University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire


News Bureau . Schofield Hall 201 . Eau Claire, WI 54702
phone: (715) 836-4741
fax: (715) 836-2900

Sec. Thompson Encourages UW-Eau Claire Graduates
To Give Back to their Family, Community, Country

 MAILED:  May 17, 2003

EAU CLAIRE - As graduates begin their lives beyond college - lives full of additional choices and responsibilities - they should take time to consider what they want to achieve, now and in the future, U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy G. Thompson said during this morning's commencement at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire.

Graduates also should ask themselves what debts of money, time and service they should repay, Thompson said in his "Charge to the Class," titled "A Call to Public Service."

"Some debts are financial ... But your greater debts are moral," Thompson told the graduates, their families and friends. "But these debts can be paid indirectly. You can repay your parents by raising your children well. You can repay your teachers and mentors by applying the skills and knowledge they taught you. You can repay those who won your liberty by preserving liberty for future generations. And if you really value your upbringing, your education and your liberty, you will want to repay these debts with interest."

Thompson encouraged the graduates to find out where the need in their community is the greatest and what they as individuals have to give. Giving money to an animal shelter, coaching a soccer team, taking a grandparent to the doctor, volunteering at a hospice or tutoring a teenager are just a few of Thompson's suggestions for helping graduates repay their debts to their family, community and country.

"All of them will make you better, every time you do them," Thompson said of the volunteer initiatives he mentioned.

As Secretary of Health and Human Services, Thompson said he couldn't resist also reminding graduates to care for their bodies as well their minds. Daily physical activity, smart eating habits, avoiding risky behavior and getting regular check ups are all essential, he said.

"The better you care for your mind and body, the better you can serve your neighbor and care for your family," Thompson said. "And you owe them that service."

Thompson, a graduate of UW-Madison, noted that today's graduates will join him as a proud alumni of the UW System. The diplomas are a declaration of independence, Thompson said, explaining that when 13 American colonies declared themselves "free and independent states" they didn't know what the future held for them, but they were determined to make it bright.

"Some of your plans won't work out," Thompson said. "Some of your assumptions will be wrong. But a few simple things are in your power, and they are all you need. A sound mind. A strong body. A loving heart. A virtuous soul. A rich imagination. A close family. A handful of lifelong friends. A few memorable achievements. A treasure of stories. A few dreams that you can attain. A few more that you can pass on to others. These are all you need."

More than 1,100 students graduated from UW-Eau Claire during two ceremonies today. Thompson spoke to graduates participating in the morning ceremony, which included graduates in the College of Arts and Sciences and candidates for master's degrees.

Kevin Keane, a 1987 UW-Eau Claire graduate and current assistant secretary for public affairs for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, gave the "Charge to the Class" during the afternoon ceremony, which included graduates in the College of Business and College of Professional Studies. Keane was presented with the UW-Eau Claire Alumni Distinguished Service Award today, recognizing his service to the state of Wisconsin and the nation.

UW-Eau Claire Home

Excellence. Our measure, our motto, our goal.

 Judy Berthiaume, Director
UW-Eau Claire News Bureau
Schofield 201
(715) 836-4741

Updated: May 19, 2003