KRYSTLE-MEI CHOW: Welcome ladies and gentlemen to the 15th annual December Graduate Recognition Ceremony. I am Krystle-Mei Chow, the senior class commencement chairman. The academic procession is about to begin. Please take your seats, and kindly clear all of the aisles.
Also, please take a moment to make sure that the ringers on your phones are turned off. The event is being live streamed for the web, so please remain in your seats during the ceremony so as not to block the cameras of the video staff and professional photographers. The video can be viewed at CornellCast next week. There will also be opportunities to take photos with your students after the ceremony. Please take a moment to locate the exit nearest to you. In case of an emergency, listen carefully to the instructions over the PA system. Thank you.
At this time, it is my pleasure to introduce the readers from each college who will be announcing the names of the degree candidates today. From the Graduate School, Associate Dean, Jan Allen.
From the College of Engineering, Associate Dean Michael Thompson.
From the School of Industrial and Labor Relations, Associate Dean Alex Colvin.
From the College of Architecture, Art, and Planning, Associate Dean Barry Perlus.
From the College of Human Ecology, a Senior Associate Dean, Rachel Dunifon.
From the College of Arts and Sciences, Senior Associate Dean, Rachel Bean.
From the School of Hotel Administration, Associate Dean, Cathy Enz.
From the Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management, the Director of Undergraduate Studies, Cindy van Es.
From the College of Agriculture and Life Science, Associate Dean, Donald Viands.
Please join us at the reception afterward. And thank you for being here today for this special event.
["POMP AND CIRCUMSTANCE" PLAYING]
CHARLES WALCOTT: Good morning. I'm Professor Charles Walcott, the University Marshal. Families, friends, colleagues, and students, we've gathered here today to honor our students who are completing their academic achievements at Cornell University. At this time, it's my pleasure to introduce to you the President of Cornell University, Martha E. Pollack.
MARTHA E. POLLACK: Thank you, Professor Walcott. And good morning, everyone. I extend an especially warm welcome to the families and friends of the graduates who came from near and far and braved the infamous Ithaca weather and told, it always snows at winter graduation. I'm so glad that you're here to share this memorable day with loved ones who are earning Cornell degrees. I know that the graduates join me in thanking you for all the love and support that you've provided them. Without that, they'd never have made it to this day. So graduates, please join me in thanking your family and friends.
A couple of weeks ago, as I was thinking about today's ceremony and pondering what I might say here, I spent some time reading old commencement addresses. It turns out that there's a website maintained by NPR called, The Best Commencement Speeches Ever. Someone has populated it with about 350 speeches dating back to 1774. Now think about that. You just have to sit through one graduation speech, while the curator of this site had to read well north of 350 of them.
Now I confess, I didn't read all 350, but I sampled liberally. What I found was interesting. Surprisingly to me, many of them did not mention current events at all. Instead, they provided advice from the personal perspective of the speaker. Others, however, did address the current context. And I have to tell you, not a one said, the world you're graduating into is great. We, your elders, have done a terrific job of keeping it in shape for you. Just go out and do whatever you want. Not a one said that.
No, instead, the speeches were filled with statements like these-- quote, "The world we have made out of the inheritance of our grandfathers is a pretty sad botch. It is full of gross injustices." So said William Allen White, speaking at Northwestern in 1936.
Or "This country has profound and pressing social problems on its agenda. It needs the best energy of all its citizens, especially its gifted young people to remedy these ills." That one is from Edward Brooke, the first African-American popularly elected to the US Senate, speaking at Wellesley in 1969.
Or this from filmmaker and author Tiffany Shlain at Berkeley's graduation in 2010. "We're facing a vast array of interconnected problems-- the economy, the environment, expanding women's rights, overpopulation, progress without thinking of consequences, health care, nuclear proliferation, access to education, and the massive oil spill in the ocean to name just a few. We've faced many of these problems before. But because the world is so much more interconnected and there are so many more people, the stakes are that much higher."
Perhaps you're starting to see why we don't invite an outside speaker to Cornell graduation. But it's certainly hard on a day like this not to think about the world into which you are graduating and about the issues you'll face. Now let me be clear, it is not all bad. Indeed, looking across the globe, in many ways, the world is a better place than it was a decade ago.
For example, the proportion of the world's population living in absolute poverty has decreased threefold since 1990. Across the globe, mortality rates for children under the age of five have dropped by 56% in that same time span. And here in the United States, violent crime has dropped by more than half. There are many more such examples. And yet, as you know, all is not rosy.
