GRADUATION '81; Words of wisdom to America's future leaders
A. Bartlett Giamatti President, Yale University Yale Universitym
What concerns me most today is the way we have disconnected ideas from power in America and created for ourselves thoughtful citizens who disdain politics and politicians when more than ever we need to value politics and what politicians do; when more than ever we need to recognize that the calling to public life is one of the highest callings a society can make. We need to recognize that if we do not summon and send forth from ourselves a few of the highest quality to lead, the many cannot hold together in civility and dignity.
If a society assumes its politicians are venal, stupid, or self-serving, it will attract to its public life as an ongoing self-fulfilling prophecy the greedy, the knavish, and the dim. If . . . a culture like ours has wrongly persuaded itself that power is really mere force, and the use of power in its public or private life simply the exercise of force, then that culture will attract to leadership those who misunderstand power and who therefore cannot possibly use it correctly or well. . . . A healthy society must never wish to have as its public servants people who only hunger to be in public life, who think power is a natural force, believe they will become immortal if they can tap into its sheer, natural flow. . . .
Government is not the enemy, and neither are the people who elect governments. If we elect those who play on the forces that divide us, who play to our fears, we court a tragdy we may not be able to contain. And if we continue to elect those who denigrate what they pursue, who insist they are outsiders as they claw their way to the inside, we ought to ask if it is in our common interest to buy any more snake oil. Thomas P. O'Neill Jr. Speaker, US House of Representatives Boston collegem
A few weeks ago, this state of Massachusetts was described in the Baltimore Sun as having the most prosperous private sector in the Northeast. Not so long ago it was suffering, but it has replaced a declining manufcturing base with expanding high-technology and service firms. This happened because of the brainpower that was attracted to and nurtured by our universities. These institutions are this state's most precious resource. They are also our nation's most precious resource. America will not prosper . . . by withdrawing from tis commitment to education. We cannot return to depending on private benefactors to endow colleges and assist our young people in securing an education. . . .
Investment in education is an investment in the long-term health of our economy and our society. Education has made the American dream a reality for millions. Now is not the time to question that investment. . . .
This country will not be served by drastically cutting student financial aid and limiting opportunities for the hard-pressed middle- and lower-income students to attend private colleges and universities. . . .
As a nation we are faced with increasing our military expenditures by nearly 50 percent between 1981 and 1983. We are trying to curb federal spending to reduce federal deficits and lower inflation. Naturally we face hard choices. One choice that we must avoid is that of crippling higher education and denying our youth equal access to educational opportunity. john R. Silber President, Boston University Boston Universitym
We will ill serve ourselves and our children by preparing ourselves and them for a life of freedom and easy pleasure that may never come amd most certainly will never last. We had better prepare ourselves and them for reality: a reality that is infused with moral laws as surely as it is infused with physical laws; a reality in which there is no consumption wihtout production, no freedom without defense, no selffulfillment and no self-government without self-disciplined persons who govern themselves, persons who are capable of subordinating their desires long enough to achieve the conditions on which freedom and survival, and even pleasure, depend.
It is often said, and said mistakenly, that students at graduation go out into the real world. That is an expression of escapism. It suggests that we were avoiding the real world all the time we were in school and in college. No world is more than the world of ideas in which students are, or should be, immersed from kindergarten through college. . . .
We must join with one another to build a more basic foundation than pleasure, a foundation of enduring happiness that comes through triumph over one's self in a world not of our own making by achieving a disciplined and moral relation to reality. Judianne Densen-gerber, JD, MD Bryn Mawr College (Pa.)m
Rejoice in being part of womanlife. Realize . . . that the language of women is not the same as the language of men. As long as women speak only the male language, the language of the markeplace, without teaching them ours, the language of nurturing the family, the world will be alien to women and their special needs. . . .
If a society chooses to educate its women, it must deal with the ramifications of their being able to communicate. . . .
Furthermore in this inflation-recession economy and in this administration, we search for the children's advocate, for the speaker for the future, for the insurer that we as a nation invest in our young. . . .
