Decrees of separation
Along with the right to wear a mortarboard and tassel, 1999's graduates
Calvin Trillin WRITER Ssquehanna Uiversity Selinsgrove, Pa. I think that there's a temptation to think of the graduation phase as the final phase that the parents have any responsibility for, but I am here to tell you that that is not true. They will always return... A few years after my older daughter moved back to New York and was living around the corner, we had a small dinner party for another writer... [Abigail] showed up a little earlier than the other guests and I said I have two things to tell you. One you're looking smashing in your party clothes, and two, I think you're the only guest who's brought her laundry....
One of the important things about education is that it has a slow payoff. It's not immediately obvious what you're going to do with the education you've gotten here. The true impact may take a long time. You may have an immediate impact of certain degrees, or certifications, or ways of going into certain businesses. But the true impact, what kind of person you're going to be, how it has taught you to think, what your approach to life is, is going to take a long time.
When I think of what's going to happen to the Susquehanna class of 1999, say at your 25th reunion, the only thing I have to go on is my own 25th reunion. And I have to say it's not good news for the scholars among you, the ones who have really excelled in academic pursuits, because at my 25th reunion, I took a little survey using my usual scientific controls, and I decided that after 25 years, income was precisely in inverse proportion to academic standing in the class....
As you start this "start a life" phase, I have to say that I hope you'll surprise each other. And I hope that the surprises will be pleasant ones, and I hope that you'll use what you learned here to lead satisfying and productive and honest lives. And remember that the impact of your education is beyond any credentials, or anything like that....
Jane Alexander ACTRESS Smith College Northampton, Mass. First and foremost you have to believe that you matter. That your voice will make a difference. You do, and it does. Not all of you will want to be out front and active and for those of you who will be mothers, I cannot think of anything more important than being there for your children when they are little. The wonderful thing about being a woman today is that there are no stigmas attached to what you choose to be. It is all possible. In 1840, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott began working to change the inequality they felt ... in the year 2000, it is time to move into decision-making positions of the world, or at least actively work towards that goal.... I ask you to make equal representation in the halls of Congress, in...local and state legislatures and on the boards of our corporations a reality....
Bill Nye HOST OF PBS SCIENCE PROGRAM Rennselaer Polytechnic, Troy, N.Y. [W]hen you get a job, never write a memo, a memorandum, that's more than one page. Attach all the graphs and charts and supporting documents you want. But, never write a memo that rambles. No one is going to read it. You build your argument to this big crescendo, and no one remembers your point, because it was on sheet 2 of 2. Or worse yet, it's on sheet 4 of 5. Ouch. Now, paper memos are going to become somewhat rarer as your careers advance. The new constraint might be, never write anything that doesn't fit on a 13-inch screen, under the tool bar and inside the scroll marker....
Norman Schwarzkopf GENERAL, US ARMY, RETIRED University of Richmond Richmond, Va. You know the most important thing to my mind that you will all take away from this university today will be your personal value system that you have developed while you have been here. For some of you it will be extremely broad, allowing a great deal of latitude and tolerance. For many, many others of you it will be very, very, very narrow, allowing for little room to maneuver and very little compromise. And with experience and with age as you go through life, you will modify constantly your system of values; but I tell you today the one thing you should never compromise is your integrity. Everything else in your life can be taken away from you; but only you, only you can give away your integrity. Integrity is truly the window to your soul.
Jane Bryant Quinn SYNDICATED COLUMNIST Saint Mary's College Notre Dame, Ind. [T]he farmers, the bankers, the industry or political stereotypes - were once college graduates like you, half-listening to a commencement speaker, and wondering what would happen to them.
What happened is that they went into a particular business, learned its ways, and became its prisoner. A prisoner of its preexisting ideas. A prisoner of its vocabulary. No longer a citizen, just an interest-group member.
Right now, you are new graduates with minds open to many points of view. The great danger ahead is that, when you enter a profession, your mind will pick up its ideas, then close, and sink like a stone.
As an intellect, you may vanish without a trace. The next generation will perceive you as stereotypical farmers, bankers, executives, ecologists, journalists. You will have become the narrow-minded adults whose attitudes you once failed to understand. You have no idea how easy it is to pass that way.
Our country's greatest philosopher, who is Linus in the cartoon strip "Peanuts," says that no problem is so big or so complicated it cannot be run away from. As you grow older, you will see, all around you, people running away from open inquiry.... I urge you to keep alive the spirit of inquiry which you have learned here. I urge you to keep your circle of acquaintances wide, so that you will always have fresh points of view.
Desmond Tutu ARCHBISHOP, SOUTH AFRICA The George Washington University Washington, D.C. Well, you graduate today, and God says "Go out into the world to make a difference, because you, you can make a difference."
When we were suffering under the awfulness of apartheid, we came to places such as this asking for help and we got the help. And many times it was young people, not just young people exclusively, but many times it was young people at university and college campuses who were ready to go on rallies, demonstrations, seeking to force the universities and other institutions to divest. Well, you gave the help, and South Africa is free today. You gave the help, and South Africa produced a Nelson Mandela, an icon of goodness of magnanimity and reconciliation. You or those like you help to bring this about, and I would want to say a very big thank you on behalf of the millions and millions of our people back home.
Brian Lamb PRESIDENT AND CEO OF C-SPAN Ursinus College Collegeville, Pa. I've interviewed in my life thousands of people, and I've got to tell you that I've asked this question so often: "Who's your hero? Who do you admire the most?" And almost 99 out of 100 times ... the hero turns out to be people right here in this audience.... It's almost always a parent, a grandparent, an uncle, an aunt, or it's a teacher.... the simple message of all that was, thank them today.... And if you don't thank them today, call them on the phone.... Today, before the day is over, hug those parents and aunts and uncles.
Millard Fuller FOUNDER, HABITAT FOR HUMANITY Keene State College Keene, N.H. How will you use your God-given talents in the years ahead? How will you apply your knowledge in service to your community, nation and world?
Imagine you are my age and a movie has been make of your life. Is the story about the people you inspired to be more and to do more? Is it about the weekends you spent helping children learn to read? Is it about persuading your company to give some of their resources to a worthy cause? Is it about being part of a loving family? Is it the encouraging word or pat on the shoulder you offered a troubled friend?
Or ... does the movie resemble the story line of my early years - featuring the bodies over which I climbed to get to the top? The Lincoln Continental sitting in the driveway? My family that felt abandoned and emotionally neglected?
Is this a movie you would want to rent or show your kids or your parents? Could you even stand to watch it alone?
Will your life be about material possessions? Building a big bank account?
Or will it be about helping yourself to be a "whole" person as you are helping others with their needs?
Henry Louis Gates Jr. DIRECTOR, W.E.B DU BOIS INSTITUTE FOR AFRO-AMERICAN STUDIES, HARVARD U Hamilton College, Clinton, N.Y. We cannot require of contemporary pluralism that it get everything right, only that it does a little bit better than its precursors.... When people mourn the demise of the melting-pot model, it's important to remind them that it never was an uncontested ideal.... [A]n emphasis on commonality as well as difference is important. Pluralism isn't supposed to be about policing the boundaries, it's supposed to be about breaking those boundaries down, acknowledging the fluid and interactive nature of all of our identities. So I guess that's why I'm uncomfortable with the notion of adulthood being founded on a static, laminated sense of self - the notion that finding yourself and self-fashioning and refashioning are ... adolescent maladies... What if instead we saw this kind of refashioning as one of the truly ethical tasks for our entire lives?