|SFSU Celebrates 103rd Commencement: Transcript|
May 29, 2004
The following is a transcript of San Francisco State University's 103rd Commencement on Saturday, May 29, 2004 in Cox Stadium on campus before an audience of 20,000.
On reaching their places on the platform, the processional participants remained standing for the National Anthem.
ANNOUNCER (ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR OF BROADCAST and ELECTRONIC COMMUNICATION ARTS, MARTIN GONZALEZ):
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 Robert Busan. Our soloist for the national anthem is Ryan Andes, who graduates today with a bachelor of music in vocal performance.
[Mr. Andes moved to his microphone, sings the national anthem]
Please be seated.
Thank you, Mr. Andes. What a marvelous start for our commencement celebration.
Members of the San Francisco State University class of 2004, good afternoon!
Bienvenidos! Bienvenidos! Huan Ying! Huan Ying! Mabuhay! Konnichi-Wa! Shalom! Salaam! Pari Yegahk!
A special welcome to all of our guests and families. What an absolutely spectacular occasion, a glorious San Francisco day, a joyous day, a serious day. It should be a day of lifetime significance for you, our graduates, and a day of joy and pride for your families and yours friends. Most of all, it's a day to celebrate accomplishment.
We begin by remembering the spirit in which we have gathered here this afternoon. And to deliver the invocation, I am honored to present the newly selected Bishop for San Francisco of the Buddhist Churches of America, Bishop Koshin Ogui.
There are three important things anyone who associates with me.
Before the meditation is a word of wisdom. May I extend my sincere respect to the people who have the consciousness of diversity of races, cultures, and religions, who made it possible me to be here today.
With these words, shall we practice one minute's meditations.
My life is not only my life. Rather, it is a life made up of the sacrifices, kindness, and thoughtfulness of countless others. As you gather here to celebrate this achievement, wonderful milestone in your life, there is no doubt that an effort to succeed was made on your part. But at the same time, may you reflect upon the countless causes and conditions which made this event possible. In doing so, we convey our sincere thankfulness and gratitude to those countless causes and conditions that have supported and sustained us in order that we may succeed in our endeavors.
The degree bestowed upon you today, the goal that each of you has achieved will no doubt serve to benefit your life and future from this day forward. While it is a time to celebrate your achievement, it is also time to question what each of you can do for others in return as the expression of great debt, of gratitude owed for all that you have received. It is, indeed, true, my life is not only my life, rather, it is a life made up of the sacrifices, kindness, thoughtfulness of countless others.
Thank you, Bishop Ogui, for your inspiring words, a message that reflects so well the values that unite us all this afternoon.
Joining us on the platform today are some special guests who will be introduced by our announcer, Professor Martin Gonzalez.
Joining us on the platform today 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.
PROF. GONZALEZ, PROF. GONZALEZ, ANNOUNCER:
Please stand as your name is called. And audience, please hold your applause.
From the board of trustees of the california state university:
From the President's Advisory Board and SFSU Foundation Board of Directors:
From the SFSU Foundation Board of Directors:
From the campus:
It is a real joy to be here with you today at San Francisco State’s one hundred and third commencement. Graduation is surely the most important event in any university's life -- and the proudest.
You, our graduates, have every right to take pride in your accomplishments. For you, there has been no ivory tower, no opportunity to devote yourselves entirely to the life of the mind.
For many of you, this has been more than a four-year path. You have had to balance work --
-- work, and for many of you, family responsibilities with your academic studies. But you did persevere. And we congratulate you for the achievements that you have made.
Clearly, you, the members of the class of 2004 are a richly diverse community. And your varied life experiences, cultural backgrounds and unique perspectives have made this campus a richer, more exciting place for all of us.
You are, indeed, a virtual world unto yourselves. In all, you are the native sons and daughters of 110 different nations. Some of your families have been here longer than the university has existed; others of you may have arrived barely two years ago. Virtually all of you are California residents, largely from the Bay Area, but almost 25 percent of you were born outside of the United States, even though educated in the state of California.
In your diversity, your courage, and your determination to make a difference, you make us all proud of you. And while you have been students here, you have gained much of your academic and personal strength from our outstanding faculty, men and women of principle and outstanding distinction, they care deeply about you. They sit facing you now, sharing my pride in your many achievements and experiencing very mixed emotions as you prepare to leave us.
Please join me now in a round of applause for this extraordinary group of dedicated faculty members.
Vice president, Student Affairs, Penny Saffold.
VICE PRESIDENT SAFFOLD:
Thank you. Antoinette Ball entered San Francisco State four years ago as a presidential scholar, which is the most distinguished academic award we give to entering freshmen. She graduates today with a political science major, a drama major, and a resume that joins academic achievement with extensive community service.
Growing up in Compton, California, and raised by a single mother, Antoinette excelled academically. "Mom expected it of me," Antoinette says. And to make the message stronger, her mother set the example by going back to college to earn a doctorate degree when Antoinette was in high school.
Volunteering is central to Antoinette's life. "I can't talk about change unless I'm actually doing something," she says. "The best way I can make a difference in someone's life is to volunteer."
During her years at San Francisco State, Antoinette has volunteered her time and talent with the following agencies: The Rose Resnick Lighthouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired, Girls, Inc., an east Oakland after-school literacy program for young girls, and she is very active in her church, First AME Church of Oakland.
