[LOGO SOUND] [APPLAUSE]
ANNOUNCER: The first of the academic procession has arrived.
Leading the procession is the University Marshal Professor Poppy McLeod. Following the University Marshall is the banner for the Class of 2021.
The [INAUDIBLE] banner bearers are Elena Davina Lie-A-Cheong, and Ruby Seavey, class officers. The class marshals are Cassidy Hamilton and Ashley Shen.
First to arrive behind the class banner are the degree candidates from the College of Arts and Sciences.
Led by Dean Ray Jayawardhana and college banner bearers Yoqing Cui and Yao Yu Yeo. Degree marshals are Natalie Neamtu and Danylo Orlov. The symbol banner bearer is Carina Shau.
For your information, the Greek candidates from the Cornell Law School attended a convocation event last week. We wish them luck as they study for their bar examinations. The Weill Cornell Medical College in Qatar and the Cornell Medical College in New York City are participating in separate ceremonies. Included among the graduates who will be conferred today are those who carried out their studies at Cornell Tech in New York City.
Once again, the degree candidates from the College of Arts and Sciences.
The College of Architecture, Art, and Planning is next, being led into the stadium by Dean J. Meejin Yoon and college banner bearers Emery Bergmann and Maddie Collins. Representing the three degree programs are Douglas Griffin, Lane Letourneau, and Jingxin Yang. The symbol banner bearer is Xin Yue Wang.
Once again, the degree candidates from the College of Architecture, Art, and Planning.
Now joining our procession are members of the university faculty led by the dean of the University Faculty Charles Van Loan.
At this time, we acknowledge and thank the Cornell University faculty.
Now joining the procession, the university leadership led by Provost Michael Kotlikoff and the trustees of the university led by chairman Robert S. Harrison.
At this time, the University Marshal Professor Poppy McLeod will escort the mace bearer, Professor Bruce Lewenstein and Cornell University's president Martha E. Pollack to their places on the platform.
Cornell University is located on the traditional homeland of the Gayogohono, the Cayuga Nation. The Gayogohono are members of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy, an alliance of six sovereign nations with a historic and contemporary presence on this land. The Confederacy precedes the establishment of Cornell University, New York state, and the United States of America. We acknowledge the painful history of Gayogohono dispossession and honor the ongoing connection of Gayogohono people, past and present, to these lands and waters.
POPPY MCLEOD: Thank you, Marla. President Pollack, candidates for degrees from Cornell University have gathered for the conferral of degrees and to celebrate the commencement of the 153rd graduating class of Cornell University.
Members of the Board of Trustees, the faculty, administrative staff, degree candidates, and guests are in their places. The assembly is hereby called to order.
Please rise and join us in the singing of the "Star Spangled Banner."
(SINGING) Oh say can you see by the dawn's early light? What so proudly we hailed at the twilight's last gleaming. Whose broad stripes and bright stars through the perilous fight. O'er the ramparts we watched were so gallantly streaming. And the rockets red glare, the bombs bursting in air gave proof through the night that our flag was still there. Oh say does that star spangled banner yet wave o'er the land of the free and the home of the brave.
Please be seated.
It is my privilege to introduce Michael Kotlikoff, university provost.
MICHAEL KOTLIKOFF: Welcome. Parents, family, friends, supporters, and most of all, welcome to the accomplished members of the classes of 2021.
Graduates, this has been an extraordinary year, and you have distinguished yourselves by your resilience and your community spirit in addition to your scholarly accomplishments. On behalf of the faculty of Cornell University and the entire university, I want to thank you for your efforts in dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic.
You have set the standard for the nation, and wherever you go and whatever you do, I hope you will remember that. We certainly will never forget it. And now it is my great honor to introduce the 14th president of Cornell University, professor of computer sciences, information sciences, and linguistics, Martha E. Pollack.
MARTHA E. POLLACK: Good morning, Class of 2021.
It's a beautiful day, right. I mean, it might look a little cloudy out there, but I got to tell you, I have been to dozens of graduations in my life and every single one is a sunny day. So you know what that means. I got to put my shades on.
Now every time I stand up here in a Cornell cap and gown, I tell a new class of graduates how great it is to be here, how happy I am to see them, and how proud I am of everything that they have accomplished. But this, year being here with you in person is better than great. I am really, really, really happy to see you all, and saying that doesn't even begin to express how it feels to stand here looking out at the Class of 2021 and at the parents, the family, and the friends who have supported you through so much.
So, graduates, before I say anything else, here's what I want you to do. This is a football stadium, and it's a football stadium that hasn't seen nearly enough noise this year, in fact, there really hasn't been any noise this year. And today we're going to start making up for that.
So just follow my directions one set up at a time. I want all the graduates to stand up. And if you know where your family and friends that are here sitting, turn towards them. If not, just turn in their general direction. Don't do anything else yet. OK, you can wave but don't do anything else besides that yet.
