information, call 603-646-3661 or see our Radio, Television capability webpage.

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