This seemingly tireless woman is a member of the New Style Motherlode Dance Company and she has worked as a outreach counselor for our office of student outreach services?
Antoinette will attend Florida State University this fall to pursue a master's degree in mass communication.
President Corrigan, I am delighted to present Antoinette Ball, speaking on behalf of the class of 2004.
Thank you, Dr. Saffold, for that wonderful introduction. Good afternoon, my fellow graduates and guests!
Today, we celebrate a milestone in our life that is to never be forgotten. We have worked extremely hard to reach this moment, and we should all be proud of ourselves.
San Francisco State has been our home during an important time of our life, and this graduation does not end that connection. We will always be a part of the history of San Francisco State. But this is only one of many milestones in our life.
We must remember that life is a journey, not a destination. In fact, life is many journeys. And this is one of many that we must take.
From the moment I stepped foot on this campus, I felt welcomed. This campus opened its arms to me and accepted me for who I was. It gave me the freedom to be who I wanted to be and grow into what I have become by challenging me to be open to new ideas and think outside the box. This has been an arduous and challenging four years for me, and for some of you, five, six, and maybe even seven years.
And if I didn't say your number, I was definitely thinking about you.
But the fact is, no matter how long it has taken, none of us made it alone. If it wasn't for the support of my family and friends and faith in God, I know I would not have made it through.
However, my mother was my inspiration and the example of everything I can only hope I will become. Maybe for some of you it wasn't your mother or your father. But we are all standing on the shoulders of someone. Others sacrificed so that we could be here today. Therefore we must walk with our heads high so that those to come will have a path to follow and shoulders to stand on.
My time here at San Francisco State has been a positive, life-altering experience, and it is all of you who have caused this. Each and every one of you came into this school with your own backgrounds, your own experiences, your own way of thinking, and you have left your mark. We have not only helped this school become what it is, but we have helped each other find our own truth in our own destinies.
In closing, I would like to recite an excerpt from a poem entitled "A Journey."
"It's a journey that I propose. I am not the guide nor technical assistant. I will be your fellow passenger. I have heard from previous visitors the road washes out sometimes and passengers are compelled to continue groping or turn back. I am not afraid. I am not afraid of rough spots or lonely times. I don't fear the success of this endeavor. I am simply in a space not to be discovered, but invented. I promise you nothing. I accept your promise of the same. We are simply riding a wave that may carry or crash. It's a journey, and I want to go. It's a journey, and I want to go. It's a journey, and we want to go. It's a journey, and the class of 2004 will go. Thank you.
Thank you, Antoinette, for giving a warm and personal voice to the Class of 2004.
PROF. GONZALEZ, ANNOUNCER:
And now, ladies and gentlemen, Provost and vice president for academic affairs, John Gemello will now present the emeritus faculty.
It is appropriate at a 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.
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 emeritus or emerita of San Francisco State University. May you take joy in the next stage of your life and remember that you will always be a part of your university family.
PROF. GONZALEZ, ANNOUNCER:
And now, ladies and gentlemen, the president of the San Francisco State University Alumni Association, Don W. Scoble, will present the Alumnus of the Year.
On behalf of the San Francisco State Alumni Association, I welcome you in your new status as alumni, joining the more than 200,000 graduates who preceded you.
We are really proud of you, and we hope that you will stay connected with us, as Antoinette said, helping to give back to the students who will follow you. And should you receive something from me sometime in the next several months that tells you how to do that, I hope that you will respond.
It is now my great pleasure to introduce our 2004 Alumnus of the Year, Chris Larsen. Chris, would you please join me.
Back in his student days in the early 1980s, Chris Larsen promised himself that once he was established in the business world, he would give back to San Francisco State. Since then, he has realized both halves of his goal exceptionally.
As cofounder and CEO of E-Loan, his is one of the outstanding Internet success stories. Chris envisioned a Web site that would allow consumers to shop directly for mortgages and other loans without the middleman or woman. Consumers loved it! In just seven years, E-Loan has sold more than $21 billion in consumer loans.
Chris Larsen has also become one of the nation's strongest and most effective voices in the fight to protect the privacy of our personal financial data. State Senator Jackie Speier says that without Chris, California's landmark financial privacy laws would never have become a reality.
As to giving back to this university, Chris Larsen has created one of the most generous scholarships on campus. Each semester, the Larsen scholarship program awards 2500 to each of ten students who are working toward a teaching credential or master's degree in education.
Chris Larsen is a corporate leader with a conscience. Yesterday, we celebrated him at the Alumni Hall of Fame event. Today, Chris Larsen, I am delighted to join President Corrigan in recognizing you as our 2004 Alumnus of the Year.
MR. CHRIS LARSEN:
Well, thank you for that incredible introduction. Thank you very much.
I feel like I should warn you guys before I start talking, because I know since I've been here that the university has become this, you know, world-class film, media, and radio school.
Incredibly exciting, incredibly exciting people. I, on the other hand, was an accounting undergrad. So in keeping with that discipline --
-- I will be speaking with absolutely no humor or excitement whatsoever.
First of all, I want to thank the Alumni Association and all of you for this incredible honor. I never would have thought I would be so lucky to be standing up here today. And I deeply appreciate it.
I also want to thank the university for all of the tools and the foundation that they gave me for my good fortune. This was a phenomenal experience for me. And I have to say it was an incredible bargain as well.
