Graduates, members of the Board of Regents, President Benson, members of the faculty and staff, parents, distinguished guests, family and friends; it is my pleasure and honor to have the opportunity to address you today as the chancellor of the University of Colorado Boulder.

Today's commencement on the winter solstice puts all of us on campus in the holiday spirit. We are excited for you, and inspired by all that you will accomplish.

I know today's graduates join me in extending a special welcome to their family and friends, whose love and support have helped to make this day possible. Please join me in showing our appreciation.

With us today, are members of the faculty and retired faculty who have guided and mentored these graduates. They have shared their time, knowledge and expertise to help each student reach this important milestone and his or her full potential. Will representatives of the faculty please rise and be recognized?

To our graduates, allow me to take a moment to talk about our hopes and expectations for you as you go forth from your graduation today.

In your careers at CU you have learned valuable lessons in critical thinking, civil discourse and creative solutions.

In the meantime, as a nation, we have watched repeated stalemates in Washington. D.C. We have just come off one of the most contentious elections in our history. We are facing a looming fiscal cliff. A national debate on the Second Amendment is building. We have witnessed the inability of our nation's leaders to find compromise. It is clear the world needs you to take what you have learned at CU to create civil discourse in a fractious time.

As a society we have lost touch with the American tenants to improvise and compromise. The creativity and the leadership you have been a part of during your education at CU have prepared you to go forward and take your communities, and your country, to bold new directions: to re-instill the value of productive dialogue, civic engagement, and innovative solutions.

I hope that what we taught you at CU isn't how big you are; but rather how small you are in the world around you, and how potent you are to change it.

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 have topped the nation in Peace Corps participation for two consecutive years, and they are in the top three nationally every year for active Peace Corps participation.

Meanwhile, 1,000 CU-Boulder students are engaged in undergraduate research at any given time, advancing society by working on biomedical discoveries that save our lives, developing new energy to power us and producing works of music and art that inspire us.

You have mastered the value of balancing individual pursuit with group effort to reach important goals.

You have learned valuable lessons at CU. Go out and use your degree to remind your neighborhoods, your communities, your state, your nation and the world what the true American genius is: to innovate, improvise, and compromise for the common good. 

Thank you.

Introduction of Hazel Barnes Prize Winner Patrick Mason 

Now I would like to introduce our commencement speaker and the recipient of our Hazel Barnes Prize. This award, named in honor of the late CU-Boulder Professor Hazel Barnes, is the highest faculty recognition for teaching and research awarded by the university. It was created in 1991 to recognize outstanding faculty members who exemplify the enriching relationship between teaching and research.

This year's winner is Patrick Mason, a professor of voice in the College of Music. The prize recognizes Professor Mason's prolific body of work in national and international concerts and in the recording studio, along with his exceptional research and teaching record as a CU-Boulder faculty member since 1993. 

A world-renown baritone, he has appeared on stages in Tokyo, Rome, Bonn, Paris, Luxembourg, Amsterdam and Cairo.  He was a 2006 Grammy Award finalist in the Solo Vocal Performance Category. Please stay tuned for a special performance by Professor Mason later in the ceremony.

Now, it is my pleasure to invite Professor Patrick Mason to deliver the Winter 2012 Commencement Address.