Armstrong, a 1995 alumna, claimed the Olympic gold medal in bicycling during the 2008 Beijing games. But, she said, her life could have been different if she hadn't zeroed in on the importance of attitude.
"That's the thing about the stuff you 'have to' do -- at the end of the day, it's never much fun," she told the Idaho Class of 2010. "[But] if I had decided to live my life in 'have tos', things might have turned out quite differently for me."
While there are things students feel they "have to" do -- go to school, get a job, get a good education -- Armstrong believes they'll find more success if they adopt the attitude that they "get to" do these things.
After graduating from the University of Idaho, Armstrong says she felt she "had to" look for a job and found one she "had to" take. "You guessed it. I wasn't very happy until I asked myself, 'What do I 'get to' do?’” That's when she first started seriously training as an Olympic triathlete; for her, a "get to" moment. "It's what I wanted to do, what I had a passion for."
However, the diagnosis of arthritis in both of her hips dealt her a blow. It took some reflection on what she wanted to do -- what would make her happy -- that brought her focus to bicycling
"With my revived 'get to' attitude, I started training harder than ever. I was doing what I loved [and] I was better than before," she said.
"Living a 'get to' life is not about winning a gold medal, or being a CEO, or being on a show with Kim Kardashian," she said. "It's about your attitude. By changing your attitude to a 'get to' attitude, you'll find that you'll be happy … and more exciting opportunities will come your way."
She credited her University of Idaho education as having been a good starting point for her adventure.
"This is a great school, with great opportunities," she told graduates. "I hope you will look back on your time here … and remember that you got to learn new and exciting things."
Now retired from competitive bicycling, Armstrong and her husband are looking at their next "get to": parenthood. "Now I 'get to' be a mommy," which is "worth all the gold medals in the world."
Armstrong challenged graduates never to give up on their dreams and always to "keep the things you are passionate about in your life. View life as an adventure, never as a struggle."
University of Idaho President Duane Nellis told the Class of 2010 that, while they face a challenging economic climate and tough job market, he is confident that they are prepared in distinctive ways.
"It’s important to remember that, as a graduate of the University of Idaho, you do have an edge," Nellis said. "There are tremendous opportunities awaiting you. It’s your job to seize those opportunities. After all, you are the leaders and promise of tomorrow. And with your innovation, your leadership, your inspiration, I believe that -- without question -- there’s a stronger future for us all."
The university gave honorary degrees to Arden Bement Jr. '59, director of the National Science Foundation; Stanley P. Desjardins '58, aviation and aerospace researcher; and Gary E. Strong '66, university librarian, University of California, Los Angeles. Wellington C. "Skip" and Bee Pierce received the President's Medallion.
The University of Idaho held five commencement ceremonies around the state: in Boise on May 5; in Idaho Falls on May 6; in Coeur d’Alene on May 10; and two today in Moscow, including the College of Law this afternoon.
In Moscow, 1,346 candidates applied for 994 baccalaureate degrees, 84 law degrees, 33 doctoral degrees, three specialist degrees and 265 master’s degrees.
Statewide, a total of 1,518 University of Idaho students were eligible to graduate this spring, and applied for 1,551 degrees. As of this spring, the total number of graduates from the state's land-grant institution stands at just over 100,000; also because graduates can earn multiple degrees, as of this year, the university will have awarded more than 107,000 degrees. Final graduation numbers will be available following the end of the semester.