You know, when I was here in the early '80s as a freshman, you know, the tuition was only 200 bucks a year. We need to bring that back. In fact, it was so cheap that we had to take several backpacking trips to Europe just to justify all the student loans we were taking out.
I know things are more expensive today. And we need to bring the prices back down. But I think you guys also have more -- you have more freedom than we had. You know, when I was a business student here, you really had a sense that it was kind of either/or. You know, either you were a businessperson or you were a consumer advocate. Either you were an artist or you were an engineer. Either you were on the left or you were on the right. And it was sort of a shame back then, because what I have seen being out in the world is that the struggles today aren't so much left or right as they are up versus down. You know, it's all about people that have power, no matter what they do, versus those that don't have power. And that's really what motivated us to start our company, E-Loan, is to compete against the banking industry, which is a very powerful industry, and, frankly, is a very corrupt industry. You know, it pays millions of dollars to politicians so it can get its way and it can work against transparency and fairness and it can protect its ability to steal and sell your privacy.
Clearly, that kind of shortsightedness has to change and has to be reformed. But the one thing I say is that, you know, it's so powerful out there, that organization, that industry, and those types of industries, that can't be reformed unless both sides of all of you here, right, the business people and the consumer advocates, the artists and the engineers, start working together.
The good news is, I actually started -- I am seeing that happening. You know, we are seeing many of the graduates like you that might have seen public service as their only avenue for reform are actually now starting ground-breaking new businesses that are changing things. And we are also seeing people join the business world who are actually seeking a market advantage by being open and transparent and trying to give control back to individuals.
And the truth is, you don't have to be like Ralph Nader to change things. Not that there's anything wrong with being a delusional egomaniac that's responsible for all this deep s--t that we're in right now. But let's not go there!
That guy was such a hero when I was growing up. And now he's such a d--k! What's up with that?
When you speak at functions like this, you're supposed to say stuff like, now is your time. You guys are young. Go out and take risks. You know, that's true. However, when I was graduating, I had lots of debts and lots of maxed out credit cards. I really needed to work for people that I was going to compete against later and even some people I didn't respect all that much. The truth is, it took me about eight years before I could venture out on my own. So, you know, no matter where you guys end up, you know, I would just say keep your eyes open. Try to get angry when you see things that aren't right. And just know that it's never too late to cut the life boats and venture out on your own and make your fortunes and reform the system all at the same time. And make your parents very happy, by the way.
Last thing I'll say, when you make your fortunes, whether they're big ones or small ones, please remember to give some of it back to State. State really needs your help. So help out when you can. Thank you very much.
Thank you, Chris we're proud that you are a San Francisco State alumnus. We're a little bit unhappy you're so reticent about your views.
But you are in the great tradition of San Francisco State.
At commencement, we not only recognize and honor 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 to honor outstanding individuals who can serve as stirring models with the highest values in achievements to which you can aspire as graduates.
You met one person like this already, our Alumnus of the Year. It is my privilege now to present another and to confer upon him the highest award that the president of a California State University campus may bestow on his or her own, the President's Medal for Service.
Conferred on rare occasions, the medal recognizes an individual whose work has long lasting and wides spread benefits for the university and our society at large.
That definition seems custom-made for the man I am about to introduce to you -- San Francisco State University Professor Gary Selnow. Gary, would you please join me at the podium?
Gary Selnow, because of you, a network of community health information centers throughout Kenya is bringing HIV/AIDS awareness and information to even far-flung African villages.
Because of you, Gary Selnow, Iraq's doctors, nurses, and hospitals desperately in need of up-to-date medical information are obtaining it by means of your new computer network.
Because of you, hospitalized children from Albania, the Balkans, and other war-ravaged nations can see and speak with their families by interactive video, though they are being treated a thousand miles away in a nation that is not their home, in a language they cannot speak.
Through these and many more projects stretching across nine countries and four continents, you are demonstrating, Gary Selnow, that computers and Internet access continents are a powerful means to address massive needs for the disadvantaged or the war-torn of our world.
Because your aims are greater than technology, you, Gary Selnow, have a broader goal to open hearts as well as minds, to end isolation and promote cooperation among sometimes hostile ethnic groups.
Gary Selnow, you demonstrate the power of an individual to make a difference. You are a splendid exemplar. It is with the greatest admiration that I now award to you the President's Medal for Service.
[President Corrigan places medal around Selnow’s neck]
Thank you, President Corrigan, for this honor, which I accept in the names of the gifted, generous, and caring people who work with me at WiRED, volunteers are the heart and soul of WiRED. They assist nurses and doctors in the battle against the ravages of diseases like AIDS. They supply computers to students in the world's poorest regions to help them pull alongside their brothers and sisters in more affluent countries.
From Africa to the Balkans, Nicaragua to the Middle East, these tireless volunteers provide people who are often forgotten with encouragement, information, and hope.
To illustrate, in Iraq alone, more than 5,000 doctors and medical students update their scientific knowledge at our electronic libraries. All of this is good in itself, but it also has a practical payoff. Like casting bread upon the waters, it comes back to us by restoring America's image abroad. Sadly, today, our national image is not good.
Professor Joseph Nye at Harvard says that among our nation's greatest strengths are our compassion, drive, and generosity for people abroad. American volunteers and their humanitarian work develop friendships and cultivate trust. And these build goodwill, which lies at the core of sound foreign relations.