Liberation does not mean we are to become pseudo-men; it means women are entitled to full personhood. When women know themselves, they will clearly perceive that women differ from men; but they will not accept that difference equals inequality. . . .
How fine it is that mothers can rejoice in the accomplishments of their daughters as generations of fathers before us have done in the accomplishments of their sons. Jane Bryant Quinn CBS-TV financial commentator and syndicated columnist Middlebury College (Vt.)m
The chief risk you run is becoming prisoners of your own professional vocabularies -- prisoners of preconceived ideas of your own business. With the problems we face in this country today, we need people to look beyond their own narrow interests. We need a loyalty to the nation based on what is good for all of us as a whole. Ronald Reagan President of the United States The Universtiy of Notre Damem
We need you, we need your youth, your strength, and your idealism, to help us make right that which is wrong. I know you have been critically looking at the mores and customs of the past and questioning their value. Every generation does that. but don't discard the timetested values upon which civilization is built just because they are old.
More important, don't let the doom criers and the cynics persuade you that the best is past -- that from here it's all downhill. Each generation sees farther than the generation preceding it because it stands on the shoulders of that generation. You will have opportunities beyond anything we've ever known. . . .
The years ahead will be great ones for our country, for the cause of freedom, and for the spread of civilization. The West will not contain communism, it will transcend communism. We will not bother to denounce it, we'll dismiss it as a sad, bizarre chapter in human history whose last pages are even now being written. . . .
For the West, for America, the time has come to dare to show the world that our civilized ideas, our traditions our values are not -- like the ideology and war machine of totalitarian societies -- a facade of strength. It is time the world knows that our intellectual and spiritual values are rooted in the source of all real strength -- a belief in a Supreme Being, a law higher than our own. George Bush Vice-president of the United States The US Naval Academym
I regret to say that the old problems that have made the use of weapons necessary throughout history aren't any different than they used to be. there are still nations that rely on aggression as a means of expanding their influence, and there are still injustices forced by one nation on another, despite all rules of international law.
In meeting the threat of such aggression, the United States Navy remains today, as throughout our country's history, an irreplaceable force in demonstrating America's determination to defend its vital interests -- and that fact is well understood by the President, the secretary of state, and the secretary of defense. . . .
That's why in this decade, our nation's service academies and armed forces deserve the support of every American who prizes freedom. Too often in the past , the vital role played by the men and women who make up our armed forces has gone unappreciated in peacetime. But if we value freedom and peace, we must also value those who wear the uniform of our country. . . .
You are graduating at a critical time in terms of the direction of the US Navy. Our President has made a determination, long overdue in my opinion, to strengthen the US Navy -- to reverse the unfavorable trends that have been setting in vis-a-vis the Soviet Union.
We intend to move forward torward toward the concept of a viable threeocean Navy -- to continue to improve our submarine capability -- to keep naval aviation, and that surely includes the Marine Corps, in the forefront -- and to see that our surface Navy, once without peer is fast, strong, and flexible enough to protect our interests around the globe. *%Garry trudeau Cartoonist Colby College (Maine) You will find that this technological society will soon reveal its limitations. It is as world where taking a stand has come to mean finding the nearest trapdoor for escape. You will find. . . that your worth is measured not by what you are but by how you are perceived. There is something disturbing in our society when men wish not to be esteemed but to be envied. Alexander M. Haig Jr. Secretary of State Hillsdale College (Mich.)
In my view, the renewal of American self-respect, pride, and confidence is the most important development in the world today. With this ingredient we can act to restore American leadership. With the restoration of American leadership , the achievement of a more peaceful and prosperous world becomes lee remote. . . .
A basic [foreign policy] step is the restoration of a sense of confidence and trust in our leadership of the Western world. Irritants are being removed. We are seeking larger consenus among our allies on common actions. And friends exposed to dangers believe once more that the United States will help them. On my trip to the middle east and during the recent NATO conference in Rome, the change was evident. Our allies and friends are deeply appreciative of a more robust American leadership, but also one more sensitive to their interests. . . .
