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SF State celebrates 108th Commencement: transcript

May 27, 2009 -- Following is a transcript of San Francisco State University's 108th Commencement held on Saturday, May 23, 2009 in Cox Stadium on campus before an audience of 20,000.

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Processional and National Anthem

On reaching their places on the platform, the processional participants remained standing for the National Anthem.

Ladies and gentlemen: would you please rise for the singing of the National Anthem. The processional was performed by the San Francisco State University Wind Ensemble under the direction of Michael Galisatus. Our soloist for the National Anthem is Jonathan Dauermann, who graduates today with a Bachelor of Music in vocal performance.



Introductions and Welcome

Thank you, Mr. Dauermann. What a stirring opening for our 108th Commencement celebration! Ladies and gentlemen, please be seated. Members of the San Francisco State University class of 2009 -- good afternoon! I said, good afternoon!

A warm welcome to all of our guests and families! For you, as it is for our graduates, this is a historic day! You have looked forward to this ceremony almost as eagerly as our students, and your presence adds greatly to their pride and pleasure.

Today as we mark the completion of San Francisco State's one hundred and tenth year, I am pleased to report that this graduating class is not only our largest, it's our most diverse and it's the most accomplished class in the history of the University.

This day marks a milestone in the lives of our graduates. And while I take great pride in acknowledging it, that is not really enough. I want to leave you with a challenge: to go out and live by the values that this remarkable University has stood for for over a century -- the values we hope we have been able to impart to you.

We believe that it is our responsibility to educate hearts as well as minds. We are proud to be a University of activism, of personal responsibility, of concern about major issues and determination to be engaged with those issues.

Where but at San Francisco State would you find a university whose faculty has made a commitment to social justice and equity the first of its fundamental goals -- exhibiting that commitment in many ways -- hiring, for example, the most diverse faculty of any university in the United States.

Where but at SF State would you find a faculty who care so passionately about the world beyond the campus and have constantly encouraged you, the students, to take an active role in the community. They have helped you to apply what you are learning to the needs of those around us -- people in need of affordable health care; former foster youth seeking guidance and education; families plagued by neighborhood violence; children who need a head start on basic educational skills; immigrants whose children -- with your help -- may one day sit where you are sitting.

Where but at San Francisco State could you be so challenged by a diversity of views yet so supported in learning how to disagree strongly -- indeed passionately -- but without hatred -- a skill the world sorely needs.

Where but at San Francisco State would you be asked so often to apply an ethical perspective to the subjects you have studied -- whether that subject is the enviornment, health care, the media, business management, public education -- virtually any field I could name.

I've said repeatedly that we try to make this campus a model of the kind of world in which all of us want to live.

Now that you are moving from the campus into a new stage of your lives, I ask you to hold that model in your mind, and in your heart.

Ladies and gentlemen, if you can do that, you will have more than met our expectations of you, and we will take great pride in you as graduates of SF State.

Joining us on the platform are some special guests who will be introduced by our announcer for today’s Commencement exercises, Associate Professor Martin Gonzalez of the Department of Broadcast and Electronic Communication Arts.

Please stand as your name is called. Audience, please hold your applause until everyone has been introduced.

From the Board of Trustees of the California State University:

  • Board Chair Jeffrey Bleich

  • Board Vice Chair Herbert L. Carter, and

  • Trustee Melinda Guzman

From the campus:

  • Shawn Whalen, chair of the Academic Senate

  • Natalie Franklin, president of the Associated Students

  • Deborah Masters, librarian of the University

  • Leroy Morishita, vice president for Administration and Finance, and chief financial officer

  • Don Scoble, chair of the board of directors, San Francisco State University Foundation

  • Gail Whitaker, dean of the College of Extended Learning, and

  • Wanda Lee, dean of Faculty Affairs and Professional Development.

Also with us on the platform are representatives of the group that is the true heart and soul of the University -- our outstanding faculty. While you have been students here, they have helped you to gain knowledge of self and of subject matter, and have both challenged and supported you.

Principled women and men of intellectual distinction, they care deeply about you. I know that as they sit facing you, they will feel both pride in your achievements and a touch of sorrow as you prepare to leave us.

Please join me in a round of applause for these dedicated faculty members who have devoted their lives to teaching and learning.

To help us recollect the spirit in which we have gathered here this afternoon, I'm honored to invite to the podium an individual I have long known and respect greatly as a friend, spiritual leader, and a major force in the life of this University -- the Reverend Dr. Penny Saffold, founding minister of the Pyramid Center of Truth.

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Opening and Invocation

Thank you, President Corrigan. I  am sure that we are all in agreement with the Psalmist who  said, "This is the day that the Lord has made, so let us  rejoice and be glad in it."  So on this basis, we now pause for just a moment to give thanks for this day.

Oh Thou who gives sustenance to the University and  from whom all things proceed, we come at this appointed  time in all humanity, all praise and thanksgiving.  Although You are known by many names and many faces, each according to our various faith traditions, we now become one in acknowledging Thy presence at this gathering.  For  we are here this afternoon to celebrate and to honor the  SF State graduates of the class of 2009.

We've come to celebrate a goal achieved and a job well done.  We thank You for choosing these particular  women and men who on the strength of their diversity,  commitment to equity and social justice and dedication to  civic and community service will now go forth with an  agenda for change, changing thoughts of war to thoughts of  peace; changing behaviors of hate and discrimination to  acts of love; changing pockets of poverty to fields of  abundance; and changing sickness and disease to health and  healing for it is their understanding of the  interconnectedness of all humanity which bears witness to  the truth that Your divine good will, for this world is  being realized in and through each and every one of them.

