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We have all watched the ongoing stalemate in Washington, D.C. and the inability of our leaders to find compromise for the good of the country. To the 2,100 University of Colorado Boulder students preparing to graduate Dec. 16, it’s clear the world needs you to take what you have learned at CU and create civil discourse in a fractured nation and acrimonious world.

As a society we seem to have lost touch with the American principles of improvise and compromise. I believe that the creativity and the discourse our graduates have been a part of during their education at CU will inspire them to go forward and take their communities and country into bold new directions: to re-instill the value of creative solutions, civic engagement, and discourse.

Psychologists Jean Twenge and W. Keith Campbell call it “the “narcissism epidemic,” in their book of the same title, when people are so immersed in themselves and their own success that they cannot see where they end and the rest of the world begins.

I hope that what we taught you at CU isn’t how big you are. But rather how small you are, and how potent you are to change the world around you.

Examples abound of our students’ individual potential to have an impact on the world. Nearly 14,000 CU-Boulder students are active in community service or service learning every year. CU graduates top the nation in Peace Corps participation this year, and are in the top three nationally every year for active Peace Corps participation.

Meanwhile, a thousand CU-Boulder students are engaged in undergraduate research at any given time, advancing the world around them by working on biomedical discoveries that save our lives, developing new energy to power us and producing works of art that inspire us.

Students taking part in undergraduate research learn the value of balancing individual pursuit with group effort to reach important goals.

CU students graduating in nine days have learned valuable lessons. Now go out and use your CU degree to remind your communities and your country what the true American genius is: to innovate, improvise, and compromise.

Philip P. DiStefano is chancellor of the University of Colorado Boulder.

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