We are seeking a more just and responsible relationship with the third world. The developing states are beginning to see the difference between the offers of the East and the offers of the West. The Soviets bring weapons, a pervasive presence, and eventually a client-state relationship. The West brings economic development, science, technology, and humanitarian assistance. We will encourage the movement toward association with the West. It is in our interest to do so and it offers the best hope for the developing states themselves. Michael I. Sovern President, columbia University Columbia Universitym
I would be foolish to claim that we have trained you for . . . [future leadership], particularly since no one has a very clear idea what the world will look like in the next millennium. Still, I hope we have prepared you so that you can contnue to prepare yourselves. We are seekers at Columbia, students and teachers alike. Wanting to know, needing to know, is our passion, our mission. Omniscience is not open to us, but greater understanding is. So, too, is an appreciation of the joy of the quest. That, I hope, you will take with you. If we have helped you to kindle the fire of exploration, do not bank it now. Keep on stretching and growing.
Much of what you will face is captured in a quotation from harper's:
"It is a gloomy moment in the history of our country . . . never has the future seemed so incalculable as at this time. The domestic economic situation is in chaos. . . . Prices are so high as to be utterly impossible. The political caldron seethes and bubbles with uncertainty. Russia hangs as usual, like a cloud, dark and silent upon the horizon. It is a solemn moment. Of our troubles no man can see the end."
As you undoubtedly guessed, that was from Harper's Weekly, October 1857. . . .
America's private universities have led the way in scientific innovation -- the lion's share of the ground-breaking research has been done in our laboratories, and the majority of America's lading scientists have trained with us, hardly a startling congruence. Recognizing the critical importance of keeping American science in the forefront, the previous administration recommended the expenditure of $75 million for advanced scientific instrumentation -- the tools of state-of- the-art research and training. This entire item has been stricken from the [Reagan] budget. Private universities cannot assume these costs. The result will be an inexorable reduction in the effectiveness of both research and training, a futher erosion of America's ability to compete. . . .
Surely at this critical time, our nation should not be so shortsighted as to embark on the false economy of cutting financial aid to students. . . .
We are risking waste of our most precious national resource, stunting of individuals, and serious damage to independent colleges and universities -- all for savings that amount to a fraction 1 percent of the federal budget. Dr. N. B. Hannay Bell Laboratories The polytechnic institute of New Yorkm
There will be major changes in the nature of emloyment,m comparable to those that occurred when Henry Ford introduced the assembly line. communications networks and computer terminals will be so widely dispersed and so easy to use that many jobs will be decentralized -- into satellite work locations, or possibly even into the home. Terminals will permit individuals to communicate with a central location and conduct many kinds of work of a clerical or an intellectual nature. Most large offices are large because of the need to pass papers back and forth, but enhanced telecommunications in combination with intelligent terminals (located anywhere) could reduce the need for such offices, as it will be much less important to have large groups of people at a single work location. Dr. L. H. Foster President, Tuskegee Institute Tuskegee Institutem
At some point within the past few days, each graduating Tuskegeean breathed a sigh of relief and said, in effect -- "I've made it! Hallelujah, I'll 'walk on water' Sunday morning!"
It is indeed an accomplishment to meet rigorous requirements for graduation. Each of you has earned congratulations! Very specially, though, I salute every family member or friend who has stood with you in these years, and I say you, too, should have your name on the diploma. . . .
Through the centuries -- going back to the days of guilds and earlier -- men, and more recently women, too, have sought to make their work more beneficial, more satisfying, and more respected. Simply put, this movement has come to be known as professionalism. It requires meeting a set of performance standards above the ordinary. There must be regard for broad societal expectations. Professionals are motivated continually to work, individually and as a group, in the highest technical and social interests -- pride, if you will. Professionalism shuns shoddiness and irresponsibility. . . .m
Professionalismm is beautiful, but it comes hard. The professional in action is a joy to behold -- the left fielder who saves the game with a near-impossible catch followed with just the right throw for a double play; the meticulous laboratory researcher grounded by thorough preparatory study; the master baker who fills his shop with aromas almost real enough to eat. Harold T. Shapiro President, University of Michigan University of Michiganm
I hope that you have . . . gained an understanding of the limitations of knowledge. Knowledge, no matter how much it may transform the individual, is, in the end, not enough. . . . Science cannot now, and perhaps never will be able to, give us a complete account of our ultimate nature, or that of the physical environment in which we live. . . .