We bless and celebrate the dedicated faculty, staff,  and administrators who have accepted Thy divine commission  to teach these students and in so doing, prepared them  well for the challenging opportunities which lie ahead.  And most importantly, we bless and celebrate the families and friends of our graduates who through their great support and love helped to make this day a reality. And  so in the name of that which is most holy, we just say  thanks.  Thanks for this day. Thanks for these blessings, and many, many more.  And so it is. 

Amen and amen. 


Thank you, Dr. Saffold, for your inspiring words. You remind us in that in all our wonderful diversity, this campus is linked by strong shared values.

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Introduction of the Student Speaker

Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students Penny Saffold will now introduce the student speaker.

Jessica Aguilar graduates today with an armful of honors. She is a Presidential Scholar, a newly inducted member of the prestigious national honor society Phi Beta Kappa, graduating summa cum laude; and she has been selected to be the hood recipient – the outstanding graduate -- for the College of Ethnic Studies. Oh -- and she has a double major: Raza Studies and Sociology.

Ms. Aguilar is a shining example of what our students do to bring to life the academic, social, and personal values we prize. A passionate community advocate, activist and leader, she has maintained remarkable levels of community service while excelling academically. She has volunteered over 40 hours a week at the Clinica Martín Baró, a free clinic for underserved people in San Francisco’s Mission District. Serving as a board member, fundraiser and volunteer coordinator, Ms. Aguilar has helped to raise more than $15,000 a year to help sustain the clinic over the last three years. She also works with urban youth in east Oakland as an after-school tutor. Her plans include master's and doctoral degrees and a career devoted to serving new immigrants and disenfranchised communities.

I am delighted now to present, representing the class of 2009, Jessica Michelle Aguilar.


Student Speaker for the Class of 2009

What up Frisco State?  Ignacio Martín Baró was murdered in 1989 in my family's home country of El Salvador for questioning the government's repression of Salvadoreans.  He dedicated his life to helping oppressed people in El Salvador gain human rights.  His last words before being shot in the head by a United States-sponsored military regime were "esto es una injusticia,"  "this is an injustice."

Injustice is not some distant phenomenon, but happens every day all around us.  I think of Sonia who came to San Francisco as a refugee from Mexico. After fleeing U.S.-sponsored economic policies, she is now starving and struggling through rape and domestic violence.  Esto es una injusticia.  This is an injustice.

There is no question that injustice exists.  From state-sanctioned murders to the suffering of everyday people, we have all experienced the helplessness, anger, and pain caused by injustice. Divide-and-conquer tactics have made us forget how much we have in common with one another.  We are all connected in this struggle.  Martin Luther King would remind us that injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.

The real question of the 21st century is not whether injustice exists.  It is, what are we going to do about it? 

A group of San Francisco State students responded to this question by opening a free community clinic in the Mission District in honor of Martin Baró's work and ideologies.  This group, the majority of whom are working-class women of color, decided to not let the system deny our community basic human rights.  We challenged ourselves to find an agency not through charity work but through our decision to live each day for what Talib Kweli calls "the beautiful struggle."  In the process, we realized that justice does not come from the White House, but from the gente, the people, from us.  Esto es justicia. This is justice.

A society does not operate alone.  It has agents, which either support its current course or decide to change it.  We are the next wave of agents, and we must make a decision.  Will we reproduce this system, or will we be the next wave of agents?  Will we band together to be the collective force that will begin to change the system?  Will we finally be the generation that makes each decision a step of action towards justice?  There is no middle ground.  We will either be lost in history as yet another generation who has stayed silent and inactive, or we will be remembered as the ones who finally stood tall as a collective and fought for human rights. Esto es justicia. This is justice.

It has been said, "When injustice becomes law, resistance becomes duty."  This graduating class will not stay silent and inactive when the time comes to scream,  "This is an injustice."  So, San Francisco State Class of 2009, faculty, family, and friends who sacrificed to help get us here, join me in a pledge to make our lives count,  please stand.  Hold your heads high, and raise your fists as you join me in our beautiful struggle for justice. 

Thank you.


Thank you, Ms. Aguilar, for speaking so personally and powerfully to -- and for -- your classmates.

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Presentation of Faculty Emerita/Emeritus

Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs John Gemello will now present the emeritus faculty.

It is appropriate that at Commencement we acknowledge the contribution of those faculty who, like our graduates, are leaving the University. These individuals have served with distinction, and upon their retirement, are being granted emeritus status.

Mr. President, I am pleased to present them to you today. Will the faculty emeriti please rise as I call their names:

  • James Edwards, professor of Design & Industry

  • Judith Ekstrand, professor of Mathematics

  • John Glanville, professor of Philosophy

  • Lawford Goddard, lecturer in Africana Studies

  • David Renaker, professor of English

  • James Southam, professor of Decision Sciences, and

  • Gail Whitaker, professor of Kinesiology


And I must add another name -- that of Provost Gemello himself, who is retiring both as provost and professor of Economics.

My friends and colleagues. It is with great pride and deep admiration that, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Board of Trustees, I confer upon each of you the title of Professor or Lecturer Emeritus or Emerita of San Francisco State University. May you find fulfillment in this next stage of your life -- and remember that you will always be a part of the San Francisco State University family.

