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New chapter in lifetime of learning

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May 23, 2012
U.S. Rep. Tom Latham , The Daily Freeman Journal

A week ago, I had the distinct pleasure of delivering the commencement address at the graduation ceremony of Iowa Western Community College in Council Bluffs. I was struck, as I always am during such ceremonies, by the character and optimism displayed by the graduates. They understood that just because they might be done with school, by no means were they done learning. As high school and college students across Iowa turn their tassels and receive diplomas this month, the one certainty they should all embrace is that they must continue learning new skills every day to keep up with the quickly changing world we live in.

Everyone knows the old saying, "The only things that are certain in life are death and taxes." Well, there is a more subtle certainty and that's change. The forces of change will necessitate a lifetime of education and learning to adapt and excel in our increasingly global and increasingly competitive economy. The ever-increasing pace of global competition is quickly and constantly transforming communities and technology across the nation and around the world, and those who refuse to keep up will be at a great disadvantage.

To illustrate this point, seemingly indestructible industries that sustained American families for generations can vanish in a matter of months. But change isn't just a force of destruction. It's also a process of evolution as new and innovative industries pop up to create fresh opportunities to replace the old. Each evolution is accompanied by the need for learning new and evolving skills to support the result of that evolution.

Medicine is a great example of remarkable technological evolution in a relatively short amount of time. In just the past quarter century we are seeing technologies that diagnose illnesses faster and more efficiently. The pace is so breathtakingly fast that one physician I recently met with told me that some of the newest technologies are already obsolete the day they are installed in our local hospitals.

Just 20 years ago, no cardiologist would have believed that he or she would be able to take a three-dimensional, full color, interactive tour of the chambers of a patient's heart and major veins and arteries no scalpel required. But with these new technologies and advancements there is a need for technicians, support staff, and newly developed specialties that educational institutions are also constantly evolving to support.

Perhaps the best piece of advice anyone could give a recent graduate comes from our 16th president, Abraham Lincoln. President Lincoln once said, "Whatever you are, be a good one." Like most of President Lincoln's greatest pearls of wisdom, that one will never become obsolete, regardless of the number of years you live or how much our world changes.

To all this year's graduates and to the parents, teachers and mentors who helped them get here - I extend my heartfelt congratulations. May God bless you as you embrace your unique path in life. And whatever path you choose - whatever you want to be as you turn the page on a new chapter in your life be a good one.



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