At the University of Kansas, we are focused on educating leaders who will go on to make positive contributions to our society. We are fortunate to welcome one such leader, former President Bill Clinton, to our campus today to receive the 2015 Dole Leadership Prize.
This prize recognizes an individual whose public service inspires others, and President Clinton demonstrates this for our faculty, students, and staff. His work to balance the budget and to reach across the aisle was not always easy, but his ability to engage friend and foe alike highlighted the importance of practicing leadership.
This is a special moment for us. The opportunity to hear a former president speak is the kind of experience that KU provides its students as they learn what it takes to become leaders themselves. When President Clinton last visited KU in 2004, he challenged his audience not to agree with him, but to decide, and to think about his message.
“The most important thing you can get out of a university education is not any particular set of information or skills. It is the ability to think, to reason,” he said in his speech.
Clearly, learning to reason is an important part of becoming a leader. At KU, we are focused on preparing our students to address society’s grand challenges and to lead meaningful lives.
Programs like today’s lecture are a testament to the values of the Dole Institute of Politics’ namesake, Senator Robert Dole. This is true for many reasons, but it is especially notable that today’s Leadership Prize recipient ran against Dole in a presidential election. Dole and Clinton have demonstrated through their actions that political opponents do not need to be political enemies. Their friendship reminds us all that our differences are not always as great as they may seem, and exhibits qualities that made both of them excellent leaders.
It is my hope that students who take time to attend today’s speech will find ways to emulate President Clinton and Senator Dole by becoming leaders in their own communities. We have many such opportunities for interested students here at KU, from service learning opportunities through our KU Core educational goals to the volunteer opportunities provided through the Center for Community Outreach. I also encourage students to find their own ways to make our world more vibrant and prosperous for all of us.
As we continue our work to educate the next generation of leaders, I look forward to seeing our successes in the experiences of our students and alumni who have embraced the fact that all of us are part of something bigger than ourselves.