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Presentation of the President's Medal of Service

The President's Medal of Service is the highest award a president in the California State University campus may bestow on his or her own. Conferred on rare occasions, the medal recognizes an individual whose work has long-lasting and widespread benefits for the University and for our society at large. I can think of no more fitting a recipient than the man I am about to introduce, Provost John Gemello. John will you please join me.

John Gemello, you joined this University almost 35 years ago, as a lecturer in economics. You are leaving as our provost and as vice president for academic affairs. That is an uncommon path but you John Gemello are a very uncommon man. At every stage we have recognized your worth: you won tenure, your peers elected you economics department chair, and with budget issues becoming increasingly complex and difficult, we turned to you, naming you our first ever associate vice president for academic resources. Seven years ago, you were the campuses' unanimous choice as provost.

Now, it is easy for a leader to be popular in good times, but you have guided the academic enterprise during some of the most challenging years in SF State's history. You have made hard decisions, collegially but firmly, and you have done so without a loss of good will. Indeed, I believe you are the most successful and popular provost in campus history. Your positive spirit has made us more positive. Your integrity has inspired us to emulate you. Your keen strategic sense has been a model and a guide.
Your legacy includes a reservoir of trust and good will. It is the best resource you could leave the University you have served so well.

So John, with deepest appreciation and admiration, I now present you with the President's Medal of Service.



President Corrigan, it's really been my privilege and an honor to serve the University as provost and I thank the entire University community for your support and help over the years. Thank you very much.

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Recognition of Alumnus of the Year

The Vice President for University Advancement, Lee Blitch, will now present the Alumnus of the Year.

Today you end your student careers and you start new ones as proud SF State alum. You're joining a special group that includes more than 200,000 people and stretches around the world. Please remember that wherever you go, you will always be a part of SF State.

It is now my great pleasure to introduce to you our 2009 Alumnus of the Year, Mr. Jeffrey Tambor. Mr. Tambor, please join me at the podium.


Jeffrey Tambor has brought joy and insight to audiences for more than four decades. He discovered the allure of the stage at the age of eight, quietly watching SF State Theatre Department rehearsals and engaging with the student actors and stage crew. Later, he enrolled at SF State and pursued his passion. From his first big break on stage with George C. Scott in “Sly Fox,” to his cult-status popularity playing no less than two Bluth brothers on TV’s “Arrested Development,” he has demonstrated dedication, professionalism and everyman appeal. Critical acclaim and audience approval cling to Jeffrey Tambor the way trouble follows Hellboy. He has been nominated for six Emmy Awards – a testament to his skill and the high regard in which he is held. His TV credits read like a history of American entertainment, both comedic and dramatic, from M*A*S*H* to Murder She Wrote, Barney Miller to Hill Street Blues, Taxi to The Practice, the Love Boat to Law and Order. On the big screen, he helped put the panache in Pollock, proved there is Something About Mary, and moved the story along in Girl, Interrupted. With generosity of spirit, he credits the SF State faculty with lighting a fire in his belly. Today we thank him for providing many memorable belly laughs. Jeffrey Tambor, we are proud to claim you as one of our own and delighted to honor you as the University’s 2009 Alumnus of the Year!


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Response by Alumnus of the Year

Thank you.  Thank you very much.


It was very fortunate that I already have a cap and gown. I wore it on the plane coming up this morning. I think there's a lot of teachers in heaven rolling their  eyes right now at my being the Alumnus of the Year.


I  lived in Parkmerced. By the way, that's the biggest  applause that Parkmerced has ever gotten.  And I used to walk to school, and I used to walk and watch the rehearsals.        

I've had a really good time of it.  I stand on the shoulders of a great faculty that really loved us and for the first time in our careers, our -- our starting  careers -- said, "You can do it.  We believe in you. And we're going to train the hell out of you."  And I thank  them. And the only thing I could say to you that would  give you any information is, "Love yourself.  Keep your voice authentic. Don't settle. Love your partner in  life, your kids, and your fellow man.  And remember, as George Bluth said, "There's always money in the banana  stand."



Thank you, Mr. Tambor -- and you can count me among the many members of this audience to whom you have given great delight in the course of your stellar career.

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Conferral of the Honorary Degree on Willie Mays

At Commencement, we not only recognize all that you, our graduates, have achieved as students, we look ahead to what you can accomplish as educated and concerned citizens.

And so, each year, we choose this day to honor outstanding men and women who can serve as stirring models -- exhibiting the highest values and achievements to which you can aspire.

You have met two such individuals already. Now we will present two remarkable men on whom we have chosen to bestow the academic world's highest award -- the honorary doctorate.

Joining me for the first honorary degree conferral is the Chair of the California State University Board of Trustees, Mr. Jeffrey Bleich and Vice Chair Dr. Herbert Carter.




On behalf of trustee Carter and also trustee Guzman and the entire Board of Trustees of the California State University, which oversees all 23 campuses, we want to congratulate the great class of 2009 at San Francisco State University. Not only, as your president said, are you the largest, most diverse and most accomplished campus class in the history of San Francisco State, but, from where Herb and I are standing, you're also the best looking campus we've ever seen. So, congratulations to all of you, particularly trustee Guzman's daughter Dominique who's here graduating today.
I just want to tell you, we do see every campus and this is a unique and historic graduation class and the way you know that you are the greatest class is that why else would civil rights icon Morris Dees be here and why would the greatest baseball player who ever lived, Willie Mays, be here?



Would Mr. Willie Mays please join us.


