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SFSU Celebrates 106th Commencement: Transcript

May 29, 2007


The following is a transcript of San Francisco State University's 106th Commencement on Saturday, May 26, 2007 in Cox Stadium on campus before an audience of 20,000.



Processional and National Anthem

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

And now 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 today for the National Anthem is Joachim Luis, who graduates today with a Bachelor of Music in vocal performance.



Introductions and Welcome

Thank you, Mr. Luis. What a stirring opening for our Commencement celebration. Ladies and gentlemen, please be seated. Members of the San Francisco State University class of 2007, good afternoon.

A very special welcome to all of our guests and families. For you, as our graduates, this is a historic day. You have looked forward to this ceremony perhaps almost as eagerly as our graduates, and indeed your presence adds greatly to their pride and pleasure. And I know for years, that they've been telling you about the great weather at San Francisco State, so we decided to give you a taste of it today.

Today as we mark SF State’s 106th Commencement, I'm 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. Members of the class of 2007, you are a true global community and your varied life experiences, cultural backgrounds and unique perspectives have made this campus an intellectually and culturally richer place for all of us because of your presence.

You are virtually a United Nations, the native sons and daughters of 118 countries are represented at this ceremony today.

Ten of your classmates, our hood recipients, are seated on this platform. You'll hear more about them later in the ceremony, but I want to say now that in their courage, achievement, their determination to make a difference for themselves and for their world, they represent your experiences and exemplify the values that we hold most dear at the institution.

Now today marks a milestone in your lives. And while I take great pride in you and in acknowledging that milestone, it's not really enough and I want to leave you with a challenge, a challenge to go out and live by the values that this singular University has stood for for over a century, the values we hope that 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 that has made a commitment to social justice and equity the first of its fundamental goals -- living out that commitment in many ways. Hiring, for example, the most diverse faculty of any university in the United States.

Where but at San Francisco 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 -- the elderly, the immigrant, the disadvantaged teens, families whose children, with your help, may one day sit here in this audience.

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 never with hatred -- a skill this world sorely needs.

Where but at San Francisco State could you meet, study and work with a truly global group of fellow students -- people who expanded your world views many times over.

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 environment, healthcare, the media, business management, public education -- virtually any field that 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.

So now that you are moving from the campus to that larger world onto a new stage in your lives, I ask you to hold that model in your mind and in your heart.

The world out there needs you and -- it needs your San Francisco State values. From the front page to the business page -- even to the sports page -- the news is full on a daily basis with subjects that reflect the ethical lapses in our society.

This profound lack of integrity -- this failure of a moral value system -- is not restricted to one political party, to one religious group, to one ethnic group or one gender group. It cuts across our entire society.

But you have an opportunity -- and you have an obligation -- to do something about this situation. We have sought -- this faculty, these people who have taught you have sought -- to give you the tools that you will need to think about complex issues and to deal with them as informed, ethical citizens. We want you to act, and to do so in the context of values that take in the needs and the concerns of millions and millions and billions of others out there.

And so, I challenge you to put your San Francisco State values into action and, as you leave today, remember what this University stands for and what we want you to stand for because we expect you to be a force for good.

The goal we are really asking you to achieve -- whatever your chosen profession -- is to say 'no' to greed. To say 'no' to opportunism. To say 'no' to dishonesty. And decide that integrity and your own moral compass is what really matters for the world and for you. Ladies and gentlemen, if you can do that, you will have more than met our expectations and we will in fact have great pride in you as graduates of San Francisco State.

Thank you.

Joining us on the platform are some very special guests who will be introduced by our announcer for today’s Commencement exercises, Associate Professor Martin Gonzales 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:
• Jennifer Reimer

From the San Francisco State campus:
• David Meredith, Chair of the Academic Senate;
• Isidro Javier Armenta, President of the Associated Students;
• Deborah Masters, Librarian of the University;
• Leroy Morishita, Vice President for Administration and Finance;
• Don Scoble, Executive Director of the San Francisco State University Foundation;
• Gail Whitaker, Dean of the College of Extended Learning,
• Marilyn Verhey, Dean of Faculty Affairs and Professional Development.

