Minnesota state governor Mark Dayton delivered the speech for opening convocation of the 2012-13 academic year on the life lessons of a liberal arts education provided by schools like Carleton.
He commented on the dynamic world in which the 21st century student lives; unlike students in the past who spent many years training for a specific job, “your future career or field may not even exist today,” he said.
On that note Dayton praised the holistic mission of the liberal arts, emphasizing the methods of critical thinking and analysis it advances through an interdisciplinary curriculum. “Within the safety of this campus, pursue your passions of education,” he remarked.
Drawing upon his own undergraduate and post-university days as a pre-med student at Yale University, Dayton spoke to theaudience in the packed Skinner Memorial Chapel about the multiple changes of heart he experienced as a student.
Against the backdrop of the Vietnam War and the assassination of one of his “political heroes”, John. F. Kennedy, Dayton withdrew his medical school applications with an eye on “gaining some real world experience” instead. He turned to the Teach for America program and headed to New York City, where he discovered the immensely challenging yet rewarding world of teaching.
“My students taught me much more than I had ever taught them,” Dayton remarked, “and the lessons I learned were very valuable.”
He shared some of those lessons during his convocation speech, including his realization that while it is easy to dream and achieve, “the harder challenge involves making the world a better part for your well-being.” Emphasizing perseverance and strength of mind, he remarked that “the challenges of maintaining this country’s privileges in the future will be far greater than the ones we currently face today.”
In his conclusion, Dayton mentioned the inspiration he drew from teaching, which was a major influence on his current career in public service.
“Not only must you succeed yourselves,” he remarked, “but you must also enable others to succeed.” He stressed the need for new ideas and conventions, innovators and entrepreneurs, and “pursuits that will take many forms.”
He encouraged his audience - whether freshmen just beginning their undergraduate studies or seniors on the final leg of their liberal arts degree - to learn voraciously during their time at Carleton.
“Be aware of the grand scheme of things, make a difference in the world, and light a candle rather than curse the darkness,” Dayton emphasized. “So pick up a few matches while you’re here at Carleton.”