Willie Mays, you are a baseball icon. Your statue graces Willie Mays Plaza, its base adorned with evidence of how, for 22 major league seasons, you dominated the game.

A career total of 660 home runs -- fourth-highest of all time. Twelve consecutive Gold Glove Awards -- the most ever for an outfielder. The all-time record for putouts by an outfielder. Twenty-four All Star game appearances -- a perfect match for your playing number -- and a record no player has ever exceeded.

You were a five-tool player who could hit for average, hit for power, run, throw, and field. And you did it all superbly. You inspired sportwriters everywhere to try for eloquence to match your playing. Said one, "his glove is where triples go to die." Said another, after one more great at-bat, "the only man who could have caught it, hit it."

You have been named one of the top two baseball players of all time. The other was Babe Ruth -- and, as we know, he played in the easier league.

When you retired, baseball was eager to honor you, and you entered the Baseball Hall of Fame in your first year of eligibility -- with 96 percent of the vote.

Today, Willie Mays, we recognize you not only for the content of the record books, but for the content of your character. Despite your great talent, you have felt the effects of discrimination. You faced it down, and now you are helping new generations of young people from disadvantaged backgrounds overcome hardship.

Your Say Hey Foundation provides scholarships, encourangement, and a better future for the young people it touches -- including students in SF State's Guardian Scholars program.

Willie Mays, with your talent and your obvious joy in the game, you lit up the diamond. Now, you help to light up lives.

You embody values that are central to San Francisco State University and the Califorina State University, and we are delighted to award you this honorary degree.



The California State University, on the recommendation of San Francisco State University, hereby confers on Willie Howard Mays, Jr. the honorary degree of Doctor of Humane Letters with all of the rights, privileges and honors pertaining thereto given at San Francisco State University, May 23rd 2009.



Response by Willie Mays

Thank you very much.  First of all, I'd like to say thanks to Jeff for putting my name in.  I just hope I don't have to doctor on anybody, you know. I don't want to have to leave them there.  I'd like to thank the people that said yes to me coming out here and being a part of something that is just wonderful.

I had hardships. You're not going to have hardships now.  All the people that are graduating today are going to have a wonderful time.  I had a hard time.  I left home before my prom night, and you know what prom nights are.  I had to buy the car.  I had to buy the dress. I had to buy the corsage.  I don't know what the guy did.  I don't know.  I have no idea, but I hope he got lucky. You never know.

Well, that's true.  You can't -- you can't change that, but I am very proud because all the years that I have played, I never was put out of a ball game. My father said to me, and he sent me a text -- I don't know if it's a text that was on the phone.  It says, "Move on."  That means when I was in B-ball. I had to go to A-ball. I had to go from A-ball to AAA.  And I was moving on very, very quickly. And I had a young man back in the back there, he says, "I've played on a team."  And he was white.  "I played on a team that you left back in Birmingham."  I said, "I don't think so."  And he said,  "Yes."  And I said, "Do you know the team that I played on in Birmingham?"  He said, "Yes."  He said, "We played, and I played center field.  This is why I want to say hello to you."

Those words came to me very strongly. It said to me that the world has changed, and we need change. And this is where all of you young people are coming in. 

All of you who are graduating today will see that. When you go in with your resume and look for a job, smile.  That smile is going to kill them. I know because they are going to turn you down.  You know that.  They never -- they're never going to give you the first job; they're going to make you sweat. And I'd like to apologize to the University for wearing this cap. Well, I have to eat, and they know that. So I have to wear this.  (Putting Giants cap on his head.)  Now, when I get back, well, I'm telling the truth, it's the same as you're going to have to do when you go in with your resume. And if you miss one word, they're going to say, "You lied."  You know how that works. And when they call me to -- "Do you want to say a couple words?" And I said, "No, I don't want to say nothing." I have a lot to say, but I'm not going to bore you with all my problems because you can't stand my problems.  I had a lot of them.  But over the course of 22 years, I think I have achieved many, many awards.  If you ever -- if you ever get a chance to come by my house -- you'll see all kinds of awards there.  But I'm not bragging.  But this is life.

You're going to meet life now.  You haven't had life in four years.  You've had book learning. You didn't have life.  You're going to have life, and I mean strong life, when you get out there.  So again, all you have to do is keep smiling, keep turning the other cheek, saying, "I can do this."  I know you can.  "Hire me.  I know I can do the job."  This is how I got into baseball. I went one for 24, and they said, "Oh, we're going to send you down."  And I started crying. And they said, "No, no, no.  You're going to be my center fielder." This is what Leo Durocher said. "You're going to be my center fielder."  The next day I relaxed a little bit.  I hit a home run off of Warren Spahn, and I went on from there.

 I am just proud of my life, very, very proud of my life. I'm proud of what people have done for me all over the country. They've given me things that I never had the opportunity to accomplish. I never thought I would get something from a college. It's not in my nature to because we didn't have the money to go four years or five years into a college. We never had the money. (Inaudible from audience) You're right, lady, that's very true. We didn't have the money. But I am just elated that I could come, and the lawyer that I have, Jeff, keeps me out of trouble. And I was a fighter when I was young.  I would fight at the drop of a hat.  I fight very quickly.  I learned to say, "Yes, sir," and, "No, sir."  But in the meantime, I got that 500.  I got that thousand.  I got up to a hundred thousand. And then I made it to 150,000.  But I had to smile.

