(light orchestral music) (“Star-Spangled Banner”) (audience applauding) – Let us pause now to honor the sanctity of this moment and to consider that which is within and beyond ourselves. On this day of celebration, we offer our memories, our gratitude, and our hopes. We remember when the eager, thoughtful, and reverent gathered with nervous excitement for orientation. We remember sleepless nights filled with study, conversation, and fun. We remember papers written, tests taken, and theses completed. We remember how we have been changed, how we have been formed while in this place. And for this ongoing process of formation, we offer our gratitude. We are grateful for those who taught us to think critically, to act compassionately, to live with integrity. We are grateful for those who provided food to eat and clean places to sleep. We are grateful for the unique path of each person here, for struggles overcome and victories celebrated. We are grateful for the family and friends who offer support and guidance, for we affirm that none of us made it to this moment alone and that we all need each other for the moment’s ahead.
And today, as we remember with gratitude, let us look forward with boldness, purpose, and humility. Through our own formation, may we work toward transformation of our homes, our communities, our planet. May we live and work so that there is more compassion than competition, more prosperity that poverty, more wholeness than hunger, and more justice than jostling for power and position. As we go from this place, let us honor what we have been given.
Let us honor the holy and the good by giving of ourselves in service to others. I offer all of this in humility and in peace. Thank you. (audience applauding) – Good morning. On behalf of the trustees, the faculty, and staff of Pomona College, and especially the members of the senior class who will receive their degrees today, it is my pleasure to welcome you to the 121st commencement exercises of Pomona College. On this occasion, I would like to extend particular thanks and appreciation to the family and friends of the Class of 2014. You have provided the support and encouragement for the graduating seniors, bringing them to this turning point in their lives. Graduation from college represents a great moment of change. It is the culmination of many years of schooling, initially broad and generalized, becoming more focused with time. In your four years at Pomona College, I hope and trust that you have discovered and valued the goals of a liberal education.
First, to think critically and creatively. Second, to communicate effectively in speech and writing. And third, to carry with you a lifelong joy and passion for learning. Commencement is a fresh start, a beginning of a new life outside these college walls in which the abilities and skills that you have gained here are the added riches that you bear in trust for humankind. Each member of the graduating class of 2014 has fully met the high standards of Pomona College. Each has contributed in varied and wonderful ways to our community, in the classroom through research projects, to campus life, and through service to those around us.
At yesterday’s Class Day awards ceremony, we learned some of the ways in which members of the class have distinguished themselves. At commencement, which is above all a celebration of the academic accomplishments of our graduates, it has been traditional to take special notice of one of these awards, the Rena Gurley Archibald Prize, which is given to the member of the graduating class with the highest academic achievement. This year, the Rena Gurley Archibald High Scholarship Prize is awarded to two students, Laura Marie Perrone and Constance Wu. (audience applauding) The educational mission of this college relies critically on close collaboration between students and teachers. Pomona College faculty members are dedicated to excellent teaching in all its settings: leading discussions in classrooms, supervising research projects in library or laboratory, coaching teams on athletic fields, preparing students for concert or theater performances, and guiding artists in the studios. And so, every year at this time, as it awards degrees to its graduates, the college also honors those of its faculty who exemplify teaching at its best.
The winners of the college’s Wig Award for excellence in teaching. This award is granted each year by a committee of trustees and faculty on the basis of ballots cast by students. It is the highest honor the college awards to its faculty. Let me ask this year’s winners of the Wig Award for excellence in teaching to stand as I read their names. The James Irvine Professor of Economics, Eleanor Brown. (audience applauding) The Lingurn H. Burkhead Professor of Mathematics, Erica Flapan. (audience applauding) Assistant Professor of Politics Amanda Hollis-Brusky. (audience applauding) The Sarah and Herbert S. Rempel Professor of Neuroscience and Associate Professor of Biology, Karl Johnson. (audience applauding) Associate Professor of Politics Susan McWilliams. (audience applauding) Associate Professor Mathematics Ghassan Sarkis. (audience applauding) Associate Professor of Religious Studies Darryl Smith.