Also with us on the platform are representatives of the group that I have mentioned twice now that is the true heart and soul of the University -- our outstanding faculty. And while you have been students here, they have helped you gain knowledge of self and of subject matter and have both challenged and supported you. Principled men and women of intellectual distinction, they do care deeply about you and I know as they sit facing you they will feel both pride in your achievements, and indeed a touch of sorrow as you prepare to leave us. So 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, I'm honored to invite to the podium two individuals, also of very different backgrounds, but shared values. Cantor Roslyn Barak of San Francisco's Congregation Emanu-El, and Imam Souleiman Ghali, President of the Islamic Society of San Francisco.

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Opening and Invocation

Cantor Roslyn Barak & Imam Souleiman Ghali:

There is a Hebrew prayer designed for a day like this.

[Sings in Hebrew]

Blessed are you, oh Lord our God, Eternal Spirit of the Universe who has given us life, sustained us, and brought us to this joyous time. On this day of fulfilled dreams, hopes for the future and new beginnings, we acknowledge our blessings and give thanks to the Creator of us all. For the gifts which you lavish upon us in the beauty of the natural world and which we must commit to preserve, we give thanks. For friendship and love, family and community, we give thanks. For teachers, mentors, counselors and advisers, we give thanks. For all that is good and wise and true, we give thanks.

[Prayer in Arabic]

It's a verse from the Koran that translates:

Oh people, we have created you male and female, and we've made you into different tribes and nations so you may get to know one another. And the best amongst you is the most righteous.

Almighty God, we acknowledge the challenges that face us in a complicated and divided world, a world that hungers for peace and understanding. Oh God, teach us to work for the welfare of all, to diminish the evils that plague us and to create a society in which justice and mercy are celebrated as equal partners. Bless our striving to make real the dream of perfection when we shall put an end to suffering and cruelty, for you have endowed us with knowledge and compassion. Help us to use them well.

Oh God, you have called us to peace for you are peace itself. May we have the vision to see that each of us in some measure can help to realize these aims.

Where there are ignorance and superstition, let there be enlightenment and knowledge.

Where there are prejudice and hatred, let there be acceptance and love.

Where there are fear and suspicion, let there be confidence and trust.

Where there are tyranny and oppression, let there be freedom and justice.

Where there are poverty and disease, let there be prosperity and health.

Where there are strife and discord, let there be harmony and peace.

We pray, oh God, for courage to do and become, for fear to evaporate and strength to increase for your sake and ours. Speedily and soon, let it be that our world may be safe that our lives may be blessed. Amen.

Thank you, Imam Gahli and Cantor Barak for your inspiring words. You remind us all in our wonderful diversity that this campus is linked by very very strong shared values.

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Introduction of the Student Speaker

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

Tal Levy-Chen majored in Business Administration with a concentration in Decision Sciences. While attending San Francisco State with a near-perfect academic record, Tal has worked full-time as an operations and administrative manager for a food distribution company.

Tal moved to the United States from Israel just seven years ago. Upon arriving in the U.S., Tal initially had great difficulty carrying on conversations in English and completing everyday forms and applications. A professional dancer since childhood, one of Tal's first experiences in this country was teaching dance and movement to young children with physical disabilities. Mastering her language difficulty and seeing the confidence and pride grow in her young students as they learned to dance, encouraged Tal to pursue her university studies and expand her horizons.

The professors in Decision Sciences have been impressed by Tal's strong passion for learning and her level of motivation and engagement. One professor says, "Tal is bright, engaging and inquisitive. She is certainly among the best undergraduate students I've ever taught in the last 18 years." In her senior year, Tal co-founded the company Food Tree which is introducing a new product into the American market called Whiffles. She turned down a job offer at Safeway where she did her internship to pursue this new adventure. Whiffles, a healthy puffed-wheat product, are now being sold at Mollie Stone's and other Bay Area markets. Tal plans to continue building Food Tree’s success after graduation and says she is most excited about the opportunity to create jobs that improve others' lives. I am delighted to present, representing the class of 2007, Tal Levy-Chen.

President Corrigan, faculty, fellow graduates and guests, it is a great honor to be standing here today congratulating the class of 2007 on their remarkable achievement. Today, we have completed an important and challenging task. We have set and achieved the goal that only 25 percent of the population is fortunate enough to realize: a college degree. Earning a college degree is a major milestone in our lives that we have earned despite the many obstacles that we faced. But it is important to recognize we could not have done it alone. Our families and friends provided us with a supportive foundation on which we could thrive. They encouraged us through the stressful time of exams and celebrated with us the joyful times of success. Our professors provided us with important tools so that we could grow. Their commitment to our learning stimulated our interest and expanded our horizons. In the name of [the] class of '07, I would like that thank you.

