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2009.03.03 > For Immediate Release
contact: Wendy Townley - University Relations
phone: 402.554.2762 - email: wtownley@unomaha.edu

Centennial Gala Remarks by Union Pacific's Jim Young

The following remarks were made by Jim Young, chairman of Union Pacific Railroad, at the University of Nebraska at Omaha (UNO) Centennial Gala on Saturday, February 21, 2009, at Qwest Center Omaha. The event attracted 600 guests, many of whom are employees and alumni. Money raised at the gala will help fund two community fellowships. Visit www.unomaha.edu/100 for more information on UNO's Centennial celebration.

Good evening. I’m Jim Young, chairman of the Union Pacific Railroad; but most importantly, a proud alum of the University of Nebraska at Omaha.

My role tonight is to conclude this Centennial celebration, and comment on the significance of the institution. I really struggled with what I was going to say.

Do I talk about the faculty, who in my mind are second to none, and have a unique connection to their students and our community?

Do I talk about the leadership of the university, who really share a passion that comes from the heart?

Do I talk about the students, who I believe represent what is great about America; where hard work and education allow individuals to improve the quality of life for themselves and their families?

Or do I talk about the community, where teamwork and partnership with the university help make Omaha a great place to work and live?

A few weeks ago I had the honor of representing Union Pacific at a celebration of President Lincoln’s 200th birthday in our Nation’s Capital. You may not realize that President Lincoln created the Union Pacific Railroad when he decided to start the construction of the Trans Continental Railroad, on the banks of the Missouri River, right here in Omaha; and we have been here ever since.

The Trans Continental Railroad connected America, changed the culture, improved the standard of living and provided opportunity for millions of Americans. It also assured Omaha would become one of the great cities in America.

As part of President Lincoln’s Bi-Centennial celebration, I had a chance to see several exhibits that are on display in the Library of Congress. His handwritten draft of the Gettysburg Address, his draft of the Emancipation Proclamation, which changed America forever, and his blood stained death certificate from the night he was assassinated. It was very humbling.

The next morning I sat in the Capital Rotunda and listened to President Obama talk about the opportunity that President Lincoln gave to him. Without the courage of President Lincoln, he probably wouldn’t be standing there as the 44th President of the United States of America.

The Senior Leaders of Congress also talked about President Lincoln. It wasn’t about being a Republican, or a Democrat, a Conservative or a Liberal. The common theme was that of great opportunity. There were tears in the eyes of many who spoke.

When you think about what UNO has accomplished in the past 100 years, it’s exactly what President Lincoln envisioned: to provide equal opportunity for all Americans. UNO has provided that opportunity for thousands of graduates who live, work and give back to our community every day. There are many examples, but here are a few:

(1) Half of the students at UNO are first generation college students.

(2) 60% of the educators in the metro area are graduates of UNO. And our public school system is viewed as one of the best in America.

(3) Hundreds of military men and women, their families and veterans have taken advantage of UNO programs to improve their lives including programs offered at Offutt or on-line while they are deployed in active duty.

(4) A large percentage of Omaha police officers and firefighters are UNO grads. In fact, the former and current chiefs of the Omaha Police Department and the Fire Department are UNO grads.

(5) Service to others is ingrained in a UNO education. Each year over 1,700 students are involved in service learning courses, throughout our community.

(6) UNO, working with the Department of Corrections, provides on-line programs for inmates while incarcerated; and also assists them in furthering their education when they are released.

These are just a few examples of why it’s an honor and a privilege to call myself a graduate of the University of Nebraska at Omaha.

Please stand and join me in a toast. A toast to the University of Nebraska at Omaha: its faculty, leaders, students and alum.

To the next 100 years of prosperity, growth and opportunity. Here-here!

* *

UNO is celebrating its 100th anniversary. The celebration recognizes the partnership among the City of Omaha, its citizens and UNO to build a vibrant and dynamic community. The centennial theme is “UNO: Central To Our City Since 1908.” This theme acknowledges the past contributions of UNO to the community and sets the stage for great things to come.

UNO, inaugurated in 1968, emerged from the Municipal University of Omaha, established in 1931, which grew out of the University of Omaha founded in 1908. For Centennial information, go to http://www.unomaha.edu/100/.

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