Last year, I was reminded of how much volunteer power means to America while flying back from my first trip to Baghdad. I had hitched a ride on a military plane, and there, across from me, was the flag-draped body of a young American soldier killed in action. He was probably about the age of many graduates here today, surely no older than many of our volunteers. Seeing that soldier brought to mind two fronts in the war we are fighting today: One fought with a clenched fist, and the other with an outstretched hand. The first is military; the second, humanitarian.
The military battle began on September 11th, 2001, surely one of the darkest moments in American history. That was a terror strike on the innocent, and Americans reacted as we inevitably had to. We drew our swords, clenched our fists, and attacked an enemy that vowed to destroy us. That war took us to Afghanistan.
Then came Iraq. Iraq was not the cauldron of terrorism that it appears to be today. Indeed, our fight there seems not so much to have reduced terror as to have engendered it.
Today, we fight terrorism now almost entirely with the fist. Meanwhile, our friends have stepped back from us while our enemies gather in a thousand shadows. Nourished by fear and resentment, they grow in strength and in number.
We called out the soldiers on September 11th. If only we had called on all Americans. We could have summoned the humanitarian forces of teachers and scientists and entrepreneurs, students and builders, shopkeepers and writers. Their talents applied through the Peace Corps, Habitat for Humanity, the Fulbright program, and a multitude of small humanitarian organizations like WiRED would show the world that in helping, there is strength; in compassion, generosity; and sharing, there is power.
Humanitarian responses sometimes chided as soft-headed can be among America's greatest strategies against terrorism. In truth, nothing would do more to temper terrorism than sharing the wealth, the knowledge, the resources that flood the shadows with light and strike hard against the terror seeds of ignorance, disease, and poverty.
Being a professor, I have a compulsion to give advice. Now, Lord knows, you have had too many years of professorial advice. But I'd like to ask you just to bear a little more of it.
To the graduates sitting here today, let me say that, more than ever, this great country needs you. In the global war on terror, you might not take up the sword, but you can offer up your human talents, your professional skills, your youthful energies and enthusiasm in this new word. The battlefields are the clinics and shops, the classrooms and the operating rooms, the stadiums, and the union halls. Writer Roger Ingersoll said, "If the naked are clothed, if the hungry are fed, if justice is done, if the defenseless are protected, all must be the work of people. The grand victories of the future must be won by humanity and by humanity alone."
If some of new this remarkable class of 2004 were to join that human army, what a jubilant piece of news this would be for a hurt and broken world.
Thank you very much.
The academic world's highest honor is the one we are about to bestow -- the Honorary Doctorate.
Joining me for these honorary degree conferrals is the newly elected Chair of the California State University Board of Trustees, Ms. Murray Galinson.
The two people on whom we are conferring honorary degrees today have led vastly different lives. Born continents apart, one a statesman and public servant, the other a scholar and academic leader, they have at the same time, a commonality of values and of dedication to the greater good that makes them fitting models for our graduating class.
Galinson came forward to stage right podium]
Good afternoon! I am pleased to be here to share this commencement day with all of you and to participate in the awarding of honorary degrees to two outstanding individuals.
It is now my privilege to invite to the podium an individual whose entire life is a testament to the value of public service through public office. He embodies the ethic of lifelong civic engagement that the California State University seeks to foster in all its students. Would the honorable Willie Lewis Brown Jr. please join us?
Brown came forward and stands between podia]
Willie brown, in any history of California, your name will be writ large.
For more than 40 years in public office you have brought your tremendous talents and immense energies to bear on the major issues that have shaped -- and sometimes reshaped -- our state and our lives.
Willie brown, your record-setting tenure as Speaker of the Assembly -- a record that will never be broken -- demonstrates why you have been called “one of the most gifted politicians of the modern age.”
Galvanized by a commitment to social justice, spurred by personal experience of discrimination, and energized by your zest and singular leadership skills, you never hesitated to deal with the hardest issues -- school improvement, affordable housing, inner-city violence, the state budget, and -- especially meaningful to you -- the need for better representation of our state’s rich diversity in boardrooms, legislative chambers and other corridors of power.
Such is your persuasive power, Willie Brown, that in 1990, when the state ground to a halt for 64 days in a budget deadlock, your direct, personal intervention with the Governor succeeded where all else had failed -- and the state was back in business.
Willie Brown, this city, too, bears your particular stamp. Your two terms as mayor have left San Francisco wonderfully, beautifully transformed --– from City Hall to Mission Bay, from the Ferry Building to the Asian Art Museum, from ballpark to airport.
Willie Brown, in your home town of Mineola, Texas, a chain link fence in the local cemetery once separated blacks and whites, even in death. You, Willie Brown, have spent your life breaking chains -- for African Americans and for all the others who struggle for equal rights.
Willie Brown, your alma mater has twice before honored you at commencement -- once as Alumnus of the Year, and again as recipient of the president’s medal for service. It is with the greatest admiration that today, we award you the ultimate academic honor.
By the authority vested in me by the board of trustees, and in the name of the California State University and San Francisco State University, I hereby confer upon you, Willie Lewis Brown, Jr., the degree of Doctor of Laws, honoris causa, with all the rights, honors and opportunities which it imparts.
Galinson placed the hood on Mr. Brown, gave him the diploma
and they shook hands]
WILLIE LEWIS BROWN, JR.:
Mr. President, chair of the Board of Trustees, those who have received honors that preceded me to this podium, and the most important people present on this occasion, you, the graduating class of San Francisco State University 2004, I am deeply honored to be extended this honorary degree. It was 1955 when I occupied the same position you currently occupy.
