Why are we here, anyway?

In a complicated world, graduates will be well served by critical thinking.

As the school year wraps up and we lust for the profound sense of freedom that accompanies leaving that last final exam, itâÄôs easy to curse academic life and the sleepless nights that come with it. But for all the tortuous study marathons, mountains of reading and endless early morning labs, the choice to pursue an academic, liberal arts-based education is laudable and worthwhile. Although technical know-how is certainly important, learning to critically analyze and understand complex interrelations will yield lifelong benefits. Events of recent years have underscored the importance of questioning dogmatic assumptions and seeing world issues holistically. The misguided invasion of Iraq and the failure to prevent financial catastrophe have turned the Cassandras of yesterday into todayâÄôs Oracles. Academia provides a rare space for diverse and informed opinion while maintaining the rare rigors of a reality-based debate. Such attributes are the hallmarks of good decision-making. In a world of cable news sound bites and hyperbolic politicians thrashing for attention, higher education has become an oasis for the rational pursuit of varied thoughts and investigations. Even with its warts, wrinkles and financial stringency, the University of Minnesota remains a bastion of this freedom. So, to the graduating class of 2010: Congratulations! The world and nation will demand much of you in the years to come. Cliché or not, the future is indeed in your hands. Though the burden of this responsibility is much to carry, youâÄôll have the intellectual strength and the skills from all of those sleepless nights to get you through. Best of luck and Ski-U-Mah!