If your family and friends weren't able to get here, just wait. We're going to get to that in a minute. But right now we're going to need everybody's noise. So on the count of 3, in whatever language it is you speak at home, whether it's English or Spanish or Europe or Hindi or Chinese or Cayuga, whatever language, I want you to yell thank you so loudly that they would hear you in the stands even during a tie breaking touchdown when Cornell beats the Big Ready. You ready? 1, 2, 3
That's good but don't sit down yet. We're not-- we're not done. Turn around and face me.
Now I was personally thrilled and I know all of you were thrilled that we were able to welcome two guests per graduate this year. But I know that many of you had family and friends who couldn't make it or additional family and friends who are watching through the live screen. So I want everyone to look to my right. This is Paul. Paul, can you wave. That's Paul.
Paul is operating camera number 2 for our livestream. And right there behind Paul, those are all those family and friends who you wish were sitting with you here now. So, again, on the count of 3, you're going to thank all of them right behind Paul. Ready? 1, 2, 3.
Great. Thanks so much. You can sit down.
Before we go any further, I do want to pause for a moment to acknowledge the people who are with us today in our hearts, the students whose graduation this would have been and all the people that we lost to COVID with this year.
Over the past few months, I spent a lot of time thinking about what I would say when and sometimes it felt like if we finally got to this moment, when we finally all put on our caps and our gowns to celebrate your extraordinary achievements at Cornell, especially through this extraordinary last year. A commencement is a celebration of a milestone. It marks the moment that you cross the line between student and alum, between one phase of your life and the next. This hour here at [INAUDIBLE] is that liminal moment. It's where we stand together on that line between what lies behind and what lies ahead, between the familiar past and the unknown future.
But you know what? This isn't the first time that we've stood there together. 447 days ago, I wrote you an email that I never imagined writing. Now like all of you, I'd followed the news reports of the coronavirus as the threat spread through Asia and through Europe to the West Coast into New York City. On the advice of public health experts and epidemiologists, we already brought home our study abroad students, and we had already limited the size of our campus gatherings.
We soon came to realize, though, that this would not be enough. Yet Cornell in its 155-year history, through two world wars and civil unrest and, yes, more than one previous pandemic, Cornell had never closed before. And the decision that in retrospect, we see is inevitable in that moment, it felt unthinkable. Making that decision, sending that email meant crossing a line that separated the past we knew and the future we had planned for from a present that was changing every day and a future that had no map.
447 days ago, you opened an email that you had never imagined receiving. Maybe you were sitting in Mann Library or the Duff Field Atrium. You were getting a snack, or you were heading to a study group meeting. You pulled out your phone to check your email, or maybe you got a text from a friend.
And in that moment, the world stood still. Campus is shutting down. Classes are going online. They're sending all of us home. It seemed for a moment like it might be the end of everything.
But in the next moment, you looked around, and you saw that Cornell was still there and you were, too. You figured out what you needed to do next, what to pack, what to store, where you are going, and how to get there. And when you did get there, what you did was to finish the semester. On Zoom and on campus, Canvas, by text message, and by FaceTime, somehow you finished it all.
You found new ways to be together, to learn and to grow. When you found yourself in an unmapped future, you adapted your course, and then you adapted it again and again. But every day, you moved forward. And today here you are in your caps and gowns at commencement where you were meant to be all along.
The world has become a different place since that moment when, as the song in Hamilton goes, the world turned upside down. But if you know the song you also know that the world has turned upside down before. I very much hope that this will be the last time in your lives that your world will be turned upside down by a pandemic. But I can almost promise you that it will be turned upside down by other things. The email will come or the text message or the conversation or the news report that will draw a new line between what was and what will be, a past you knew and a future without a map.
Or you'll face a decision that whatever path you take is going to change everything for you, for the people closest to you, or for the people that you will be there to lead. And when that happens, the next time your world turns upside down, I want you to remember something. Remember that you've been there before. Remember that you got through it . And remember how.
You are here today because for 447 days you held each other close even when it was physically impossible to do that. You held on to the kindness and the support of one another, and you kept moving forward. You're here today because of your commitment and your hard work and because of all the people that your family, your friends, your chosen family, your community, your Cornell faculty and staff, all of the people who helped you keep going. And you made it to where you are right now because all of you chose hour after hour and day after day to keep Cornell going.
As hard as it was, you did what you needed to do. You kept your masks on, and you kept your distance. You met with your friends outside even in those cold days in Ithaca in December and January and February and March and April and May. You got your vaccines as soon as you possibly could. You showed up for your surveillance tests, and some of you spent some time in the Statler.
You did your daily check, and you checked in on each other. You chose day after day and hour after hour to put community first. And of all the countless decisions that have been made to help keep Cornell safe and healthy, of all of the data and the expertise that went into these last 447 days, your decisions are the ones that mattered the most. Nothing I did in Day Hall, no decision, no policy, no investment, nothing could have taken the place of a community willing to work together for its shared well-being.
Of everything that you've learned at your time in Cornell and of everything that you will take with you from here, that may be the most important lesson of all, and it's a lesson that is in every way consonant with the ethos and the values of this great university. A Cornell education has always been designed to do much more than teach our students the knowledge they'll need to succeed in their careers. It's designed to teach you how to live and how to thrive in a changing world.