But let's not forget each other. We may not all know each other by name. But as students, we are the force that gives the University life. In the past few years, we all moved as a group and we worked as a team.

We carried each other through stressful times. We helped each other understand difficult subject matter, and we encouraged, pushed and motivated each other to excel. There are 8,000 of us here today from 212 different majors representing 118 countries. Our different origins and backgrounds have created a fertile environment for new ideas to evolve. Thank you, class of '07.

At San Francisco State, not only have I learned academics but important life lessons. At San Francisco State, I learned that a college degree doesn't just mean we can now work in specialized jobs and make money. I learned that a college degree carries a great responsibility. Our responsibility to make careful and thoughtful decisions as educated individuals, understanding that the choices we make today not only impact ourselves, but our families, communities and the world we live in.

At San Francisco State, I also learned to appreciate the rewards and benefits of diversity and how much we can enrich each others' lives once we disregard stereotypes and prejudice. This culturally diverse University made me feel welcome and intrigued by other ways of life. Thanks to San Francisco State, I now have close friends from Fiji, China, Turkey, Lebanon, all of whom expanded my world views and allowed for a mutual understanding. My hope is that we all embrace these important lessons and promote peace and tolerance wherever we go.

Our generation faces new and unforeseen challenges that did not exist before. Twenty years ago, data and information were limited. Today, we are bombarded with it. This is a great gift, but it carries a distraction if we do not sort out what is relevant to our goals and our lives and what is not. My training in Decision Sciences, my major, has given me the skills to analyze complex problems such as the current reality we live in.

Thomas McNanty, the Dean of Engineering at M.I.T., described Decision Sciences as a liberal education in a technological world, for the reason that it helped solve problems in almost every field -- from saving billions of dollars to airline companies making it possible for millions to travel around the world, to saving millions of lives by reducing the waiting time in hospital emergency rooms. As a graduating senior majoring in my field, I learned that time is a scarce resource that should be managed wisely. Thus, we all need to continue to look at life in an objective way, examine what is really important and critical to us. Make goals that are fulfilling, interesting and rewarding while behaving ethically toward others. And finally, recognize and single out what activities really add value to our goals, knowledge, and happiness so when we look back, we can be proud of what we have accomplished in our lives.

We are now taking our first steps into the world as intelligent and educated individuals. We should not let life pass us by. We should leave our footprints all around. Good luck on your mission of life. May you achieve all the goals that you have set for yourself. Thank you.

Thank you, Tal, 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:

  • Nancy Carnal, Professor of Biology;
  • Wan-Lee Cheng, Dean of Creative Arts and Professor of Design & Industry;
  • A. Reynaldo Contreras, Professor of Educational Administration;
  • Kenneth Ferhman, Professor of Consumer and Family Studies/Dietetics;
  • Virginia Jaquith, Professor of Recreation & Leisure Studies;
  • Nancy Noda, Librarian.

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'll always be a part of the San Francisco State University family.

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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.

On behalf of San Francisco State University, first of all, it's my great pleasure to welcome all of you to your new status as San Francisco State alums.


Perfect. Today you end your student careers and you start new ones as proud State alums and you're joining a special group that includes more than two hundred thousand people. You also have a chance to sign up for your lifetime alumni membership at the tables we have put around the campus when you leave here today. So now I own you.

When you took your seats today, you found a postcard. The front reminds you of SF State's core values, our commitment to social justice and equity, and the back asks you to let us know how you're putting those values into action. I hope you will fill out the postcard in the months and years ahead and send it back. We want to stay in touch and know what you're doing to help really promote the hopes and the dreams and the values that you've learned while you were here. If you do so, you'll be following in the footsteps of the tens of thousands of SF State alums who have dedicated their lives to making the world a better place in which to live, one alumnus at a time, one choice at a time.

It is now my great pleasure to introduce our 2007 Alumnus of the Year, Mr. Arthur Dong. Mr. Dong, would you please join us. I'm going to say something good about you, so stay there just a second, okay? Near the end of the Vietnam War, Arthur Dong was a student at San Francisco's Galileo High School. He was interested in art and music, but he was yet to find his greatest talent: filmmaking. One high school assignment changed all of that. The film Arthur made for that class entitled "Public" was a protest against the war. It won first prize at the California High School Film Festival and a career was launched.

