UI President Sally Mason delivered these remarks prior to the April 25 speech by U.S. President Barack Obama:
Welcome, students, my faculty and staff colleagues, visitors, and distinguished guests to this very special event. On behalf of the university and Iowa City communities, I would like to welcome President Barack Obama once again to the University of Iowa campus.
We are always grateful to have our public leaders visit our institution and share their ideas. The university is arguably the most open and freest forum in our society for the civil exchange of ideas, where respectful debate and careful, multifaceted examination of facts and opinions find their clearest voice.
To have the president of the United States join us in discussing the issues of our time is a special honor.
I am especially pleased for the unique opportunity that the president’s visit offers to our students. The university setting presents students with a myriad of new experiences in their exploration of the world of ideas and their preparation for lives of professional excellence and service to society.
To see and hear the president is certainly one of those experiences that will stay with them for many years to come.
President Obama will speak today about one of the most important issues facing higher education and, indeed, facing our entire society—affordability and access to a college education.
I believe that the American dream is a powerful concept that remains very much alive. I can think of no better way to achieve the American dream—of personal fulfillment, professional success, and a better life for self and family—than attending college.
Making sure that college remains affordable to all Americans goes to our very character as a culture and a people. I can speak of this from personal experience.
Even though I now proudly serve as president of the University of Iowa, one of our nation’s great public universities, I was the first to experience higher education in my family.
Although my mother barely finished high school before she entered the workforce and my father, an immigrant from Czechoslovakia, only finished the eighth grade, they wanted their children to pursue the American dream through education.
Fortunately, I was able to step foot onto my higher education path at the University of Kentucky, a public university. Because I had access to an affordable college education, I have been able to pursue my interests, achieve professional success, and contribute to society, even beyond what I had ever anticipated as an 18-year-old first-year student.
That is the hope we hold for all young people in our country—the opportunity to pursue their dreams and achieve their best success for self and society.
Thank you again for joining us today, and thank you again, President Barack Obama, for coming to the University of Iowa.