 And this is what you're going to have to do as you finish as a class. You're going to have to be humble. And you're going to have to say to yourself, "I went through the books.  Now, it's time for me to go through the real world." 

I'd like to thank San Francisco State for even honoring me just to be a part of whatever it may be.  I know that they mean that they have seen me for 22 years and they want to do something for me.  So thank you very much, and enjoy.



Thank you Dr. Mays. You are an exemplar for us all.

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Conferral of the Honorary Degree on Morris Dees

I would now like to invite Trustee Melinda Guzman to join me and Trustee Bleich at the podium.


Would Mr. Morris Dees please join us?

Morris Dees, putting hate groups out of business is your business -- and what a success you have made of it! For almost 40 years, you and the nonprofit organization you co-founded, the Southern Poverty Law Center, have made it your mission to fight hate and intolerance.

With the courtroom as your battleground, you have tried and won, multi-million dollar judgments on behalf of victims of the Ku Klux Klan and other white supremacist groups, effectively bankrupting them. You have argued before the U.S. Supreme Court -- and you have never lost a case against a hate group sued by the center.

This path began when, as a boy in Alabama, you worked side by side with blacks on your family's Alabama cotton farm. From your father, you learned to abhor the Jim Crow practices you saw in the greater community. Years later, after your initial career in business, those values would set you on a new course.

Today, the Southern Poverty Law Center is addressing many issues -- the abuse of low-income Latino immigrants; the sexual exploitation of women farm workers, and the inhumane treatment of youngsters at a Mississippi juvenile detention center.

You are determined to strike at the root of hatred and intolerance. You have said, "it's more important to deal with the hearts and minds of young people...to teach tolerance in the classroom." Today, the Center's "teaching tolerance" program is used by more than 80,000 schools across the nation.

The great Clarence Darrow once stated, "as long as the world shall last there will be wrongs, and if no man objected and no man rebelled, those wrongs would last forever."

You, Morris Dees, have objected, have rebelled, and because you have, hate groups are being stifled, the formerly powerless are being strengthened, and better values -- tolerance and equality -- are taking root in new generations.

Morris Dees, you embody the values of social justice and equity that are central to this University, and we are privileged to honor you today.

By the authority vested in me by the Board of Trustees, and in the name of San Francisco State University and the California State University, I hereby confer upon you, Morris Dees, the degree of Doctor of Laws, Honoris Causa, with all the rights, honors and opportunties which it imparts.



Presentation of Commencement Speaker

Class of 2009, who better to speak to you today than the man we have just honored. I am delighted to present to you now, our Commencement speaker, Dr. Morris Dees!

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Commencement Address

Congratulations. Thank you. I am so happy to be here.  I'm so happy to get this honorary degree.  But the thing I'm the happiest about is to put this baseball cap on because I'm here in the presence of my hero, Willie Mays.  He has already given you a great commencement address.  He's a role model.  And Willie Mays -- and you've heard this many times before, sports is a metaphor for life.  Baseball, I would like to say, is probably the best sport and the best metaphor for life.  And Willie Mays put it down real simple.  He said, "When they hit the ball, I caught it.  And when they threw the ball, I hit it."  And hit it, he did.

And you've heard how he hit it.  But you know, he didn't have it real easy because when he finished baseball college -- that's the minor leagues and he did really good -- he had a 4.0 average you could say. He hit .400 and something in his last minor league appearance he was in.  So he goes to get his job, his big job. His first day at work, he didn't do too good. In fact, twenty-six times he got up to the plate and got one hit.  But he made up for it because before the year was out, he was elected the Most Valuable Player. And he did it at a time when he had to train in his early years when the playing field was not level.

He wasn't even allowed on the playing field in Birmingham, Alabama.  He played on the Negro Baseball League.  You know, Willie had a way of not letting that get to him.  He played so hard that at 16 years old, his daddy had to say, "Son, you not going to travel with the Birmingham Black Barons.  You are going to have to stay home and finish high school."

He won all of these honors the way you're going to win all of your honors in life.  He did it without ever cheating.  He didn't take steroids.  He didn't -- like so many people on Wall Street -- he didn't cheat like Mr. Madoff.  He took no shortcuts in life.  And then in the end, when his career was winding down, he gave back.  His children's foundation is helping those, some of the most weakest among us, those that need the help, and those with few champions.

You know, as he said, you're beginning in the game of life.  And you couldn't be beginning at a better time in America.  You might say, "Well, why are you saying that, because today, we have economic troubles."  And look, when Willie Mays went up to the major leagues, he didn't want nor expect to have somebody throwing him softballs.  And you're not going to get any softballs thrown to you because you are going to have to make it during these times you're facing today with your talent and your ability and your sheer determination.

The playing field that you're playing on, though, is a bit more level than the one that Willie Mays played on.  It's not perfect.  We have systemic, built-in bias and prejudice.  When a Lakisha Washington's name is on an application for a job or a Garcia, it might not get the same attention as an Emily Brandon or a John Smith.  You're going to make sure, though, that that changes.  That's going to be the job that you have.

America is changing.  And America's not going back.  President Barack Obama, President Barack Obama is the Willie Mays of politics.  Each of you has a front-row seat to history.  Each of you has an obligation to make sure that America does not go back, that we cannot afford to go back for all of our people in this nation and for the world.

Martin Luther King, another mentor of mine and many of you, another Alabamian like Willie Mays, had great doubts about our nation at a critical time in our history.  He wondered at the time that he walked among us that America would continue as a democracy and a nation.  We treated millions of our citizens as less than second class.  Dr. King wanted America to live up to its promises of equality.

