December 12, 2019
Indiana Women's Prison
The Meaning of Hope
December 12, 2019
Introduction and Acknowledgements
Thank you all for being here tonight.
As chancellor of a university, I've been to dozens of graduation ceremonies, but I've never said this at one of them: I wish I could give dog treats to all of our graduates! Would you join me in giving these great dogs a hand?
I would also like to acknowledge all of the handlers who are with us tonight here at the Indiana Women's Prison and at the Correctional Industrial Facility and Pendleton Correctional Facility. Would you join me in thanking them for their amazing work?
I would also like to give a round of applause to ICAN program organizers, including ICAN President Jillian Ashton and Director of Development and Outreach Dino Sierp.
Finally, photographer Liz Kaye connected me to this program years ago, and I'm grateful for all that she does for IUPUI and for ICAN. Would you join me in thanking Liz for her terrific work?
A New Meaning for the Word Hope
Four years ago, I visited this prison, and I came out a changed man. That day, I got a special tour of the Indiana Women's Prison ICAN facility. I met with handlers and their dogs, and I learned a new meaning for the word hope. And it wasn't just because I met a beautiful puppy named Hope that day.
At one point in the day, the handlers and I sat together, and they shared their stories—stories of change, of commitment, but most of all, stories of hope.
Hope allowed each of those women to see beyond their prison walls. It painted a picture of all that their hard work and training would make possible. It created connections built on trust, commitment, and unconditional love.
When I heard those stories ... and saw the connections between handlers and their dogs, I felt physically transformed, affected to the core, and filled with a sense of warmth. This—for me—is what hope feels like.IUPUI Chancellor Nasser H. Paydar
What Hope Feels Like
I know these are powerful words: Hope, trust, love. But they match how I felt on that first ICAN visit and how I still feel today.
When I heard those stories on that first visit and saw the connections between handlers and their dogs, I felt physically transformed, affected to the core, and filled with a sense of warmth. This—for me—is what hope feels like.
The Story Continues with Jaggie
Of course, this wasn't the end. I had the honor of naming and supporting an ICAN dog who became a familiar face on the IUPUI campus.
Our students named her Jaggie after our mascot the Jaguar, and she visited the Chancellor's Office, spent time in faculty offices when she was on furlough, and worked almost as hard as IUPUI students on her training.
We all took great pride in her ... especially our mascots even though those jaguars are really just big cats.
I was particularly excited the day that Jaggie met my dog Meeko on campus. It's a testament to her training that Jaggie behaved so well and so consistently when faced with new adventures like a visit with Meeko ... and let me assure you, Meeko is a dog who loves adventure.
I know that lots of dogs behave well, but everyone in this auditorium knows that the ICAN graduates we are celebrating tonight don't just behave well. They are exceptional. They change people's lives. They serve with dignity and patience. They commit themselves to others without reservation and without hesitation.
I think it's fair to say that these dogs embody hope for the people who need them most. Again, I want to thank those of you who have changed so many lives for the better.
It's not just these wonderful dogs and their amazing handlers. It's the clients, the families, the friends, those who foster dogs, those who open their homes to dogs on furlough, and those who generously support ICAN. Let's join in another round of applause for everyone in the ICAN family.
Hope and Education
Let me close by saying that hope walks hand in hand with education. Remember I lead a university, and if I didn't talk about education at a graduation ceremony you would have been disappointed, right?
It's safe to say that every one of us—no matter who we are—has learned from our experiences with ICAN.
One of Jaggie's handlers, wrote to me that Jaggie lit up his world. He said that her abilities gave him hope that he could be someone upon release ... someone with a skill to help his community. Jaggie helped him see beyond the walls. They taught each other every single day and they gave each other a future.
Rick, if you're out there watching tonight, I want to thank you for your letter and for all that you did for Jaggie and for other ICAN dogs. And again, I want to thank and congratulate all of our handlers.
It's one thing to change your own life for the better. It's another to dedicate yourself to these animals and to the people whose needs these amazing dogs will meet.
Thank you very much.