(audience applauding) And finally, Associate Professor of History and Chicano Latino Studies, Tomas Summers Sandoval. (audience applauding) One lesson that I hope every graduating student will take from this college is that the accomplishments of people working together are greater than those of single individuals, however distinguished. Pomona College strives to support collaborative work between students and with faculty, and the chief goal of its staff is to enhance the educational experiences that take place on campus.
On this occasion, we are also connected to past and future. The college that we see today and that will educate future generations is here because of the hard work, distinguished accomplishments, and generous support of past members of our community, the literally thousands of people who have taught, worked, and studied here, and the donors who have sustained them. We are particularly honored to have with us, along with faculty, students, staff, families and friends, 16 members of the college’s Board of Trustees, lead by our board chair, Jeanne Buckley of the Class of 1965.
(audience applauding) Today, we welcome a new class into this great fellowship. And so, in each other’s company and in the great tradition of all those who have taught, studied, worked, and played at this college over the years, let us now proceed to celebrate the Class of 2014 and launch them on their way. (audience applauding) – Whew! (audience laughing lightly) Welcome, classmates, friends, family, faculty, and distinguished guests. I am truly honored to stand here before you as the Class of 2014’s somewhat-democratically-elected empress. (audience cheering) When I was eight years old, I attended horseback riding camp. Even after a couple of days, I was too afraid to ride one of the fast-moving ponies by myself. So, I volunteered to ride the older, more experienced horse all the other kids were completely uninterested in. So, I got on the horse and we all rode into the woods. And my horse, unsurprisingly, lagged far behind the others. My horse and I finally made it to an idyllic clearing. And this horse came to a complete stop and died right there underneath me. (audience laughing) True story. (audience laughing) You know, I must’ve sat on that horse confused, completely alone, and a little bit hungry for upwards of 30 minutes before someone found me and removed me from the dead animal.
(audience laughing) Now, as you can imagine, since that day, it has been a priority in my life to never go horseback riding ever again. (audience laughing) And yet, as I stand alone at this podium, staring at confusingly whimsical blue and white Truffula Trees, (laughing) I feel like that eight-year-old version of myself again: confused, alone, and moderately hungry. (audience laughing) The great philosopher Dawson Leery, in the life-affirming text Dawson’s Creek, once said– (audience laughing) “It’s interesting to me how people use that expression “life and death, “as if to imply that life is the opposite of death. “But birth is the opposite is death.
“Life has no opposite.” EGOT-winner and descendant of Lazy Susan herself Tracy Jordan, from the slightly-less-life-affirming text 30 Rock, preached that one should live every week like it’s Shark Week. (audience laughing) I bring up these quotes not to make you question the eternal wisdom of James Van Der Beek, but because most of the life advice that I can give comes from syndicated television. (audience laughing) And so, in this speech, I will instead talk about something that Pomona has truly given me a deeper understanding of: breakfast food.
(audience laughing) You see, I entered Pomona College with the naive belief that it would be the paradisiacal breakfast buffet that would be so easy to navigate that I would miraculously transform into a better breakfast food eater. I was so sure that in a place where I could choose anything and everything, satisfaction would come as easily as the walk from Blaisdell to Frank. Instead, I had no miraculous moment of transformation. And just like in high school, freshman year, I mostly just skipped breakfast entirely. I came back sophomore year with a plan though. I was going to become a yogurt person.
You know the kinda person I’m talking about, the one who never needs the snooze button and hardly even needs an alarm clark at all, because they are so in control of their lives, so happy with themselves and the people that other people see them as that, each day, getting up for breakfast before it closes at 10 a.m. is not a struggle, (audience laughing) because they know they are going to make all the right choices, about what they should eat, how much they should eat, and who they should eat it with. But while I had my yogurt days, I spent most of that year learning that I was not a yogurt person. And by the beginning of junior year, I resolved to find my own true breakfast food identity. I started experimenting with waffles.
And then I tried the omelet line, and then the smoothies, and even the vegan sausage, and it was mostly more satisfying than yogurt. But there was nothing that I loved to eat enough to eat seven days a week. Yet, for the first time at Pomona, breakfast was consistently good. Senior year, I have realized that there is no single breakfast food that I love exclusively. It is the variety that I love. It is the options, the buffet, the ability to wake up one morning and eat all the bacon and eggs, and wake up the next and be genuinely satisfied with a cup of yogurt, and then the next day to wake up at noon, just roll outta bed, and transition my pajamas into day-wear with no breakfast at all.