And when he walked among us, he told us an old story, a story about another nation, a nation that no longer existed, a nation that had great promise, but lost its way.  The year was 900 B.C.  The Jews, the children of Israel, had been released from slavery, and they had wandered from place to place until they finally found a homeland.  This homeland, near the present site of Jerusalem, was where they built a great city called a city-state. And inside of the great walls that surrounded this city, they had a school system.  They had a banking system.  They had courts.  They had law enforcement, very much like today.  And they also had a great marketplace in the center of this town where people from far and wide brought their products in to sell. And there was one farmer who came from a neighboring village with his wagon laden.

As he got to the big gates, waiting for them to open early in the morning, he saw things that bothered him.  He saw able-bodied men and women reaching out begging for a few grains from his wagon.  And he overheard them say that, "Well, you know, if you are -- if you were not a part of the in group or the right group, you didn't get a good job or a job at all to feed your family."  And then when he got in the marketplace and put his products out to sell, he heard grumbling from the people walking up and down the street.  And he learned that well, sometimes, if you get a case that goes to court, if you're not part of the in group or the group in power, you don't get fair justice.  And sometimes you get arrested when other people don't.  And this bothered this farmer.  He was a man of some means and reputation in his community, and he knew the struggle that these people had gone through.  And he asked for an audience with the leaders so he could express his concerns.

Most of you here know who this farmer was.  He was the biblical prophet Amos.  And Amos stood before those leaders and he said, "Folks, you know, you got a good thing going here.  But unless you're fair to all the people in this great city, you're not going to get to keep what you have to pass down to future generations.  It's going to be taken away from you."  And he said, "You know, it's your responsibility, if you want to keep what you have, to be fair."  And he used the words that Dr. Martin Luther King spoke to us over 40 years ago at a troubling time in this nation.  He said, "Don't be satisfied, people, until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream."

I remember one of those dark days in our history in Birmingham, Alabama, 1963. Willie Mays was playing baseball.  In fact, he hit about 40 home runs that year.  But back in his hometown of Birmingham, Alabama, Klansmen put a bomb under the stairwell of the 16th Street Baptist Church and four little Sunday School girls died that day because of the color of their skin.  Dr. Martin Luther King must have had a heavy heart when he preached their funeral.  But  during those dark times -- and we might say today we face  some of those dark times in this nation, in this world --  Dr. King told us that he believed in us, not just those of  us who were there then, but you who would come in the future.  And he went to Washington, D.C. with 250,000 people sitting at his feet and millions watching him on television when he said, "You can do it."  He said that, "I have a dream that one day in the red clay hills of Georgia, that the sons and daughters of former slaves and the sons and daughters of former slaveowners will sit down around the table of brotherhood."

It's been a long time since Dr. King left us, but I think if he was still here today, he would still have that same faith in this generation, in these students here. And I think if he was making that speech today, if I might be so bold as to put words in this great American's mouth, he might say that, "I have a dream that one day in the red clay hills of Georgia.  And today he might add, "In the barrios; in the ghettoes; and on the reservation; and in the seats of economic and political and judicial power in this nation that the sons and daughters of former slaves and the sons and daughters of former slaveowners," and today he might add, "the homeless, the poor, the powerless, and those who hold the keys to the economic and  political power in this nation will sit down around the  table of personhood and truly learn to love one another."

Our challenge is simple.  It's a thing called justice. You hold the keys to the gates of justice for the next generation. Human rights began close to home in our schools, in our communities and in our workplaces.  And it's in these places that people look for equal and fair treatment. And if they can't find justice and fairness in these places, then we'll look in vain for progress in a larger world.  But I know that you won't be satisfied until in the words of the prophet Amos and the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks and so many more who have gone before you, Cesar Chavez and others -- you will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters.  Thank you very much.


Thank you, Mr. Dees. You show us the power of the law and education to right wrongs and wipe out prejudice at its source.

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President's Remarks

Listen up, Class of 2009! In just a few minutes, we will arrive at the part of the program for which you all have been waiting -- the awarding of degrees!

Always remember that you are as exceptionally talented and as well-educated a group as can be found anywhere.

You are graduating into a world of extraordinary challenges; we know that you will rise to meet them!

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Conferring of Doctoral Degrees

We now begin the Conferral of Degrees. Provost John Gemello and Dean of Graduate Studies Ann Hallum will present the candidates for the Doctoral Degree

By the joint action of the Board of Regents of the University of California and the Board of Trustees of the California State University, we are awarding two doctoral degrees today. We are conferring these degrees with the University of California, San Francisco.

Will Sharon Gorman please come forward for hooding by Dean Hallum.


Mr. President, subject to the completion of all requirements as prescribed by the Board of Regents of the University of California, the Trustees of the California State University, and the faculties of the University of California, San Francisco, and San Francisco State University, Sharon Gorman is presented for receipt of the degree Doctor of Physical Therapy Science.

Upon the recommendation of the administrative and teaching faculty of San Francisco State University and of the University of California, San Francisco, and by the authority vested in me as President of the University by the State of California under the provisions of the Donahoe Higher Education Act, I confer upon you, Sharon Gorman, the degree, Doctor of Physical Therapy Science, with all the rights, honors and opportunities attached thereto.


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Will Betty Smoot please come forward for hooding by Dean Hallum.