Arthur naturally sought out our film program, one of the best in the nation. For his senior project he produced "Sewing Woman," a documentary depicting his mother's immigrant experience. Two years after his graduation, summa cum laude, that film was nominated for an Academy Award. Arthur Dong has been working and winning awards -- more than 80 so far -- ever since. Through his Los Angeles-based film company, DeepFocus Productions, he has made many pioneering documentaries. Two themes of his work are Asian American history and culture and the conflicts and challenges surrounding sexual orientation. Arthur’s films have a common denominator, his strong sense of social justice. He has said, "as I work on each of my products, I find that there is much still to be done to create a world in which I can be a proud citizen, and if anger is what pushes me forward I hope that compassion is what comes forth." His latest feature, "Hollywood Chinese," had its San Francisco premiere last March at the 25th anniversary of the San Francisco Asian American Film Festival. Arthur Dong is an exceptional filmmaker and an exceptional man. We are proud to claim Arthur Dong as one of our own and delighted to honor him as the University's 2007 Alumnus of the Year!

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Response by Alumnus of the Year

Okay. This is fun. You thought you were here to get a diploma, but no, you're here for a screen test for my next film, all 20,000 of you.


All right. Yes. You're in my next film. Yes. Thank you very much. And if you'll indulge me, I have to do this one thing. Where's the camera? Are there two cameras? There's a camera. This is for all of you who want to do this. It feels really stupid. Hi Mom; it's me. Hi mom. And to my son, Reid: Hi. Reid, it's Dada, see, hi Reid. See how big I am. Now you can eat your veggies. Yes. Thank you.

All right. Now, where are the film and broadcast majors? There they are. Right. Congratulations. Alright, I was there 25 years ago with a bottle of champagne up my sleeve. What do you have up your sleeve?

And a special hello to the country's only [CROWD CHANTS]-- alright, that, too -- a special hello to the country's only Ethnic Studies college. Congratulations. Congratulations. And you know, I've never seen so much purple together in my life. But this is San Francisco, and how do you say, it's a happy place. How happy are you? [CROWD CHEERS] Congratulations.

You know, about a couple of weeks ago, Jerry Falwell passed away. Yes, Jerry Falwell, the leader of a movement to restore America as God's country. The founder of a movement that wanted to call AIDS God's punishment to gay men, a frequent -- a frequent -- White House guest who said Tinky Winky was a subversive agent for the homosexual agenda.


Yes. You got it. And a university president who said 9/11 happened because God was angry about gays, lesbians, abortionists, feminists, and even the A.C.L.U. It's no wonder that the day he died, on the gay internet blogs, there was a quote going around from the late actress Bette Davis who said upon hearing about the death of her screen rival, Joan Crawford: "you never say bad things about the dead. You only say good. Joan Crawford is dead. Good."

Wait a minute, don't get too carried away. But then I received an e-mail from Mel White, a former evangelical minister and writer for conservatives like Falwell, Pat Robertson and Billy Graham. Mel came out as gay in 1991, at the age of 53. And since that time, he has dedicated his life to fighting the social injustice against the gay community. He said in his e-mail that it broke his heart that Falwell died before he got a chance to really understand and know the truth about gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender people. Mel's message reminded me of the work that still lies ahead. His condolences showed me how important it was to call upon our own sense of compassion, to at least make attempts to understand our adversaries and to understand their beliefs in order the figure out a way to their hearts.

For my films, I try to infuse an idea that it might just be possible to communicate with people who just don't agree with my sense of a pluralistic democracy. To be able to reach them, not necessarily to change them, but to see if there was a possible pathway to common ground and dialogue. To do this, I had to learn what exactly was on the other side and to learn that people weren't always what they seem.

I found that people spoke different languages even when they spoke the same language. I found that it wasn't always the words that were spoken, but how words were used. I found that tolerance is a two-way street, a road that is very little traveled.

As I was preparing this speech, I read through transcripts of past recipients of this honor. There was one bit of advice that came up: don't take any shit. Good advice. But I'd like to propose that many… maybe a little bit may go a long way. I don't mean to say that you should take it, but be prepared to examine it as it's coming, see it for what it is, and dodge it. Not by ducking, though, but by acknowledging; I know why this is coming, I understand it, and I can deal with it.

I think that's what Mel White is good at. He takes a nonviolent approach to battle bigotry and confronts it head-on with information and empathy.

