Willamette University

President’s Annual Report

“The nation has changed,” declared a pre-election Barack Obama in his “A More Perfect Union” address, and one needs only to have watched the election returns for indisputable confirmation. As a nation, we have turned a corner.

Today’s graduates inherit a world characterized by incredible change, a world in which paltriness of aim will simply not do. In their communities — wherever they live, work and study — Willamette graduates will encounter a country that is increasingly diverse. A new globalism has transformed relationships with neighbors who once seemed far away and abstract, and this new proximity and interdependency changes the way we think about education, commerce and society.

Let me put it in practical terms: For many of today’s students, the very best companies will expect that, for a portion of their lives, they will live and work in a country outside the United States.

This represents an enormous change.

Science now challenges our long-held notions of what it means to be human and to have a family. It also promises remarkable advances in health care. New technologies are developed each year, increasing our access to information and expanding the frontiers of knowledge.

Therefore, it is our duty to ask of our students, “Are you the hope of the future? Do you, or will you, have the moral courage to look at a thing as it truly is and say, not merely in words but in actions and deeds, ‘I want to solve the problems and change the world?’ Do you feel in your heart and in your blood that you are part of the involuntary life that makes up the world, and that you can neither look out on it from your shelter of abundance nor hide your eyes in self-absorbed complaining?”

The leaders and problem solvers of tomorrow are on our college campuses today. We look to our graduates to seek lives of meaningful work, to stand for something — to stand up for something.

Parts of this nation and the world are darkened by poverty and hunger, blighted by ignorance and fear, and torn asunder by mortal conflict and war. Willamette students and graduates have talents and resources to share with those who have not had the good fortune to participate in the bounty of life.

For history will judge us by our actions and by how we answered — as a nation and as individuals — the question, “What will I do?”

This issue of The Scene shares stories from current students and alumni about their transformative moments at Willamette and elsewhere, and how those moments influenced and guided their aspirations and journeys. Enjoy.

M. Lee Pelton

President Pelton

“We look to our graduates to seek lives of meaningful work, to stand for something — to stand up for something.”