(audience laughing) Because after all, there is no place that offers a more diverse menu, either for breakfast or for life, than Pomona College. As college students, we have been confronted with choices each and every day; some big, some small, some in between. And even though every one of those choices has been an opportunity for us to learn who we are, they do not need to define who we will be. We’ve now reached the point in my speech where I must tie together an anecdote about a dead horse and an overly-extended metaphor about breakfast food. (audience laughing) So, here it goes. After my journey of self-discovery at Pomona, I feel certain that just as I am no longer that sophomore who tried to eat yogurt every day for breakfast, I am also no longer that paralyzed little girl who sat starving on a dead horse just because she thought it was what she was supposed to do. I’m grateful to Pomona for that, because Pomona has given me the strength to make my own choices, to find my own identity, and, most importantly, get off that damn horse.
(audience laughing) And as I stand here– (audience applauding) No. (audience laughing) Forever. Just kidding. Still confused, still alone at this podium, and increasingly hungry, I am no longer content to just wait. Instead, I ask all of you, when and where is lunch? (audience laughing) Thank you. (audience applauding) – Welcome to all family and friends, faculty and staff, distinguished guests and misunderstood uncles, thank you all (audience laughing) for being here today. As some of you all may know, a few benevolent members of the senior class took a service trip to San Diego last week. (audience laughing) We helped the elderly, read to children, and did all those things that you would expect a respectful Pomona graduate to do. At the apex of this humanitarian effort, I decided to pen this speech. (audience laughing) (audience cheering) But as I sat in the San Diego sand, thinking about how I could condense four years of presumed wisdom into a few words that would resound for a lifetime, I felt a bit overwhelmed.
Ideas rushed about, left and right. Should I talk about whiskey-drinking lessons learned from Professor Lorn Foster? (audience laughing) Perhaps parental piety would be nice. A discussion on patriotism, mental health, or Title IX might also suffice. Dreams or laws? Pithy platitudes or pragmatic prescriptions? I was tossed in a tumultuous whirlwind of ideas. I was lost. But out of my exhaustion, I couldn’t help but let my eyes wander from my blank page and onto the boardwalk. And there it was. He hit me like a slow whisper from a muse. Slomo, the Mission Beach folk hero, skated down the boardwalk and onto my blank page. At that moment, I knew I could only give one message: Slow down. For those of you all not in the know, Slomo was recently featured in a New York Times op-doc.
Here is a man who spends day after day skating down the Mission Beach Boardwalk in a state of utter serenity. Before he was Slomo, he was just John, just a simple John; John Kitchin, actually. He described himself as a typical institutionalized educated Western man who promoted his pocketbook before his spirit. He was a successful neuropsychiatrist who had achieved all that mainstream minds thought was desirable. He was powerful and wealthy, influential and respected. He lived the dreams of our friends north of Sixth Street.
(audience laughing) In his own words– Now, mind you, in his own words, he was a jackass. (audience laughing) Now, although I might tempt naivete by challenging a man who has gained more wisdom and consumed more hallucinogens than I ever will in my life, I think he was mistaken. It’s not that John the neuropsychiatrist was a jackass. It was that in his past life, he didn’t slow down. He didn’t think critically. John, like most Americans, found himself speeding along the regimented path, falling for the trappings of modernity and all of its red herrings for happiness.
But he was not alone. Every year over the last four decades, UCLA has taken a poll of their freshman class. In 1966, only 42% of that freshman class said that they thought being well-off financially was essential to a successful life. In 2006, a whopping 75% of students deemed being well-off financially a requisite for a successful life. This earnings arm race has left crucial casualties in its wake. In our rabid pursuit of riches, we have sacrificed sacred humanity for gilded hopes. In 1966, 86% of college freshman reported that developing a meaningful philosophy on life was important for a successful life. Today, less than half of us heartless Millennials deem developing a meaningful life philosophy important. Now, that’s not to say that our grandparents were perfect, because that same year, y’all did elect an actor named Reagan.