Just as White noted in his 1936 graduation speech, the world is still full of gross injustices. As was true in 1969, our country has profound and pressing social problems. And as was the case in 2010, we're facing a vast array of interconnected problems, with the interconnections, it seems, accelerating by the second.
So, new graduates, what are you to do? How will you avoid becoming overwhelmed with the challenges of our society, instead positioning yourself to make a difference and to have a positive impact? Today, I have just one suggestion for you. Start with compassion. Start with understanding. Start with kindness and with love.
The biggest, most difficult problems we face today seem, to me, to stem from divisiveness in our communities and in the broader society. They stem from an apparent inability to reach across difference to listen and to really understand compromise and communicate. I hope that during your time at Cornell, you seize the opportunity to interact with others who are truly different from you, who bring to the table different experiences and perspectives, different skills and different weaknesses. And I hope that you've learned to appreciate the strength that comes from melding a vision out of different points of view.
One of my great pleasures is reading. So let me recommend a book. It's a novel published earlier this year and written by George Saunders, entitled Lincoln in the Bardo, it's a fictional account of what occurred the night after Abraham Lincoln's 11-year-old son Willie died. It takes place in the cemetery, where Willy was temporarily entombed in a crypt, and is largely narrated by a set of ghosts who reside in the cemetery, where they are in the "Bardo," the Tibetan state of transition between death and rebirth. The story is interspersed with both real and fictional historical documents describing the Civil War, a time at which our country was certainly fraught with divisiveness. I won't tell you more about the book, but we'll leave it to you to hopefully enjoy it as much as I did. It's a masterpiece. It won this year's Man Booker Prize.
On accepting the prize, Saunders said that while the book's style may be complex, the question he was posing at its heart is simple. Do we respond to uncertain times with fear and division? Or do we take quote "the ancient, great leap of faith and try to respond with love?"
Graduate's, during your time at Cornell, you've gained much knowledge and developed the habits of mind of an educated person. You've learned to carefully analyze situations, to check facts, to communicate clearly. All of this will serve you well as you take on our messy, troubled, but often wonderful world.
But heart and mind go together. So as you leave Cornell and set off on your path of difference making, I want to leave you with the words of another writer-- this time, a composer and playwright instead of a novelist, speaking at another awards ceremony. On receiving the Tony Award for his score to the play Hamilton the day after the horrific nightclub shooting in Orlando, Lin Manuel Miranda recited a sonnet he'd written. It includes these lines, which, unlike him, I will not try to do in rap.
We live through times when hate and fear seem stronger. "We rise, and fall, and light from dying embers remembrances that hope and love last longer. And love is love is love is love is love is love is love is love cannot be killed or swept aside."
Graduates, I wish you a future success, of happiness, of making a difference, and of doing so with love. Please come back and visit us and share with us your successes. Remember that Cornell will always be a part of you, and you will always be a part of Cornell. Congratulations to you all.
And now, it is my pleasure to introduce to you SJ Munsi, the Class of 2018 senior class president.
SJ MUNSI: Thank you, President Pollack for that lovely introduction. Thank you also to the faculty, staff, family, and friends for joining us. And finally, congratulations to the December graduates who are here to celebrate today. For those of you whom I've not yet have the pleasure of meeting, my name is SJ Munsi, and I currently serve as Cornell University's senior class president.
These last few years were likely some of the most unique, most memorable, and honestly, most stressful years of your life yet. Right now, sitting in your chairs, your time at Cornell probably feels like a blur. So before you all walk on this stage to receive your hard-earned honors, let's take a travel down proverbial memory lane together.
Remember that first time you stepped onto this campus, full of anticipation and excitement? For many of you, that was the first time you were living away from home. But as I'm sure you quickly realized, you weren't alone. You met your roommates, sat with your classmates, and found your best friends.
These are the people who watched you bite into your first bagel sandwich at CTB. They were the ones who photographed you on your first visit to an Ithacan gorge. They were the people cheering loudly with you as you showed your line of faithful spirit. They were your Cornell memories.
Think back to when you pulled your first all-nighter at Olin Library. I'm sure it's something you really don't want to remember, but that first all-nighter was painful. Still, by some miracle, you survived. You passed your test. You finished your paper. You completed your problem set. After surviving that all-nighter, you realized you could do anything. That is your Cornell memory.
Cornell gave you some hard times, but you had some great moments here, too. Without Cornell, you never could have sang your heart out at your first Slope Day. You never would have taken, and hopefully passed, your wines course. You never would have gone to the Apple Harvest Festivals, the Chili Cook-Offs, and Ithaca Ice Festivals, or the Chowder Cook-Offs. These are your Cornell memories.