Mr. Larsen, I did not know what it meant to be a delusional person. I must tell each one of you graduates this, however. Your prospects are virtually unlimited. It simply means the same energy, the same involvement you had through the class process of achieving the goal of a graduate, that must be applied in every aspect of your lives so that your qualities can be shared, every aspect of your achievements can become a part of the achievements of all of us, and just maybe it will change the world.
It is clear you still have a job to do, and so do I. At no point in our existence should we ever tolerate in this democracy a president who is on an as-need-to-know basis when running the nation. You can be a part of that dramatic change.
The standards for this democracy are incredibly high. You have been given the opportunity by virtue of your period at San Francisco State University to meet those standards. My life has been spent in an attempt to meet those standards. Whether or not I have achieved that goal will best be determined by those who write about me long after I'm gone. I'm sure they will be far more objective.
I hope, however, that each one of you will exceed whatever I have done in pursuit of that level of perfection. To achieve it means that a democracy will continue to be an option that people will adopt and not have imposed upon them.
Thank you, and congratulations.
Thank you, Doctor Brown. You encourage us all to work in our own ways to build a better society.
[Trustee Galinson returns to stage right podium]
It is now my privilege to invite to the podium an individual whose life speaks to the highest values of the California State University, and who won the Trustees’ immediate approval for conferral of an honorary doctorate. Would Vartan Gregorian please join us?
Gregorian came forward and stood between podia]
Vartan Gregorian, we are delighted to welcome you back home to a campus you once knew well. Some 40 years ago, straight out of Stanford, you joined our history faculty -- the first step en route to becoming an internationally-respected educational leader.
Vartan Gregorian, during the most challenging period in this school’s history, you were one of us, teaching middle eastern and European history, winning tenure -- and winning the respect and admiration of students and colleagues across the entire political spectrum.
Vartan Gregorian, the qualities that make you so exceptional a scholar, teacher, and human being, showed in abundance at San Francisco State. Amid the political passions and the fierce differences of opinion, you were always a positive force and a voice of reason.
You became a friend to many who considered each other enemies, and when you left this campus, students of many political persuasions set aside their differences to bid you fond farewell.
Vartan Gregorian, like many on this stage and in this stadium, yours is the classic American immigrant story. Undaunted by a poverty-stricken childhood as a member of an ethnic minority group in Iran, sustained by a deep love of learning and an exceptional mind, you came to this country to pursue a scholar’s life.
Here, you found it -- perhaps beyond your wildest dreams! Your gifts of intellect and strength of character have taken you to the pinnacle of the academic world.
The boy who struggled to find money to rent books became the man who would head one of the world’s great libraries -- the New York Public.
The young man who feared that unpaid school fees would cause his expulsion would become president of an Ivy League university.
The teacher-scholar who loved to share his zest for learning would one day lead one of the world’s most influential educational resources -- the Carnegie Foundation.
Vartan Gregorian, throughout your life, you have espoused values that this university holds dear.
You might have been thinking of this diverse campus when you wrote: "I know how extensive the cultural divide between different peoples can seem…so it seems to me that knowledge about the world…and about each other…is the only way to narrow the great gulfs that divide us."
You might also have been speaking of the commitment to civic engagement that San Francisco State values so highly when you wrote: "the fundamental challenge of education is to empower our young people to be active players in the drama of life – not mere spectators."
Vartan Gregorian, you are a man of rare intellect and equally rare spirit. You are a splendid model for our students, so:
By the authority vested in me by the Board of Trustees, and in the name of the California State University and San Francisco State University, I hereby confer upon you, Vartan Gregorian, the degree of Doctor of Humane Letters, honoris causa, with all the rights, honors and opportunities which it imparts.
[Trustee Galinson placed the hood on Dr. Gregorian and handed him the diploma; all shook hands. Trustee Galinson returned to his seat]
Class of 2004, 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. Vartan Gregorian!
DR. VARTAN GREGORIAN:
Thank you very much.
President Corrigan, honorees, The Honorable Willie Brown, Junior, Gary Selnow, Chris Larsen, my fellow educators, wonderful parents, families, staff, guests, and most important of all, my fellow graduates of class of 2004, I am deeply honored to be here today as part of your celebration. Unfortunately, I was given only one hour to talk to you.
VARTAN GREGORIAN: But I thought it was too much, because I told President Corrigan of the story of the archbishop who used to give such lengthy sermons that occasionally the congregation would leave the church. And one day the doorman brought the key and gave to the archbishop, he said, do you mind, when you finish the sermon, lock up the door. When I told that story to an academic audience, somebody said, professors usually speak 45 minutes. Somebody saw in front, someone looking at his watch, and the speaker stopped and said, what time is it, by the way? And the answer was, you may not have a watch, but there's a calendar behind you. So I'll try to be as brief as possible, even though, truly, I was not told how long to speak.
I am deeply honored to be here today as part of your celebration. At the same time, I have no illusion about my role. After all, hardly anyone remembers the speech of their own commencement. Or even who gave it, unless it was a celebrity like Jennifer Aniston, Quentin Tarantino, Will Smith. The reality is that you are probably too emotional right now to cope with a compound sentence and too keyed up to sleep, as they probably did in the 18th century when these orations were given in Latin or classical Greek. Looking back on a half century, the Washington Post recently cited only three unforgettable commencement addresses. One was given in 1947 by the U.S. Secretary of State, George Marshall, when he planned to rebuild Europe after World War II. Another was given in 1963 by President John F. Kennedy, who announced a moratorium on nuclear weapons test.