(groaning) (audience laughing) But these trends are disturbing. Instead of living a more meaningful life, we seem to be regressing. This is not modernity. They show us that folks are feeling more and more squeezed by a system that is eroding away our mythic middle class. Unfortunately, they show us that Langston Hughes’ ancient chain of progress is no longer correct and that profit and power seems to ensnarl more and more lives like bad religion. They show us that the open pastures become captive to corporate offices. Nature’s silence gives way to man’s noise.
And there is no consent in this deed of progress, only impersonal modernity rationalizing itself into oblivion, or at least climate change or something like that. But, hey, there’s reason to be hopeful, and I’m not just saying that because Obama’s senior advisor is sitting behind me. (audience laughing) Change, change. (audience laughing) I’m not gonna get a job. (audience laughing) For the very rationality that compels modernity can also counter it. Thankfully, for all of you all, you’ve just spent the last four years sharpening the skills needed to slow down. The true fulfillment of a liberal arts education encourages deliberateness and reflection. Remember your rare grooming and slow down. Before you rush through wrought societal roles, slow down. When technology and the increase for quantifiable efficiency innovates away the inarticulate beauty of humanity, slow down.
When overly deconstructed individuals dissolve communal ties before constructively building new bonds, slow down. Four decades is a short time span for this profit-oriented perspective to proliferate. Our underlying human nature moves far slower. Regardless of how we may posture on the surface, people still want good families, still want good values, and still want good communities. Slow down for these things. As we walk through those college gates together, know that your boardwalk need not be years or miles away. Know that you can live your boardwalk now if you simply (pausing) slow down. Thank you. (audience applauding) (soaring choral music) (audience applauding) (soaring choral music) (audience applauding) – Between 1979 and 1994, 7,288 people died of gang-related in violence in Los Angeles County.
85% of these victims were under 35 years of age. To put this in context, this number is greater than all American casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan wars since 2001. In the midst of this epidemic, in 1986, Father Gregory Boyle was appointed pastor at the Dolores Mission Church in East Los Angeles. His first gang-related burial was in 1988. Since then, he has buried more than 187 victims of gang violence. Soon after arriving at Dolores Mission, Father Boyle realized that what men and women looking to leave their gang life needed was jobs. Father Boyle has since worked tirelessly to provide labor-market skills to former gang members.
Guided by his motto, “Nothing stops a bullet like a job,” he founded Humble Industries, composed of seven social enterprises that serve as job-training sites. In these firms, men and women, many of whom have recently been released from incarceration, find their first opportunity to learn skills for the labor market while working together, hand in hand, with former enemies. Father Boyle’s work teaches us that the importance of kinship in social entrepreneurship. His work extols each person, rather than condemned in institutions in which we operate.
It transcends the realm of service provider and service recipient and it demonstrates that as a community, we belong to one another. Father Boyle teaches us that through kinship goes beyond providing services to those in need. Kinship emerges when we live among one another with former enemies, when we visit somebody at the juvenile camp or at the prison, and when we’re next to a wounded person in a hospital bed. Mr. President, on behalf of the Board of Trustees and the faculty of Pomona College, it is my great honor to present to you Gregory Boyle, Society of Jesus, for the honorary degree of doctor of humane letters, honoris causa. (audience applauding) – Father Gregory Boyle, by the power vested in me by the Board of Trustees, I confer upon you the degree of doctor of humane letters in Pomona College, honoris causa. (audience applauding) – Thank you very much, it’s an honor to be with you, Class of 2014. The poet Mary Oliver writes there are some things you can’t reach, but you can reach out to them. And all day long, what we reach out for, of course, I think, is the creation of a community of kinship such that God in fact might recognize it.
No kinship, no peace. No kinship, no justice. No matter how singularly focused we may well be on those worthy goals, if there isn’t an undergirding sense of kinship, it can’t happen. For it is certainly true, I think, that we’ve forgotten that we belong to each other. So we stand against forgetting that, for there’s an idea that’s taken root in the world. It’s at the root of all that’s wrong with it, and the idea would be this: that there just might be lives out there that matter less than other lives. How do we stand against that? I suspect that if kinship was our goal, we would no longer be promoting justice, we would be celebrating it.