Mr. President, subject to the completion of all requirements as prescribed by the Board of Regents of the University of California, the Trustees of the California State University, and the faculties of the University of California, San Francisco, and San Francisco State University, Betty Smoot is presented for receipt of the degree Doctor of Physical Therapy Science.

Upon the recommendation of the administrative and teaching faculty of San Francisco State University and of the University of California, San Francisco, and by the authority vested in me as President of the University by the State of California under the provisions of the Donahoe Higher Education Act, I confer upon you, Betty Smoot, the degree, Doctor of Physical Therapy Science, with all the rights, honors and opportunities attached thereto.



Presentation of the Hood Recipients

It is time to introduce the graduating students on the platform whom President Corrigan mentioned earlier -- our 2009 hood recipients.

It is an academic custom to invest those earning degrees with hoods that designate the degree bestowed. Time does not allow us to present each of the graduates here today with a hood.

Therefore the graduate program has chosen an outstanding student to represent all of these receiving their master's degree and each college of the University has chosen an outstanding student to represent those earning undergraduate degrees. These students will receive the hood on behalf of their fellow members of the class of 2008.

Would the hood recipients and the respective deans please come forward?


Audience, please hold your applause until all the hood recipients have been presented.

Representing all students receiving their master's degree today is Mr. Jordan Hayes, who is receiving a Master of Arts in English Literature and a Certificate.


Before entering San Francisco State, Jordan Hayes was employed as a tutor for an educational firm, then started his own tutoring company devoted to young, special needs learners. Throughout his graduate studies, he has volunteered at San Francisco State's English Tutoring Center and has continued his work with youngsters who are dealing with such issues as dyslexia and autism. His innovative master's thesis dealt with South African media portrayals of apartheid. Mr. Hayes has already presented his research at seven professional conferences, and will be applying to Ph.D. programs in the fall, planning to teach English at the college level.

Dean of the Graduate Division, Ann Hallum, will now present the hood.


Ms. Susan Estrada, a Sociology major, has been selected to receive the investiture in the College of Behavioral and Social Sciences.


Watching her parents work physically demanding jobs made Susan Estrada determined to get an education. Today, she becomes the first in her family to graduate from college. Though she had to pay her way through school, holding multiple jobs, Ms. Estrada excelled at San Francisco State, appearing on the dean's list every semester. She also found time to mentor children through the Jumpstart program and serve as a teaching assistant in two departments. She plans to earn a Ph.D. in Sociology and pursue an academic career.

Joel Kassiola, Dean of the College of Behavioral and Social Sciences will now confer the hood.


Representing all of today's graduates in the College of Business is Mr. Igor Ryvkin, an Accounting and Financial Services major.


Igor Ryvkin found his time at San Francisco State to be a journey of self-discovery. Mr. Ryvkin overcame a language barrier after emigrating from Ukraine at age nine. At San Francisco State, he found his academic love in Accounting. He has donated his time to the volunteer income tax assistance program, supervising and managing 205 volunteers and assisting in preparing nearly 1,000 tax returns for low-income San Franciscans. He will return to campus this fall to earn an MBA with a concentration in Accounting.

College of Business Dean Nancy Hayes will confer the hood.


Mr. Johnathan Dauermann, a Music major, has been selected to receive the hood on behalf of all graduates in the College of Creative Arts.


Our national anthem soloist, Jonathan Dauermann, has won numerous honors during his years at SF State. He was named a Nagel Scholar and received the School of Music and Dance's Presser Award, bestowed each year on one outstanding student. He won the 2006 San Francisco State concerto competition and was selected for the CSU Study Abroad program, where he studied at a prestigious German music academy and became fluent in that language. Mr. Dauermann will return to his native Los Angeles, where he plans to pursue a career in vocal performance.

The Dean of the College of Creative Arts, Kurt Daw, will confer the hood.


Ms. Chikako Fujii, a Communicative Disorders major, has been selected to receive the hood for the College of Education.


While earning her degree in Communicative Disorders, Chikako Fujii has balanced academic achievement with community work. She has provided child care for three autistic children and worked as a teacher's aide. Ms. Fujii and her family moved to the U.S. from Japan when she was five, and her cross-cultural experience fueled her interest in the role of cultural issues in treating Communicative Disorders. This fall, she will enter San Francisco State's master's program in this field and will become a apeech-language pathologist, combining her Japanese language skills with speech-language therapy.

The Dean of the College of Education, Jake Perea, will confer the hood.


Ms. Jessica Michelle Aguilar, a double major in Raza Studies and Sociology, has been selected to receive the hood for the College of Ethnic Studies.

You heard earlier about the wide range of activities in which Ms. Aguilar has excelled. She has another reason for celebration today, having just received the kind of news any graduating student would welcome: she has a job! She will start this fall as a middle school teacher at Oakland's Urban Promise Academy, working with students who are English language learners.

The Dean of the College of Ethnic Studies, Kenneth Monteiro, will confer the hood.


Ms. Keet Yee Annie Leong-Chan, a Kinesiology major, has been selected to receive the investiture in the College of Health and Human Services.


Annie Leong-Chan's road to a college degree took more than two decades. Although the native of Malaysia excelled in school, her family's resources went to her brother's higher education. Leong-Chan tutored and gradually built two businesses that employed disabled workers before moving to the U.S. At San Francisco State, Ms. Leong-Chan tutored fellow students until she and her husband began to provide long-term foster care for children who had been removed from their homes. She plans to earn a graduate degree in Physical Therapy or Nursing.