Surprisingly, the third one, delivered in 1997, had no news value at all. It featured the author Kurt Vonnegut's byline and his satirized commencement addresses that are often encrusted with pious moral instructions.
Yet, you may not have read the Vonnegut speech, but some of you have, because it continues to be E-mailed around the world. It began with a famous line, "Ladies and gentlemen of the class of '97, wear sunscreen." Other bits of advice, including injunction to floss, sitting, stretch, and don't mess too much with your hair.
My favorite line was, "Remember compliments you receive. Forget the insults. If you succeed in doing this, tell me how."
The Vonnegut speech seemed to raise the bar to commencement addresses.
But, thankfully, I can breathe easier today, knowing, as perhaps many of you do, that the speech turned out to be a hoax, an Internet hoax, perpetrated by someone who simply pasted the author's name on top of a humor column that was actually written by Mary Schmidt and published in the Chicago Tribune. In a subsequent article referring to the hoax, she said cyberspace is a lawless swamp and quoted Vonnegut as saying, "It's a spooky place over there."
But I'm here today to pay tribute to San Francisco State, to express my gratitude to it. For it was this wonderful university that gave me my first opportunity to teach and to learn at the same time. It launched my professional career. It became my first house of intellect and gave me the opportunity to be and to become, to grow, to know, and engage in social action, to meet students and dedicated faculty members who loved their calling, the privilege of teaching, who did not believe that teaching and research were mutually exclusive. They took the title of "professor" seriously. They were here to profess or to teach.
I am here today to pay tribute also to American higher education in general and public higher education in particular. I am here today especially to pay homage to you, your growth as educated, cultured citizens, to metamorphose into the kind of human beings who have developed the ability to at least try to comprehend the incomprehensible, to make sense of the confusion, wrestle some logic out of the illogical, and challenge even ugliness to show some glimmer of beauty somewhere deep within its core.
You have spent the last four, six, seven, eight, or nine years at San Francisco State University in order to learn how to analyze, synthesize, and systematize information and knowledge, to separate the chaff from the wheat, subjectivity from objectivity, fact from opinion, public interest from private interest, manipulation from influence, and spin from corruption.
I hope you have learned to be flexible in your thinking, adaptable in your analysis of issues, and appreciative of the complexities that comprise almost every aspect of today's life, both in human and global scale.
I'm sure you don't yet realize just what an extraordinary skill you have developed here, how well it will serve you in the future, and how desperately the world needs people who are not paralyzed by complexity, but welcome the opportunity it brings to think new thoughts, develop new ideas, and new ways of solving problems.
I am sure you are and always will be mindful of the Great American humorist, H.L. Mencken, who said, "There is always an easy solution to every human problem, neat, plausible, and always wrong."
I am here to remind us, everyone else, including politicians who may be here, in Washington, and in all state houses, of the fact that for more than two centuries, American colleges and universities have been the backbone of our nation's progress, helping it make an economic, scientific, cultural, technological, social, and even military power.
The American university is incomparably the most democratic in the world. It's popular in the best sense of the term, admitting and educating unprecedented numbers of men and women of every incredible variety of races, personal -- and I can here speak also of the fact people of different, unimaginable backgrounds, including mine, including 110 nationality representatives who are here. Today, there are almost 3,500 colleges and universities in our country, including some 1,200 public and private two-year institutions.
U.S. colleges and universities enroll more than 15 million students and annually grant some two million diplomas. Higher education employs more than three million people, including 500 to 600,000 full-time faculty. Indeed, it's a $200 billion enterprise. More people work for higher education in the United States now than automobile, textile, steel, and fuel industries combined.
Sometimes we take the American university for granted and forget its central role in our society. But it's worth noting that our colleges and universities have educated our nation's technical, managerial, and professional work force and provided generation after generation of national leaders. Its unparalleled capacity for basic research has put the United States at the cutting edge of science, technology, and scholarship in humanities and social science as well.
With all of this vast network of colleges and universities, this nation would never have achieved its current overall preeminence.
In the past, Americans and their leaders have long understood and respected this vital national interest in education and have appealed confidently to universities in times of war and peace, during the industrial revolution as well as during the World War I and World War II, to rise and help America. And universities have done their duty and obligation with great ease as well as pride.
The 21st century brings new challenges and changes of unimaginable kind and scope, for technologies are rapidly evolving, global communications are bringing social changes whose consequences are not well understood. At the same time, new international political and economic practices are forcing us to confront the fact that we are entering into a knowledge age rather than a muscle age.
We should always bear in mind and remind the American public and our nation its policymakers, some of the landmarks along the American university's journey and preeminence. Of course, the first major historical opportunity for American higher education came in 1862, when Congress enacted the Morrill Act, by which created Land Grant Universities.
I am saying this because, currently, we say we are in a war. We have other needs; we cannot spend in education.
Abraham Lincoln, in the middle of civil war, Congress, in the middle of civil war, enacted Land Grant Universities Act, which brought universities to communities all over the nation, and it brought for the first time different races, different sexes, and all the industries, and so to show that without American higher education, American industries, American agriculture, American manpower, human resources would not be there.