So, it’s been the privilege of my life for 30 years to work with gang members, and they’ve taught me everything of value, of which I am so grateful. But the last couple of years, they’ve taught me how to text, (audience laughing) and I’m so grateful to them. (audience laughing) I find that it sure beats the heck out of actually talking to people, (audience laughing) and I’m pretty dexterous at it. You know, LOL and OMG and BTW, and the homies have taught me a new one, OHN, which apparently stands for, “Oh, hell no.” (audience laughing) And I’ve been using that one quite a bit lately. (audience laughing) So, there I am in a car with two older vatos, Manuel and Poncho, and they do a variety of things at Homeboy Industries. And they’re gonna help me give a talk, so we’re driving away at in the morning. Manuel in the front seat gets a incoming, and he reads the text to himself and he chuckles.
And I said, “What is it?” He goes, “Oh, it’s dumb. “It’s from Snoopy back at the office.” And I’d just seen Snoopy. Snoopy gave me a big abrazote as the day was beginning. And Snoopy and Manuel work together in the clock-in room, where they clock in hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of gang members. I said, “Well, what’s he saying?” He goes, “Oh, it’s dumb. Hang on a second. “Hey dog, it’s me, Snoops. “Yeah, they got my ass locked up in county jail. “They’re charging me with being the ugliest vato in America. “You have to come down right now, “show ‘em they got the wrong guy.” (audience laughing) But we died laughing.
And then I realized that Manuel and Snoopy are enemies. They’re from rival gangs. They used to shoot bullets at each other. Now they shoot text messages. And there’s a word for that, and the word is kinship. How do we obliterate once and for all the illusion that we are separate, that there is an “us” and a “them”? All of us are called to move beyond this place to something larger. What Martin Luther King says about a church could well be said of your time here at Pomona. It’s not the place you’ve come to, it’s the place you go from.
And you go from here to imagine together a circle of compassion and then imagine nobody standing outside of it. And you choose to dismantle the barriers that exclude, and you’re inching your way always out to the margins. And if you check under your feet, the margins are getting erased because you’ve chosen to stand there with the poor and the powerless and the voiceless, with those whose dignity has been denied and those whose burdens are more than they can bear. You are privileged to be able to stand with the easily-despised and the readily-left-out, with the demonized so that the demonizing will stop, and with the disposable so that the day will come when we stop throwing people away.
The measure of your compassion lies not in your service of those on the margins, but in your willingness to see yourselves in kinship with them. Maybe there are some things we can’t reach, but we can reach out to them. And all day long, Pomona is not the place you’ve come to, it’s always been the place you’ll go from. And you go from here to create a community of kinship such that God in fact might recognize it.
And good luck and God bless Class of 2014. Thank you. (audience applauding) – As the granddaughter and great-granddaughter of Italian immigrants who, as a young girl, heard the legendary Italian tenor Enrico Caruso on her father’s collection of 78s, it is a special honor for me to present to you today the world’s most celebrated operatic tenor, Placido Domingo. (audience applauding) Born in Madrid as the son of two star’s of the zarzuela, the Spanish form of light opera, Maestro Domingo spent his formative years in Mexico City. He attended the conservatory there, initially as a pianist and conductor, but singing was in his genes.
And at 19, he auditioned for the Mexican National Opera (pausing) as a baritone. In its wisdom, the audition panel asked him to sightread a tenor aria, and the rest, as they say, is history. In the intervening 54 years, an utterly unheard of span for an opera singer, Mr. Domingo has sung almost every major leading role in the Italian, French, German, and Russian opera repertoire of the 19th and early-20th centuries, along with others from earlier and later eras; nearly 150 roles all told. These masterful performances tell the story of his remarkable career. He is, first and foremost, a consummate musician. His preparation for each role is meticulous and he has a rare gift for embodying the characters he portrays, immersing himself completely in each until he is transformed. Whether it be the murderous jealousy of Othello in Verdi’s title role, the broken heart of Rodolfo in La Boheme, or the despair of Cavaradossi in Tosca, his intensity and passion are palpable. For these moments, he is Othello, he is Rodolfo, he is Cavaradossi, and we are there with him.
