December 20, 2008
Interim President Anthony A. Frank


The Oxford Dictionary defines “charge” as “to task with a responsibility.”

Tonight, I want the charge to be something that is paradoxically easy — it is within all of our powers to do it exceptionally well — and yet among the hardest tasks we face as human beings.

Typically, a “charge to the class” includes mentioning your professional responsibilities, and at a Land Grant university like Colorado State, we often invoke Lincoln and others who built the access foundation of American higher education. But tonight I want to focus on a different group. I want you to picture them in your mind’s eye — and know that each of your pictures will be a little different.

Picture people — people at the end of a long work day. They can be men or women, young or old, white collar or hourly laborer. They cross all races and religions, and they come from Yuma to Cortez, from the Aspen valley to LoDo.

They’ve come in the door to their home (it could be a house, an apartment, a trailer), and they are taking off their shoes (dirty boots, high heels, polished loafers). And as they take off their coat or jacket, their hand brushes a piece of paper in a pocket; it’s a pay stub — and they pause for just a moment to look at it, and they wonder what happened to those hard-earned dollars in the withholding line. And they think about what they could have done with that money.

Can you see them? Many of you are in this group — but all of you — all of us who have the honor of having graduated from America’s public universities — are indebted to them.

We are indebted to them for supporting the uniquely American idea that every individual capable of earning a college degree should have that chance and that the very fabric of American society will be strengthened by teachers, doctors, lawyers, professionals — educated and engaged citizens who return far more collectively than what any of us pay individually.

With the degree you’ve earned comes opportunity. But it also comes with responsibility. How will you repay this debt? You’ll repay it in part with economic impact, and we’ll speak of multiplier effects, your creation of new technologies, and of your being the educated workforce for the global knowledge economy. And this is all both true and important.

But it’s not what I’m charging you with this evening.

So here then is my charge to you, members of the 100th Graduating Class of Colorado State University’s Warner College of Natural Resources: Repay that debt by remembering these people every day and knowing that you owe them your very best — as a professional — but also as a person. Whether rested or tired, up or down, whether the path ahead seems easy — or if it’s difficult to see that there is a path ahead — you owe them your best every single day. We all owe that to each other.

Can you picture them — these good citizens who have made your education possible? They are your compass. If you can see them, it will be hard to lose your way in life. And if you give them your best, you will have repaid your portion of the debt we all owe to each other as members of an increasingly global society.

Congratulations and Godspeed.