When I was here in the early '70s, the air was full of revolution. The cultural war was on and everything seemed clearly black and white. Compassion and empathy weren't a part of our vocabulary. You were either with us or against us. And I certainly didn't have the patience to sit in the classroom, and so I dropped out for almost ten years. It was my way of learning about the larger world that valued conformity, but yet a world intrinsically complicated by differences. Distinctions that, on the one hand, celebrate diversity but, on the other hand, separates. The world, I found, was not about just what I thought but about figuring out how the odd pieces fit -- if they fit at all. Dropping out of college was one of the best things I ever did. [LAUGHS] And when I came back, lectures started really making sense. Even bonehead English had a purpose in my life.


Hey, that was a good thing. More than anything, I welcomed the challenge to think, to refine and articulate a reason for my art. So maybe it's a little late for me to mention any of this now because you're all here, and you're all going to receive your just rewards, and there's no way you're going to march into the registrar's office and say, "hey, I changed my mind. Take my diploma back, 'cause I'm dropping out." No; no. That's not going to happen. But what I'm saying is, I'm hoping your time spent here meant something for you other than the means to economic wealth, that you were lucky, as I was, to have had teachers that cared about building a free society. And if you were fortunate to have taken classes and to have instructors like that, but they didn't really mean anything to you because, well, to tell the truth, you just want to get out of here with a diploma, then I hope someday in the future that their lessons will dawn on you.

Congratulations to you, the class of 2007. You worked hard and hustled your way to this day. The ball may be in your court now, but it's no longer a game, and it never was.

Thank you and good luck.

Thank you, Mr. Dong, I'm proud as the President of San Francisco State that we were able to nourish your creativity. I doubt, however, that you got your sense of humor from us, you must have brought it to San Francisco State with you.


Darn, I thought we had it, okay.

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Presentation of Commencement Speaker

Social justice is Kamala Harris' profession and her passion. The child of parents who were active in the civil rights movement, she absorbed from them the desire to fight injustice and a commitment to public service.

She chose the law and in the hands of Kamala Harris, the law shows its power to be a tremendous force for good. As Deputy District Attorney in Alameda County, she found a focus that she has maintained: making the most vulnerable her priority -- that is youth and children and abused women.

When she moved to the San Francisco City Attorney's Office, she led the Division on Families and Children defending always [THE] exploited children.

Her election in 2003 to the post she now holds made her a trailblazer. She became the first woman district attorney in San Francisco's history. And the first African American woman in California history to hold that office.

Since then, Kamala Harris has proved an effective enforcer of the laws and of the principles of our society. A San Francisco Chronicle editorial written just a hundred days after she took office declared that she "has quickly infused the department with vigor and professionalism."

She seeks as vigorously to protect as to punish. She cosponsored the California Trafficking Dictums Protection Act, created the office's first child assault unit and has worked with state and federal officials to win funding for programs to combat gang violence.

She has said of her position, "it's about the families, it's about the responsibilities I have to the people who need the system to work."

The great American writer James Baldwin once wrote, "the world is before you and you need not take it or leave it as it was when you came in." Kamala Harris lives by Baldwin's words, she is clearly ready to challenge the status quo so the people will benefit. It is now my pleasure to introduce to you the District Attorney of the City and County of San Francisco, our commencement speaker, Kamala Harris!

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Commencement Address


President Corrigan, distinguished faculty, families and friends, and of course you, the members of the class of 2007, I'm so pleased to say 'you did it.'

And I know it was a team effort, including your family and your friends and of course Facebook and Red Bull and PS3s.

And I know today is the kind of day where I should talk about where you are going. But first, I'd like to spend a few moments talking about where you've been. This spring, one and a half million students will sit in ceremonies much like this at thousands of universities and colleges across the country. But I can assure you from where I stand, very few of those ceremonies will look like yours.

After all, this is San Francisco, a city where 100 different languages are spoken, where one-third of us were born in another country, and where many more of our parents, like mine, were born in another country. And you, San Francisco State graduates, are just as diverse and energetic as the city itself. This is the city and the school that has produced countless leaders and activists.

These are people who broke barriers, people whose names we know because they broke barriers -- and in many different ways by persevering, working hard, and achieving your goal of graduation, you have broken barriers. And there are many more barriers you will face and break -- and must face and break -- to achieve your dreams.