Now I'm saying things that may hold true for the average graduate and Cornellian, but what significant events happened to you-- the student of the Cornell's 150th graduating class? What makes you different from the other Cornell alumni whose ranks you're about to join? Well, you experienced Cornell's first Snow Day in 24 years. You witnessed the inauguration of our inspiring university president. And don't let me forget the most important memory of all, you had to taste the Big, Red, White, and Biden ice cream flavor!
I know you also have some personal experiences that really shaped your times at Cornell. I invite you to reflect upon them as I wrap up my speech. Earning your Cornell degree wasn't easy. As a fellow student, I feel pretty confident in saying that. But all the hard work, the countless hours, the late nights, the stress-- they were worth it. Because Cornell is the prequel to the incredible success that is about to enter into your life. And years from now, if you ever miss these amazing memories, just know that you can always come back for a visit.
You can walk around Ithaca and visit your professors. You can rediscover your favorite spots on campus. You can climb the clock tower and hear the chime masters play Cornell's alma mater as you look far above Cayuga's waters. So to wrap this up, I hope that the next chapter of your life brings you success, joy, and a lot more sleep. Thank you and congratulations!
CHARLES WALCOTT: Thank you, SJ. We will now recognize the December degree graduates individually. I will call each dean forward and ask the candidates to rise one row at a time and approach the platform. At this time, the reader for the first college will approach the stage. Will the Senior Vise Provost and Dean of the Graduate School Barbara Knuth please step forward and the PhD candidates from the Graduate School approached the platform. The PhD candidates will each be officially hooded by Dean Knuth, signifying their success in completing a doctoral degree graduate program.
JAN ALLEN: [READING NAMES]
CHARLES WALCOTT: Will the master candidates from the Graduate School, please approach the platform.
JAN ALLEN: [READING NAMES]
CHARLES WALCOTT: Thank you, Senior Vise Provost and Dean Knuth. Will the Dean of the College of Engineering Lance Collins please step forward and the candidates approach the platform.
MICHAEL THOMPSON: [READING NAMES]
CHARLES WALCOTT: Thank you, Dean Collins. Will the Dean of the School of Industrial and Labor Relations Kevin Hallock please step forward and the candidates approach the platform.
ALEX COLVIN: [READING NAMES]
CHARLES WALCOTT: No mic. Here it comes. Thank you, Dean Hallock. Will the Dean of the College of Architecture, Art, and Planning Ken Kleinman please step forward and the candidates approach the platform.
BARRY PERLUS: [READING NAMES]
CHARLES WALCOTT: Thank you, Dean Kleinman. Will the Dean of the College of Human Ecology, Alan Mathios please step forward and the candidates approach the platform.
RACHEL DUNIFON: [READING NAMES]
CHARLES WALCOTT: Thank you. Dean Mathios. Will the Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences Gretchen Ritter please step forward and the candidates approach the platform.
RACHEL BEAN: [READING NAMES]
CHARLES WALCOTT: Thank you, Dean Ritter. Now we will recognize graduates from two schools that are part of the Cornell SC Johnson College of Business-- School of Hotel Administration and the Dyson's School of Applied Economics and Management. Representing the college is Deputy Dean Chris Barrett. Will the Dean of the School of Hotel Administration Kate Walsh please step forward and the candidate's approach to the platform.
CATHY ENZ: [READING NAMES]
CHARLES WALCOTT: Thank you, Dean Walsh. Will the Dean of the Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management Lynn Wooten please step forward and the candidates approach the platform. These candidates have also successfully met the degree requirements for the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.
CINDY VAN ES: [READING NAMES]
CHARLES WALCOTT: Thank you, Dean Wooten. Will the Dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Kathryn Boor please step forward and the candidate's approach the platform.
DONALD VIANDS: [READING NAMES]
CHARLES WALCOTT: Thank you, Dean Boor. Congratulations to all of you on your achievements. Would everyone please rise and join me in a round of applause for all the graduates.
The assembly will now sing the Cornell University alma mater.
["FAR ABOVE CAYUGA'S WATERS"]
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!
CHARLES WALCOTT: This concludes our recognition ceremony. Please remain standing while the platform party, faculty. administrators, trustees, and candidates recess to the reception area. Everyone is welcome to enjoy the reception. Thank you for attending, and safe travels home.
[BAND PLAYING "STAR WARS THEME"]
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December 2017 graduates and their families and friends gather in Barton Hall Dec. 16 for a recognition event.