-- in the middle of civil war, Abraham Lincoln established National Academy of Sciences in 1863. Now, nobody expected him to do. Nobody expected a president to discuss in 1863 the merits of metric system. But he did. Because all of them, including President Roosevelt, and later, President Truman, all of them were looking forward rather than backward. They were looking at science and education not as a cost, but as investment in the future.
And that's what we need now.
We need all the politicians to realize that education is not a cost, it's not short-term burden; it's long-term investment.
Another major impact for education was Pell grants, which have given $200 billion to student aid in order to make equal opportunity a meaningful term, by nationalizing opportunity and democratizing access to education. That's not been a social policy; that's been a smart policy, because we compete today in the world, foreign students, international students studying in the world, two-thirds are in the United States, because we also have scholarship opportunity of a global level. As it was mentioned, it's the best example of American experience to expand knowledge, to expand generosity as best ways of demonstrating America's greatness.
Today, the cost of higher education is an issue, especially since tuition and fees in our nation's four-year colleges and universities have risen dramatically, much faster than median household income.
But there's a tendency today to see higher education as only cost and not an investment. Equal opportunity is imperative. Access is imperative in order to train our citizens for the challenges of the information age and global economy and global competition.
If we want to have today -- retain our economic, scientific, technological, cultural, political, and even military greatness and preeminence, we need America's higher education. We need you.
If higher education is a long-term investment rather than a short-term cost item, we, the universities, local state and federal authorities should also do all to protect our investments, for we face grave challenges today. Sixty percent of students in community colleges are dropping out; of four-year colleges, 40 percent are dropping out. These dropouts are due to financial, personal, and other things, or unpreparedness of K-12 education system. They are wasteful and hurtful, not economically, but socially. There are many brilliant people like you today who have no access to opportunity. But thank God you have prevailed, through persistence, hard work, dedication of your mentors and your parents.
At San Francisco State University, you have learned how to learn -- to learn and go on learning throughout your lives.
One of my favorite expressions is that -- from Gabriel Garcia Marquez's "Love in the Time of Cholera," that people are not born once and for all when their mothers give birth to them, but throughout their lives, they continue to give rebirth to themselves. And this is one of the things I hope you realize, you have to give constantly educational, intellectual rebirth to yourselves and not to be frightened of the future.
But today's ceremony is not one of hail and farewell, but one of commencement. You are, after all, at a new starting point in your life, the beginning of many affirmations, many wonderful experiences, many exciting possibilities, and surely because you are a member of the human community, that's one of the reasons I like to leave two admonishing notes for you. One is, in life, everybody can cope with success; it's how you cope with adversity, with tragedy, with defeat will determine your character. I hope your education will help you to develop a distinct attitude about life, an attitude that persistently seeks meaning and perspective, especially in places where none seem to exist. It's an attitude that exudes adapt ability in a perplexing world. It's an attitude of courage and steadfastness in a world of overwhelming human need and suffering. And that, perhaps, is the most important message I can bring today to you.
Change the world. Leave it better than you found it. And remember what Oliver Wendell Holmes said, "Life is action and thought. You have to be engaged. It's not nice just to have ideas. You have to act upon your ideas. It's not nice just to preach. You have to also act. It's not nice to register alone. You have to vote. You have to give a damn about your citizenship. All the gains for you are by people who have suffered. Women have suffered, Hispanics have suffered. Asians that have suffered. All the whites that have suffered to make this a better country in order to give an opportunity. So those of you who have the right and don't vote, you are betraying your own ideals, and you betray this country by being a pathetic observer rather than active participant to determine your fate.
Because of time, I cut my speech by half. I'm almost there. Don't worry.
There are many more lessons that I could give, but I only will give you one last word.
More than ever today, we need young men and women skilled in thinking. My favorite act is Sheridan's saying in the critic, 1799, that the number of those who undergo the fatigue of judging for themselves is precious few. You have spent your life to judge for yourselves. More than ever, we need rational people, committed people. More than ever, we need American citizens who view higher education as an investment in our nation, not another expense in the debit column, or, worse, a luxury meant only for those who can afford it. More than ever, we need a new generation of Americans dedicated to leaving the world in better shape than they inherited it.
What we do not need is a nation of technocrats alone with expert but tunnel vision, knowing how to fix but no convictions at all. What we do need are citizens who are committed to success, but also courageous and skilled at coping with disappointment, but also fixing the world with convictions. In a world where AIDS, tuberculosis and other deadly diseases continue their global assault on human life, where 1.2 billion human beings live on less than a dollar a day, you also have to think universally and globally. You cannot just be an isolated island. As wisely observed, in America, each generation of new people. Graduates, you are the new people. In fact, today, May 29th, 2004, is your first official day as ancestors in training. The most recent beneficiaries of America's great traditional public education, I hope you will return what you have earned in terms of education for the benefit of our nation. I wish you good luck. I'm sorry I did not have one hour to read my whole speech. But I'm sure you are grateful. God bless you, and congratulations.
Thank you, Dr. Gregorian.
Okay, class of 2004, listen up! Just a few minutes, a couple more minutes, we arrive at that part of the program for which you've all been awaiting, the awarding of degrees.