So I want to talk to you today about that, about breaking barriers to achieve your dreams and our dreams for your future. And it's more than a notion. To do it, you may have to break some rules. And I'm not talking about the kind of rules that I prosecute, so don't get any ideas. But I am talking about the old rules and ways of thinking about who can lead, what they look like, who their family is, and what neighborhoods they're from. I'm also talking about the barriers of belief that suggest that things cannot be changed and that problems cannot be solved.

When you graduates break all of these barriers, you will open up new possibilities and create new solutions to our challenges. You will become the new leaders with new perspectives and a new way of thinking about how to create solutions that no one thought possible.

And let me tell you, by definition, breaking barriers will take you on paths that you never thought imaginable.

Frankly, that's what happened to me.

I faced a barrier of traditional thinking about how to be a fighter for civil rights. When I was growing up, as President Corrigan said, my parents were deeply involved in the civil rights movement in the '70s in Berkeley, and I grew up surrounded by people who were constantly marching and shouting at the top of their lungs for equality and for justice. And of course, I was right there marching with them, in a stroller, but I was there and marching for the justice that needed to exist and should be demanded.

By the time I got to Howard University, I wanted to continue that fight. And the traditional thinking was that you could only do civil rights work in organizations such as the ACLU or the NAACP. The thinking was that you had to work from the outside in, but I believed it was important to be at the table where decisions and important decisions were being made, and that's why I decided to become a prosecutor. And yes, it was about the farthest thing from my parents' mind, so you can imagine when I told them that I was going to be a member of law enforcement, I pretty much had to defend the decision like a thesis.

But they understood.

You see, their march for civil rights led me on a path to a courtroom where I stood before a jury of 12 people arguing for justice for an abused child, arguing for justice for a battered spouse, arguing for justice for a victim of hate crime. And following that passion for civil rights has been the greatest reward of my career.

As you grow in your career, you'll experience similar barriers of traditional thinking and also other barriers, for example, the limits that others set for you, barriers that place a ceiling on what you can accomplish and who you can be.

And I've been there, too. When I decided to run for district attorney, it was considered a man's job, even here in San Francisco. No woman had ever been elected district attorney in San Francisco, no person of color had ever been elected district attorney of San Francisco.

And I remember the day that I got my first poll results. I was sitting in a small conference room and a little nervous, but also hopeful, and then I read them. I was at 6 percent in the polls. And you can imagine that didn't feel good. In fact, I felt pretty small. And then I was told what you have all probably heard at some point in your life and will certainly hear in your future. I was told that I should wait my turn. I was told, "don't put yourself through all of that." I was told that I should give up. I was told that I had no chance.

And I didn't listen.


And I'm telling you, don't you listen, either. Don't you dare listen when they try to tell you you can't do it or it hasn't been done before. I know that every one of you here has quietly and privately thought and believes that you can do something great. Nurture and cherish that belief. Own that vision.

And surround yourself with people who will support you and will encourage your ambition. And don't listen when people say it hasn't been done before.

Armed with the belief in yourself and surrounded by those who believe in you, I know you will have the creativity and the independence to say yes where others have said no, where others have seen risk, to see opportunity and where others have felt fear, to find courage.

And it's an extraordinary time in which to graduate.

Consider down how we can now break barriers and create new possibilities. Right now in our city and our country, we are facing enormous social, political and economic challenges. For example, our civil liberties are under fire, and our federal government is not just failing to enforce them, but is frankly contributing to their deterioration. And we can stand against that with passion and conviction.


In politics, for the first time, barriers are being broken by men and women from every walk of life. Just think: for the first time ever, three of the strongest candidates for President of the United States are a woman, a Latino, and an African American. And we can elect a new kind of president.

Across the world, new frontiers in civil rights are emerging as the forces of globalization connect our lives in real-time with citizens of every country, rich and poor. We can be the ones to fight for human rights and stop the genocide in Darfur. And we have a growing environmental crisis around the world, our air, our water, our oceans, we can be the ones to protect them. We can be the ones to find new solutions. And here in San Francisco, there are over 2,400 children who have been designated as chronically truant from our schools. Over 700 of them are elementary school students. We can be the ones to mentor them. We can be the ones to make sure that we get them in school. We can make sure that in ten years, they are sitting where you are sitting today.

In times like these, it is dangerous to stay quiet and stay on the sidelines. Times like these call for people like you to stand up, to be inspired and to act inspired. To break barriers, to drive change, and to roll up your sleeves instead of throwing up your hands.