I hope, too, that you have gained the capacity to pose the creative question, to find and articulate an important problem. as the history of human discovery amply demonstrates, the source of human creativity lies in asking the unlikely but significant question, entertaining the remote but telling hypothesis, and proceeding to locate the imaginative answer. . . .
Above all, I hope you have learned that, to make sense of our existence as human beings, one must hold to the brave and improbable assumption that our lives do matter, that what we accomplish does make a difference. David N. Schramm Astronomer and astrophysicist The University of Chicagom
A breakthrough on a problem, many times, seems to occur when somebody brings to bear on it information obtained in some field with which most workers in the original field are unfamiliar. . . .
Who would have thought that the space race, coupled with the fact that the United States has smaller rockets than the Soviet Union in the early 1960s, would lead to the ubiquitous pocket calculator of today? If instead of going to the moon the government had just spent money on trying to make smaller computers , I wonder whether people would have been sufficiently fired up and open to new inputs to have made the progress that occurred. . . .
As we work back and look at earlier and earlier moments in the universe, we eventually reach the event where space, time, and everything that we know about the laws of physics -- or anything else for that matter -- fail. . . .
In particular, the developments out at Fermilab and other major particle physics centers have shown us that matter is not just the three elementary particles we remember from high school (neutron, proton, electron), but that the neutron and proton are made out of three quarks each, and these quarks seem to be true pointlike particles that do not take up any space at all. . . . We are now reaching the view where matter is completelym empty, with the mass being contained in points that occupy no space and the only things that give matter its size, shape, and dimensions are the forces between the points. Walter F. Mondale Former vice-president of the United States Brandeis University (Mass.)m
In difficult times economically, it becomes easier to ignore the needs of others who are less fortunate.
In difficult times, bigotry and intolerance find fertile ground -- and are even justified in the name of "morality." But let there be no mistake: In this country there is a "majority" -- and it opposes racism, it opposes anti-Semitism , it opposes the arrogation, by any group, of the right to define what is "moral." And it always will. Dr. Paul E. Gray President, Massachusetts Institute of Technology Massachusetts Institute of Technologym
The future of our nation is dependent upon our success in attracting able young women and men to work on . . . national problems and in providing for them educational experiences that will enable them to find new and better solutions -- solutions which fuse technical, political, economic, and ethical considerations.
But although the need for this kind of education and expertise has never been greater, we see a continuing decline in the number of US citizens pursuing doctoral degrees in engineering and the physical sciences. Consequently, engineering schools already have difficulty filling faculty positions, and there are serious questions about the ability of the research universities to renew their faculties in the future. We are, in this respect, eating the seed corn. . . .
In light of these needs, the [Reagan] administration's proposal to do away with the [National Science Foundation] fellowship program, and the virtual elimination of the NSF science education programs for minorities and woman, are signals of precisely the wrong kind, coming as they do at a time when many able students are turning away from graduate study in the sciences and engineering. Casper w. Weinberger Secretary of Defense The University of San Diegom
We do not seek military power for its own sake. But the fact is, the Soviets' buildup has been anything but defensive in nature. It would have been naive to expect the Soviets, should they achieve a clear superiority, not to exploit it even more fully than they currently are.
We have no choice but to assume some purpose behind their huge allocation of resources to the military at the expense of other needs, which have gone unmet for so long, in their state-run economy.
The facts are that for several years, as Soviet military power has increased, so has their aggressive activity around the world. J. E. Olson Vice-chairman, American Telephone & Telegraph DePauw University (Ind.)m
Many of our most pressing problems right now in this country stem from our own willingness to sink into the soft security -- or what many of us assumed to be security -- of growing government stewardship of our lives.
In essence, we have simply taken John Kennedy's call of the early '60s, "Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country," and turned it around. We asked what our country could do for us.
And government responded, as governments are wont to do, by trying to do it all.