And as we proceed, I want to remind you that you are the faces and indeed the future of the 21st century. You have heard it over and over again from this platform, white, black, brown, tan, male, female, old, young, in all of your wonderful diversity, you will be this young century's heart, its mind, its leadership. And always remember that you are as talented and as well-educated a group as can be found anywhere in the world or the U.S. You are graduating, however, into a world of exceptional challenges. But we know that you will rise to meet them. I thank you.
PROF. GONZALEZ, ANNOUNCER:
It is now time to introduce the graduating students on the platform whom President Corrigan mentioned earlier, our 2004 hood recipients.
It's 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 master's degree program and each college of the university have chosen an outstanding student to represent all the students from that college, and on their behalf, to receive the hood. The respective deans will now confer the hood on these honor graduates. Dean Ann Hallum will now present the hood for the master's degree program.
Mr. Michael L. Rich, who is receiving his Master of Fine Arts degree in art, has been selected to receive the investiture of the hood on behalf of all graduate students receiving your master's degree.
PROF. GONZALEZ, ANNOUNCER:
Dean Joel Kassiola of the College of Behavioral and Social Sciences will present the Hood recipient from that college.
Ms. Jennifer P. Ibardolaza, a psychology major, has been selected to receive the investiture in the College of Behavioral and Social Sciences.
PROF. GONZALEZ, ANNOUNCER:
Dean Gerald Platt of the College of Business will now present the Business hood recipient.
Ms. Kamila Chase Kvitkova, a marketing major, has been selected to receive the investiture for the College of Business.
PROF. GONZALEZ, ANNOUNCER:
Dean Keith Morrison of the College of Creative Arts will now present the hood to the Creative Arts Honor Graduate.
Yo, Creative Arts. Mr. Jason Shepard Howell, a radio and television major, has been selected to receive the investiture in the College of Creative Arts.
PROF. GONZALEZ, ANNOUNCER:
Dean Jake Perea will now present the hood recipient from the College of Education.
Ms. Kellie Dawn Brindley-Koonce, a communicative disorders major, has been selected to receive the hood for the College of Education.
PROF. GONZALEZ, ANNOUNCER:
Dean Tomás Almaguer of the College of Ethnic Studies will now present the hood for the Ethnic Studies Honor Graduate.
Mr. Vincent Jefferson Laus, a double major in Asian-American studies and journalism has been selected to receive the investiture in the College of Ethnic Studies.
PROF. GONZALEZ, ANNOUNCER:
Dean Donald Zingale of the College of Health and Human Services will now present the hood to the Honor Graduate from that college.
Mr. Richard A. Correa, a major in health science, has been selected to receive the investiture in the College of Health and Human Services.
PROF. GONZALEZ, ANNOUNCER:
Dean Paul Sherwin of the College of Humanities will now present the hood for the Humanities Honor Graduate.
Ms. Jennifer Elaine Tinonga, an English major, has been selected to receive the investiture in the College of Humanities.
PROF. GONZALEZ, ANNOUNCER:
Dean Sheldon Axler will now present the hood for the Honor Graduate from the College of Science and Engineering.
Mr. Armando Josue Lemus Hernandez, a biology major, has been selected to receive the investiture in the College of Science and Engineering.
PROF. GONZALEZ, ANNOUNCER:
Dean of Undergraduate Studies Daniel Buttlaire will now present the honor graduate for Liberal Studies and Special majors.
Ms. Debra Ann Lyttle, a liberal studies major, has been selected to receive the investiture on behalf of Liberal Studies and Special Major Graduates.
PROF. GONZALEZ, ANNOUNCER:
Provost Gemello will now present the candidates for the master's degree. Will the candidates for the degree master of arts please rise.
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.
PROF. GONZALEZ, ANNOUNCER:
Will the master's degree recipients please be seated. In a few moments, the faculty marshals will guide you to the stages, row by row.
PROF. GONZALEZ, ANNOUNCER:
Will the deans please go to their respective stages.
Will the faculty marshals please guide the master's degree recipients to the stages, starting from the front. We ask that graduates wait to be directed by the marshals. After leaving the stages, graduates will proceed to the rear of the stadium and will be guided out.
Coming forward to the north stage will be graduates from the colleges of Behavioral and Social Sciences; Education; Health and Human Services; Humanities; and Liberal Studies/Special Majors.
And to the south stage, graduates from the colleges of Business; Ethnic Studies; Creative Arts; and Science and Engineering.
[DEANS DISTRIBUTE DIPLOMAS TO THEIR RESPECTIVE GRADUATES]
And now, the moment for which so many of you have been waiting!
PROF. GONZALEZ, ANNOUNCER:
Will the candidates for the degrees Bachelor of Arts, Bachelor of Music, Bachelor of Science, and Bachelor of Vocational Education, please rise!
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 degree.
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.
Members of the audience, I am delighted to present to you the Class of 2004, our future leaders, and they are the most splendid resource that we have.
Class of 2004, you take with you as you leave today our love and our respect, our belief in you and our hope that you will fulfill all of your dreams. God bless you all!
PROF. GONZALEZ, ANNOUNCER:
The faculty marshals will now guide the bachelor's degree recipients to the stages row by row, starting from the front.
Ladies and gentlemen, on the north stage, graduates from the Colleges of Behavioral and Social Sciences; Education, Health and Human Services; Humanities; and Liberal Studies/Special Majors.
And on the south stage, graduates from the Colleges of Business; Ethnic Studies; Creative Arts; and Science and Engineering.
Deans distribute diplomas as before, students exit stadium after receiving their diplomas.
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