Thank you. Your Excellency, Chairman Haldeman and trustees, dear dear President Wright, Provost Scherr, faculty, members of the administration and staff, guests and students, I bring you greetings from Brown, a university that has as its core mission to prepare students for lives of usefulness and reputation. Today, we at Brown take great pride in the vision, wisdom, and achievements of Brown alumnus Jim Yong Kim, as he is inaugurated as the 17th president of this great university. (It’s in – you know, it’s painful to have to say that: this great university.) His election as leader of Dartmouth continues and cements a long tradition of cooperation between our two institutions.
I also bring you greetings from the Council of Ivy League Presidents, the governing body of the fabled Ivy League of sports. Although the term Ivy League was first used in the 1930’s, the agreement establishing a common framework for all intercollegiate sports in the eight Ivy universities was not signed until 1954. Since that time, the league has grown in strength and distinction, not merely because of its athletic prowess, but also because of the academic rigor of member universities. Dartmouth athletics, and its academic distinction, have been an important component of this storied Ivy League history. President Kim, we look forward to welcoming you to your first Ivy presidents’ meeting in December. I think it’s fair to say that you will be surprised by the degree of passion and debate that typifies council meetings, where yes, athletics policy, compliance and infractions dominate the agenda.
Anyone beginning service as the president of a leading university such as Dartmouth invariably hears from skeptics that ours is an impossible task. They speak of the fractured nature of all academic communities today, where a president, in trying to forge a common agenda and strategic direction, must frequently balance opposing views, aims, intentions and, of course, identities. Critics of academic culture may speak of the challenge of working with tenured faculty, governing boards, alumni and donors, and activist students, who together, they observe, create a cacophonous chorus of concerns. However, those who know the academy well also recognize that at its core, the university is a community in which the importance of intellectual rigor, freedom of speech and inquiry, dispassionate analysis, scholarly and creative innovation, and a passion for problem solving in the service of society override the disparate aims of its members. I am confident, President Kim, that in you this university has found another Dartmouth president who understands the centrality of these priorities to all members and supporters, and that you can demonstrate through personal example the ways in which many voices can become one in together building a bond and enhancing Dartmouth’s stellar history.
The power and promise of your personal example was evident from your earliest time at Brown. Demanding the best of your education, you sought opportunities to expand your knowledge and experience across widely divergent academic and extracurricular areas. Your stated passion for incorporating the humanities in your quest to prepare yourself for a possible career in the sciences revealed a wholesome, ecumenical view of the academy. Your character as a member of the community showed a deep respect for difference. These values to which you have committed yourself for decades are, we know, essential for a university president who must preside over, care for, respect, and support a diversity of individuals, fields and pursuits. Moreover, you advance characteristics of leadership that are highly desirable in a university president. The moral strength and courage to make difficult decisions, the tenacity to stay the course, the intellectual generosity to tolerate and learn from criticism, the ability to extract learning from failure, the persuasiveness and charisma to represent the university well, and the distinction to be truly an international leader.
As president of Dartmouth, you are prepared to speak to the world, and have the world speak back to Dartmouth. There are college and university leaders represented here today who welcome you into the fellowship of university presidents. We embrace you and offer you our support as you lead Dartmouth forward. May you do so with good humor, with tolerance for the time that it takes for change to occur, with enjoyment of the myriad pleasures of mentoring and leading a community of scholars and with a conviction that there is no more satisfying vantage point from which to influence lasting positive change.
Jim, we are very proud of you. Congratulations to you and Godspeed.
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