The Honorable John Hamilton, Mayor, City of Bloomington
Greetings from the Cities
Greetings on this joyful occasion and congratulations to Indiana University from the City of Bloomington. I am so pleased to represent the City among such esteemed company today.
IU’s bicentennial anniversary of course comes fast on the heels of the city’s own bicentennial celebration last year, as the fates and fortunes of city and university have indeed been intertwined these last two hundred years. So much so that it is hard to imagine IU without Bloomington and vice versa.
We are humbled to remember that native people -- Miami, Potawatomi, Delaware, and Shawnee, among others -- long lived in the place now called Monroe County, before being largely dispossessed of these homelands by the early nineteenth century. At the time of our founding, about 300 new settlers lived in Bloomington -- ”Here and there a little field had been chopped out around a settler’s cabin,” it has been written, “but in the main the wilderness still held sway.”*
Although Bloomington did have some advantages, there was nothing inevitable about President James Madison’s selection of the township of Bloomington for the seminary that would become the state’s university. Established two decades earlier, Vincennes University contested Bloomington’s status and right to state funds. Thank goodness we prevailed.
And with that awkward beginning settled, what a fortuitous match it’s turned out to be! In tandem with Bloomington’s own blossoming, IU has grown into the global force and humanist oasis we celebrate today: a fantastic tier-one research university, a premier music conservatory, a hub of instruction in world languages, and so much more. Attracting students and faculty from every corner of the world to Bloomington. Sending emissaries to every continent, bringing parts of Bloomington with them. What a great story for a little seminary begun in the woods, and how it has enriched this community for two centuries.
Indiana University has been shaped by Bloomington too -- with campus landmarks hewn from the rich vein of Salem limestone just beneath our feet. And IU has been infused with that Hoosier spirit, hard to define, as Kurt Vonnegut conceded, but tenacious, as he described -- “I don't know what it is about Hoosiers,” he said, “But where ever you go there is always a Hoosier doing something very important there.”
In the two centuries that IU and Bloomington have grown up around and amid each other, the legions of our predecessors have woven together one cloth. A beautiful cloth of wisdom and art and discovery and imagination and caring, that makes our home so special, and that extends its benefits all across Indiana, and the nation, and the planet.
When sociologist and US Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan was asked, How does one create a great city, he said, “found a great university. Wait 200 years.”
Well, here we are, and here’s to a great university, 200 years young! With warm wishes from the City of Bloomington to “The Glory of Old IU” and for the Future of the always New IU.
*Banta, David Demaree, “History of Indiana University: The Seminary Period (1820-1828)” (1889) https://www.repository.law.indiana.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1000&context=banta