The Dean of the College of Health and Human Services, Don Taylor, will confer the hood.


Ms. Sarah Morris, a Journalism major, has been selected to receive the hood on behalf of all graduates in the College of Humanities.


After high school, Maine native Sarah Morris held dead-end jobs until she decided to pursue a college degree. After doing outstanding work at two community colleges, she enrolled in San Francisco State's Journalism program. Here she has again excelled, winning praise from the faculty for her crisp, accurate and fair reporting for our student newspaper, [X]Press. She was selected for the key post of Managing Editor, becoming, in her professor's view, perhaps the best ever. She is now applying her passion for storytelling to writing a first novel.

Paul Sherwin, Dean of the College of Humanities, will confer the hood.


Ms. Karina Roitman, a double major in Mathematics and Physics, has been selected to receive the hood on behalf of all graduates in the College of Science and Engineering.


A native of Argentina who moved to California just three years ago, Karina Roitman graduates today with a double major in Physics and Mathematics. At San Francisco State, Roitman conducted research alongside faculty at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center, and has presented her research at a professional scientific conference, while also finding time to tutor underserved high school students. She received a prestigious Casanova Pre-Doctoral Scholar Award and next fall will begin work on her doctorate in Physics at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

Sheldon Axler, Dean of the College of Science and Engineering, will confer the hood.


Ms. Stephanie Susan Miller, a Liberal Studies major, has been selected to receive the hood on behalf of all Lliberal Studies and Special Major graduates.


Stephanie Miller chose to major in Liberal Studies in order to pursue her wide-ranging interests in art, architecture, science and the humanities. Raised in Germany by an American father and German mother, Stephanie moved to the U.S. in the 1990s. After attending community college, she transferred to San Francisco State where she has excelled. One of her professors describes her as "the best...of more than 4,000 Liberal Studies majors I have taught over the last 20 years." Ms. Miller plans to apply to a master's program in either Museum Studies or Humanities.


Dean of Undergraduate Studies Gail Evans will now confer the hood.


We are tremendously proud of these outstanding students. Please join me in a round of applause for our 2009 hood recipients!

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Conferral of Master's Degrees

We now begin the conferral of degrees. Provost John Gemello will present the candidates for the master's degree.

Will all the candidates for the degree Master of Arts please rise.

  • The candidates for the degree Master of Fine Arts.
  • The candidates for the degree Master of Business Administration.
  • The candidates for the degree Master of Music.
  • The candidates for the degree Master of Public Administration.
  • The candidates for the degree Master of Public Health.
  • The candidates for the degree Master of Science.
  • And the candidates for the degree Master of Social Work.

Mr. President, subject to the completion of all requirements as prescribed by the trustees of the California State University and the faculty of San Francisco State University, these candidates are presented for receipt of the appropriate master's degrees.

Upon the recommendation of the administrative and teaching faculty of San Francisco State University, and by the authority vested in me as President of the University by the State of California, I confer upon each of you who has completed the requirements, the master's degree for which you are listed in the commencement program, together with all rights, privileges and responsibilities attached thereto.

Will the master's degree recipients please be seated. In a few moments, the faculty marshals will be guiding you to the stages, row by row.

Will the deans please go to their respective stages.

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Distribution of Diplomas to Master's Degree Candidates

Will the faculty marshals please direct the master's degree recipients to the stages, starting from the front. We ask that graduates please wait for the marshals' instructions. After leaving the stages, graduates will proceed to the rear of the stadium and will be guided out.

Coming forward to the stage on the right of the jumbo screen will be graduates from the Colleges of Health and Human Services, Creative Arts, Humanities, Science and Engineering, and Education.

And to the stage on the left of the screen, Liberal Studies/Special Major graduates and graduates from the Colleges of Business, Ethnic Studies, and Behavioral and Social Sciences.


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Conferring of Bachelor's Degrees

And now, the moment for which so many have been waiting!

Will the candidates for the degrees Bachelor of Arts please rise!

The candidates for the Bachelor of Music, and the candidates for the degree Bachelor of Science!

Mr. President subject to the completion of all requirements as prescribed by the trustees of the California State University and the faculty of San Francisco State University, these candidates are presented for receipt of the appropriate baccalaureate degrees.

Upon the recommendation of the administrative and teaching faculty of San Francisco State University, and by the authority vested in me as President of the University by the State of California, I confer upon each of you who have completed the requirements, the baccalaureate degree for which you are listed in the commencement program, together with all the rights, privileges, and responsibilities attached thereto.

It is customary that those receiving the baccalaureate degree move the tassels of their caps from the right side to the left side. I ask that you who have just received your degrees move your tassels now. You've just graduated!

Members of the audience, I present to you the class of 2009! Please join me in a round of applause for all of them. Class of 2009, as you leave us today, you take with you our affection and respect, our belief in you, and our hope that you will fulfill all of your dreams.

God bless you all!

The faculty marshals will now guide the bachelor's degree recipients to the stage, row by row, starting from the front.

Coming forward to the stage on the right of the jumbo screen will be graduates from the Colleges of Health and Human Services, Creative Arts, Humanities, Science and Engineering and Education.

And to the stage on the left of the screen, Liberal Studies/Special Major graduates and graduates from the Colleges of Business, Ethnic Studies, and Behavioral and Social Sciences.


Distribution of Diplomas to Bachelor's Degree Candidates 

Deans distribute diplomas as before, students exit stadium after receiving their diplomas.

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-- University Communications


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