“Enjoy this moment in your lives—it is a very special moment—and then go forward with energy, conviction, and passion.”
In his commencement remarks to the graduates of Connecticut College, the noted author Russell Baker offered the following: “The best advice I can give anybody about to go out into the world is this: don’t do it. I’ve been out there. It’s a mess.”
That was in 1995—before 9/11, the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the genocide in Darfur, and, most recently, the economic crisis we are facing today.
I am sure we can all agree that the challenges today are far greater than those of 1995. As I see it, our current situation is more like the social/political era of the 1960s and the economic downturn of the early 1970s, all at the same time.
But go out there you must, and you will do so in about 10 minutes. Indeed it will be one of the distinguishing characteristics of your generation that you came of age in a time of challenge, uncertainty, and conflict. As you embark on your journey, I suggest that you embrace your circumstances rather than lament them and go change the world.
Having worked with many of you, taught some of you, and observed all of you during the past four years, I know that you are up to the task. Quite rightly, many of you see in our present circumstances new opportunities to contribute and create change, just as you have here at Lafayette.
I have been greatly impressed by your spirit of activism, your willingness to engage, and your belief in the power of ideas. Through your efforts we have embarked on an ambitious program of environmental sustainability, with your assistance we have created a variety of new academic and community-based programs, and with your partnership we have worked to strengthen our community. We are in many ways, large and small, better off for having had you here as members of our community these past four years.
Today, we celebrate both your achievements and your promise, for commencement is about endings and beginnings. I remember well the first time that we met here, in the late summer of 2005 when you were assembled for your Academic Convocation. At the time you were just a gathering of strangers embarking together on a great adventure, but I observed that you would quickly become friends, teammates, partners, and classmates. In short, you would become a class, the Class of 2009. I think I also speculated that some of you would eventually go on to marry each other (I still think so).
We are confident that the skills you have developed here will serve you well as you embark on the next chapter of your lives. You have worked hard and accomplished much. You are well prepared. If, as Russell Baker says, the world is indeed a mess, it will be less so with you out there contributing your best effort. We will be watching you with great pride and genuine interest.
So enjoy this moment in your lives—it is a very special moment—and then go forward with energy, conviction, and passion. We are counting on you.