So I ask you, who's going to stand up and defend a woman's right to reproductive freedom?

Who's going to insure that environmental justice occurs so we stop dumping and polluting in our poorest neighborhoods and communities of color?

Who is going to speak up against the torture in Guantanamo Bay?

And who is going to register people to vote and work on a campaign and help us elect a president who will end the war in Iraq? The answer is that you, you, you graduates of 2007 will be at the heart of these great struggles. So follow your passion, eat your Wheaties and get on out there because today you graduate and tomorrow, there is no barrier on what you can do.

Thank you!

Thank you, District Attorney Harris. You remind us of the power and the value of public service.

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President's Remarks

Okay. Class of 2007, listen up! In just a few moments, you will arrive at that part of the program for which you have all been waiting: the awarding of degrees.

We want you to remember that you're as exceptionally talented and as well educated a group as can be found anywhere in this nation.

So you're graduating into a world of extraordinary challenges and we do know that you will rise to meet them!

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Presentation of the Hood Recipients

And now it’s time to introduce the graduating students on the platform whom President Corrigan mentioned earlier, these are our 2007 hood recipients.

It's an academic custom to invest those earning degrees with hoods that designate the degree bestowed. Unfortunately, time does not allow us to present each of the graduate here today with a hood.

Therefore the graduate program has chosen an outstanding student to represent all of these receiving their master's degrees 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 2007.

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 Ms. Diana Marina, who is receiving a Master of Science in Biology, with a concentration in Cell and Molecular Biology.


Diana Marina is the oldest daughter of Indonesian emigrants who fled Jakarta after a racially motivated riot. Described by a faculty member as "highly curious and extremely tenacious," Diana has excelled at SF State, winning a rare two years of funding and participation in our GK-12 program which links our top science students with teachers and students in the San Francisco School District. She has been accepted into the most competitive graduate program at the University of California, San Francisco, the Tetrad program, and will start work toward her doctorate this fall.

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


Ms. Heather Eileen Wiegand a Criminal Justice major, has been selected to receive the investiture in the College of Behavioral and Social Sciences.


Healther Weigand began her studies in criminal justice with a clear goal: to craft legislation that would help those in prison and those wrongly convicted to turn their lives around. She has accomplished that for herself in an extraordinary way: Entering SF State through our Project Rebound program and graduating today as an honor student. While still in school, she has held a major post with the nonprofit group, Life After Exoneration, has created the first council of the wrongfully convicted, mentored hundreds of men and women, and served as a motivational speaker for encarcerated people.

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 Ms. Tal Levy-Chen, a Decision Sciences major.


If you shop at Mollie Stone's or any of the other several Bay Area specialty markets, you can find the imprint of Tal Levy-Chen. Her company, Food Tree, is introducing a new food product into the American market called Whiffles. It's a healthful, puffed-wheat snack. As Tal continues to build Food Tree, she says that she is most excited about the opportunity that entrepreneurism gives her to create jobs that will improve others' leaves.

College of Business Dean Nancy Hayes will confer the hood.


Ms. Jeeti Singh, an Art major, has been selected to receive the hood on behalf of all graduates in the College of Creative Arts.

Born in Hong Kong to Punjabi parents and raised in Union City, Jeeti Singh brings complex and thought-provoking ideas about cultural identity and gender to her painting. She already has exhibited widely and been awarded several commissions. Jeeti also has developed her skills in gallery direction by serving as curator and manager of our new Martin Wong gallery for undergraduate students, becoming, as one of her professors said, "its mainstay." Jeeti also shares her art with young audiences, designing sets and costumes for a young percussion ensemble, she plans to enter graduate school in the fall.

The Dean of the College of Creative Arts, Ron Compesi, will confer the hood.


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


Mirabai Oyao's professors describe her as "the rare student who has both academic excellence and humanistic depth." Her compassion and creative problem solving abilities have made her highly effective in her work with children and others who face communication challenges. The faculty who know her best praise her extraordinary ability to apply theoretical notions and build bridges between coursework and therapy. Mirabai is active in the National Student Speech Language Hearing Association and is the elected student representative to the American Speech Language Hearing Association. Mirabai plans to continue her studies and earn a doctoral degree.

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


Mr. Josué Revelorio, a major in Raza Studies, has been selected to receive the hood in the College of Ethnic Studies.