And today perhaps more than ever, our changing world demands much more than any specific set of knowledge. It demands the ability to communicate across difference and to appreciate different points of view. The willingness to tackle big thorny problems and to find answers to questions that were never in the textbook, to learn not just what's on the next test, but to learn how to learn throughout a lifetime in a world where everything evolves, everything changes.
The world we live in now is different than what it was when you arrived at Cornell, and it will change much more in the years ahead. And the biggest challenges we face as a society and as a planet today will demand of you everything you've learned here and especially everything you've learned in this lesson year. They'll demand not just knowledge, but a commitment to truth, not just science, but the ability to listen to others and to communicate what you know. The world that lies ahead will demand of you everything you learned inside of your classrooms and outside of them, both the expertise you came here for but also the creativity and the courage and the ability to work together that you gained along the way.
And it will demand of all of us the commitment to do exactly what you've done here at Cornell. Make the hard decisions that enable all of us to move forward. Make the personal sacrifices that will enable your community to thrive. And above all, be kind. Be kind knowing that doing so could make all the difference in the world to someone else.
This year has taught you the hardest, the most important thing-- how to stand back up when the world turns upside down. You do it by reaching out to help each other. I am so inexpressibly proud of every single one of you, of what you've accomplished here as individuals and together, of the way you've brought the ethos and the values of Cornell to life, and of the way you've come together to bring us to this point today.
Congratulations, graduates. When the pandemic is over, come back. Come back and visit us. Come back and see us. I look forward to seeing you at reunions. Cornell will always be a part of you just as you will always be a part of Cornell. Congratulations.
POPPY MCLEOD: We will now proceed to the conferral of degrees.
The first group to be presented to the president for conferral of degrees are the candidates for degrees in the College of Arts and Sciences.
Will the two class marshals representing the senior class please come to the front of the platform?
I call on Kavita Bala, dean of the Cornell Ann S. Bowers-- Ann S. Bowers College of Computing and Information Science to address Bowers' CIS graduates.
KAVITA BALA: A round of applause for the marshals.
Bowers's CIS graduates, on behalf of the faculty of the newly named Cornell Ann S. Bowers College of Computing and Information Science, the first college at Cornell named after a woman--
I congratulate the Bowers' CIS graduates whose degrees are being conferred today by the College of Arts and Sciences.
POPPY MCLEOD: Well the dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, Ray Jayawardhana please come forward?
Will the candidates for the degree of Bachelor of Arts from the College of Arts and Sciences please rise and the degree marshals please come forward to the front of the platform?
RAY JAYAWARDHANA: President-- President Pollack, with my shades on--
I have the honor of presenting these fearless, resilient, and truly awesome candidates. Yes.
Who are duly recommended by the faculty of the College of Arts and Sciences, having fulfilled the requirements for the degree of Bachelor of Arts.
MARTHA E. POLLACK: Thank you, dean--
Thank you, Dean Jayawardhana. Upon the recommendation of the faculty and by the authority vested in me by the trustees of Cornell University, I hereby confer upon each of you the degree Bachelor of Arts with all the rights, honors, privileges, and responsibilities pertaining thereto.
POPPY MCLEOD: Will the graduates please be seated and the degree marshals returned to their seats.
Will the dean of the College of Architecture, Art, and Planning, Meejin Yoon please step forward?
Will the candidates for the degree of Master of Architecture, Bachelor of Architecture, Bachelor of Fine Arts, and Bachelor of Science from the College of Architecture, Art, and Planning please rise and the degree marshals please come to the front of the platform.
MEEJIN YOON: I can't beat that. President Pollack, I have the honor of presenting these incredible candidates who are duly recommended by the faculty of the College of Architecture, Art, and Planning, having fulfilled the requirements for the degrees of Master of Architecture, Bachelor of Architecture, Bachelor of Fine Arts, and Bachelor of Science. Congratulations.
MARTHA E. POLLACK: Thank you, Dean Yoon. Upon the recommendation of the faculty and by the authority vested in me by the trustees of Cornell University, I hereby confer upon each of you the degree of Master of Architecture, Bachelor of Architecture, Bachelor of Fine Arts, or Bachelor of Science with all the rights, privileges, honors, and responsibilities pertaining thereto.
POPPY MCLEOD: Will the graduates please be seated and the degree marshals return to their seats.
Will the assembly please rise and join us in the singing of the Cornell Alma mater?
(SINGING) Far above Cayuga's waters with its waves of blue stands our noble alma mater, glorious to view. Lift the chorus, speed it onward, loud her praises tell. Hail to thee, our alma mater. Hail, all hail Cornell.
Far above the busy humming of the bustling town, reared against the arch of heaven looks she proudly down. Lift the chorus, speed it onward, loud her praises tell. Hail to thee, our alma mater. Hail, all hail Cornell.
This concludes the commencement ceremony for these degree candidates of the 153rd graduating class of Cornell University. Thank you for joining us today and congratulations to our new graduates.
Please remain standing during the recessional and then exit the crescent as directed by the ushers. Thank you.
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2021 Commencement for the College of Arts and Sciences and College of Architecture, Art, and Planning