Now in his sixth decade as a world-class performer, Mr. Domingo maintains an extraordinarily full schedule, both on the stage and on the podium. He conducts regularly, as he has done since the 1970s, bringing to each work the perspective of a musician with more than 50 years’ experience singing the very operas he now conducts. And, of course, he still is singing, constantly. His voice is, in a word, gorgeous, (audience laughing) possessing what Beverly Sills once described as a unique sheen. “It is so sympathetic,” she said, “and so innately beautiful.” Mr. Domingo has received countless accolades for his singing, his artistic leadership, and his generous philanthropic work.
He has won 12 Grammy Awards. He has served as general director of two major opera companies, including our own Los Angeles Opera. And he has been honored by governments around the world. He is a knight, a cavaliere, a chevalier, a commander, and, in the United States both a Kennedy Center honoree and a recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Having accomplished so much in the great opera houses and concert halls of the world, Mr. Domingo graces our stage today. Mr. President, on behalf of the Board of Trustees and the faculty of Pomona College, it is my profound honor to present to you Placido Domingo for the honorary degree of doctor of music. (audience applauding) – Placido Domingo, by the power vested in me by the Board of Trustees, I confer upon you the degree of doctor of music in Pomona College, honoris causa. (audience applauding) – Thank you, Mr. President. Thank you, Mr. Dean, professors, teachers, family, and of course the graduates of this generation. I really want to say it for you graduates. You are starting your life. You have been four years in these extraordinary surroundings, as it is talking about this school you know, so you are situated in a way then you can go in the morning to ski, (audience laughing) perhaps after your work to the breakfast, (audience laughing) and, yes indeed, after school perhaps you can go to Los Angeles Opera to see a performance or to go the Dodgers game, you know, the Lakers, wherever.
So it is a fantastic, fantastic place. I have always missed in my life not to be able, because of my very early start in artistic career, to be in a college or in a university. I think that this is like an university because it’s a graduate college, and for years I dreamed one day of maybe being able to be in a university or in a college like this, but I wonder when is going to be that, working so much. So, this is your day. This is really your day. Start looking for an extraordinary, extraordinary life that you have in front of you. It’s not easy, you know? Youth, remember, is just something, it’s a little mistake in us that passes with the years, you know? (audience laughing) But the youth, it gives you all the possibilities.
This is your time. These are your years, and I wish you all the best, all the best being around California or from whatever states or places of the world you are coming. Well, I really came to know about Pomona College academic excellence through my friendship with the late Richard Seaver and his son, Carlton. Richard was a great friend and great opera lover, and he was telling me always about the school. We spent many, many hours, many dinners, many performances with an extraordinary sense of humor, a great personality, and then later I met his son Carlton, which also we became friends and remembering all the times with his father.
But the Seaver family has had a long history with both Pomona College and LA Opera. They are really wonderful, wonderful champions of the arts, and it is moving how Pomona College and Los Angeles Opera are united, the ongoing, remarkable, ambitionary leadership of the Seaver family. To start, I want to share that Carlton’s membership on the Pomona Board of Trustees continues a long and warm relationship between the college and the Seaver family. Richard Seaver graduate for the Class of 1943, and all five of Carlton’s uncles and aunts are Pomona graduates as well. His uncle, Frank Seaver, Class of 1905, was the first president of the Associated Student Body, a president of the Alumni Association, and a member of the College Board of Trustees from 1947 until 1964. Richard Seaver served on the Board from 1970 to 1995 and remains an honorary member. Pomona has grown to be one of the nation’s premier liberal arts colleges, and the Seavers are very, very much some of the builders of this wonderful college, which is 127 years old, and this is, I believe, the 121st commencement year. I just want to say something. The participation between Pomona and Los Angeles Opera, we have also a graduate from Pomona in 1986, Stacy Brightman, which has worked for us in Los Angeles Opera since 2000.