For Raza Studies major, Josué Revelorio, social justice is a lifetime passion. Josué immigrated to California from his native Guatemala six years ago. He has more than 25 years of experience in human rights and justice movements. First, as a student leader advocating for educational reform in Guatemala, and later, as an activist and educator working with refugees, campesinos and U.S. high school students. He is a member of the Bay Area-based Guatemala News and Information Bureau and serves on the board of a national group supporting genocide survivors from Guatemala’s civil war. Josué plans the earn a master’s in education and become a teacher.

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


Mr. Oscar Macias, a Health Education major, has been selected to receive the investiture in the College of Health and Human Services.


Oscar Macias was born in Guadalajara Mexico but at 19 fled to the U.S. to escape persecution because of his sexual orientation. After ten years as an undocumented immigrant, he applied for and received political asylum. His work with a San Francisco AIDS prevention organization sparked his interest in public health as a career and led him to SF State. While a student, Oscar has worked full-time at the San Francisco Department of Public Health AIDS office. He helped to develop the path breaking San Francisco Gay Men's Community Initiative and organized the city’s first Latino gay pride parade. Oscar plans to work for a year before returning to earn a master’s degree in Public Health.

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


Ms. Brigitte Polianos, a Comparative Literature major, has been selected to receive the hood on behalf of all graduates in the College of Humanities.


German-born Brigitte Polianos came to San Francisco in 1991, drawn by the California mystique. While working in a securities firm, she realized that she needed to satisfy her hunger for knowledge. Once at SF State, she chose Comparative Literature. Her studies have combined the examination of ancient Mediterranean literatures, ancient myth and religion, and 19th and 20th century German literature. Her volunteer work, teaching classes on the old and new testaments at a non-denominational church, awakened her love of teaching. Brigette will enter our Comparative Literature master's program in the fall and plans the go on for a doctorate.

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


Ms. Karen Chan, a major in Electrical Engineering, has been selected to receive the hood on behalf of all graduates in the College of Science and Engineering.


The daughter of Hong Kong immigrants, Karen Chan chose Electrical Engineering because she believes that well-engineered products can greatly improve lives. While excelling in her demanding major, Karen volunteered to tutor other engineering students and volunteered as well at Seton Medical Center, the Recreation Center for the Handicapped and a home for the elderly. She has already accepted a job at the leading electronics firm, National Semiconductor, where she will design power regulators to be used in such products as cell phone and laptop computers, a position that usually goes to an individual with a Ph.D. degree. After gaining that hands-on experience, she plans to continue her studies and earn her doctorate.

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


Ms. Jessica Miyuki Quan has been selected to receive the hood on behalf of all Liberal Studies and Special Major graduates.


Jessica Quan entered SF State as a Presidential Scholar, our highest academic honor for an entering student. She graduates today as a member of Phi Beta Kappa, the highest academic honor for a graduate in the Arts and Sciences. Jessica has specialized in Science and Mathematics with the goal of teaching these subjects to fourth- or fifth-graders. Her professors quickly noticed her talent for turning her knowledge of complex science into hands-on engaging activities for students. She will bring to her classroom a keen intellect, a commitment to service, creativity, a talent for collaboration and a passion for teaching.

Dean of Undergraduate Studies Robert Cherny will now confer the hood.


We are tremendously proud of these outstanding students. Please join me in a round of applause for our 2007 hood recipients!

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Conferral of Master's Degrees

And now ladies and gentlemen, we now begin the conferral of degrees. Provost 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. And now will the deans please go to their respective stages.

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Distribution of Diplomas to Master's Degree Candidates

And now will the faculty marshals please direct the master's degree recipients to the stages, starting from the front. And we ask the 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 Ethnic Studies, Science and Engineering, Creative Arts, Humanities, Health and Human Services and Education.

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


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Conferring of Bachelor's Degrees

Now, the moment for which so many of you have been waiting. Will the candidates for the degrees Bachelor of Arts please rise. The candidates for the Bachelor of Music, please rise. And the candidates for the degree Bachelor of Science, 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 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 -- it is customary -- 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 of you who have just received your degrees move your tassels now.

Members of the audience, I present to you the class of 2007. Please join me in a round of applause for all of them. Class of 2007, 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 Ethnic Studies, Science and Engineering, Creative Arts, Humanities, Health and Human Services, and Education.

And to the stage on the left of the screen, Liberal Studies/Special Majors graduates and graduates from the Colleges of Business 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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Last modified June 1, 2007 by University Communications