University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire

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Commencement Speaker Encourages Graduates
To Do Extraordinary Things to Make a Difference

 MAILED:  May 17, 2003

EAU CLAIRE - Graduates of the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire should go forward confident they have the ability and knowledge to tackle any challenge and make their dreams reality, Kevin Keane told graduates during his "Charge to the Class" at today's afternoon commencement ceremony.

"Your confidence and your ability are needed right now in this world," said Keane, a 1987 UW-Eau Claire journalism graduate and current assistant secretary for public affairs for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

In his speech, titled "Making a Difference in a Changing World," Keane said he often describes the generation of which he is a part as "Generation EZ" because of the economic security and prosperity many have enjoyed throughout their lives.

"We certainly are a contrast to our grandparents and parents who endured depression, World War II, the uncertainty of the Cold War and dramatic social change," Keane said. "There is a good reason they're considered The Greatest Generation. When the world was changing, they shaped it so we could have it EZ as we grew up as kids."

The world is again changing, Keane said, noting that reality hit him hard in the fall of 2001 when "thick black smoke from the Pentagon billowed past my window and my kids were writing sympathy notes to classmates who lost their parents."

But he said that tragedy is just one aspect of a changing world.

"All of the world is changing...business...health care...government...education ...religion and societal values," Keane said. "They are all at a crossroads. This is the time for our generation to step up and make a difference in the world. We need to build the 21st Century. Not since the World War II generation has a generation been presented with the opportunity to shape the world so dramatically."

Keane asked graduates to remember that the Greatest Generation didn't succeed only because of what they did on battlefields or in the halls of Congress. "They succeeded just as much because of what they did in their homes and on their Main Streets," he said. "They changed the world by how they taught their children, how they practiced business, how they built their communities."

Now it's this generation's turn to determine the world's path, Keane said.

"Our generation must determine how we educate our children when we live in a time where space travel doesn't awe our kids, it bores them; and where we live in a global society where our children won't be competing for jobs with their neighbors but with those in Asia and Europe and the Middle East," Keane said.

This generation must determine how breakthroughs in health and science will be used to benefit humankind and it must make public service a priority, Keane said. Most importantly, this generation must determine the values it will give to its children.

"This is our time," Keane said. "This is the time for our generation to answer the call to better this world. What more noble an opportunity could we ask for?

"We must be ordinary men and women who do extraordinary things that make all the difference in the world. For the price of being passive is too great a price to pay. And it will be paid not by us so much as by our children."

Keane encouraged graduates to have a "sense of purpose and selflessness" as they leave college in pursuit of their dreams. "Perhaps, if we do our jobs well, one day our grandchildren will stand up here at a commencement and refer to us as the Greatest Generation in thanks for the world we built them," Keane said.

"So friends, leave here today with the confidence that, as University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire graduates, you have the ability and the knowledge to make a difference," Keane said. "Leave with the courage and the conviction to bring about change. And leave with the optimism and hope for building a better world for our generation and the ones that we leave behind.

"Go out there and make a difference. You're Blugolds. And that means something special."

More than 1,100 students graduated from UW-Eau Claire during two ceremonies today. Keane spoke to graduates in the College of Business and College of Professional Studies. Earlier in the day, Keane was presented with the UW-Eau Claire Alumni Distinguished Service Award, recognizing his service to the state of Wisconsin and the nation.

During today's morning commencement ceremony, U.S. Health and Human Services Department Sec. Tommy Thompson delivered the "Charge to the Class." The morning ceremony included graduates of the College of Arts and Sciences and candidates for master's degrees.
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JB


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 Judy Berthiaume, Director
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Updated: May 19, 2003