And, you know, she is absolutely dedicated to the company, to bring music to all the schools, thousands, thousands, thousands, thousands of children each week, every month, and every year. They are teach in an amusing way some of our operas, some new works, like, at this moment, the composer Nathan Wang, also a graduate of the Class of 1979, and librettist Mathew Leavitt, from the Class of 2003, are writing a youth opera entitled Orpheus for LA Opera. Nathan was also the composer of On Gold Mountain in 2000. And in the last few years, we have had two interns from Pomona College, Ben Yarbrough, Michael Petry, and four from Scripps: Carolyn Angius; Laura Steinroeder; Marissa Butler, Marissa is also working for us now; Julia Petraglia.
And the young artists perform here at the Pomona College in 2011. And it has been many, many of you or some of your companions, they have been coming to the rehearsals or performances to LA Opera, performances of Don Giovanni, performances of Two Foscari. Some of you are coming this week, A Streetcar Named Desire, which is performing Renee Fleming today at and three performances this week. (audience laughing) But you are coming for free. (laughing) And you have been to Le Nozze di Figaro, Lohengrin, Romeo and Juliette, Cosi Fan Tutte, Albert Herring, and La Boheme. So, you can see that the combination is really extraordinary that we are able to be together. I am very honored to be at the same time receiving this honorary degree. I am humbly proud to receive it, and together with Father Gregory Boyle and with Michael Starbird coming after and Valerie Jarrett, I’m very, very proud to be together with you.
And I have to tell you that I have heard the chorus that Mrs. Di Grazia has conduct. They sang beautiful, and his beautiful conducting has touched me very, very much artistically and so the brass ensemble at the beginning. And I have to say it also, my God, the senior class, both Emma Wolfarth and Darrell Edward Jones, without any, any doubt, they will be, I mean, I can see Emma having her own show talk in television. (audience laughing) (audience applauding) You know? And perhaps, yes, perhaps a little more serious, but perhaps he will be a politician, but he will be involved also it will be in serious programs with a lot of wit, et cetera, Darrell. So, congratulations for your speeches. (audience applauding) I just want to thank you all. I am very, very, very happy, very proud, and I just want to say to have a great, great complete days. And by the way, Emma, there’s a horse waiting for you to go for lunch after. (audience laughing) (audience applauding) – It is my great pleasure to introduce Professor Michael Starbird, Class of 1970, distinguished teaching professor and professor of mathematics at the University of Texas, Austin.
Professor Starbird is the winner of numerous awards and honors, including the Jean Holloway Award for Teaching Excellence, the President’s Associates Teaching Excellence Award, and that Mathematical Association of America Deborah and Franklin Haimo Award for distinguished teaching in mathematics. He is a member of the Academy of Distinguished Teachers and an inaugural fellow of the American Mathematical Society. One of his books, The Heart of Mathematics, was acclaimed by the American Mathematical Monthly as possibly the best book for non-mathematicians it has ever reviewed. Professor Starbird works in a branch of mathematics called topology; generally, the study of shapes. Topologists are known for not knowing the difference between a coffee cup and a donut. (audience laughing) But Mike seems not to have suffered unduly from this deficiency. (audience laughing) Topologists like to explore the twists and turns of objects, and it is interesting to see how Mike’s own life path has twisted and turned since his childhood in Southern California.
After high school, he matriculated to Harvard. But after one year, he realized his mistake and transferred to Pomona College, (audience laughing) (audience applauding) where he graduated cum laude with a math major in 1970. He went on to get a Ph.D. at the University of Wisconsin and subsequently joined the faculty in Austin. He has maintained his connections with Pomona College, however. And in 1975, his family established the Starbird Lectures. In the early years of these lectures, Mike and his brother Tom, also a math major from Pomona and a math Ph.D.
From Berkeley, would entertain us by presenting mathematical gems as a duet, the two of them simultaneously writing on the blackboard. Later, both of Mike’s daughters, Tally and Brynn, graduated from Pomona College. Indeed, I had the fortune of teaching Tally when she was here and I even got to see her this morning, which was fun. Mike used the opportunity of his daughters’ presence on campus to visit our department from time to time, always offering up some of his favorite puzzles. Most recently, Professor Starbird has written a book titled The Five Elements of Effective Thinking, which, I just learned, you each get one, that’s kinda fun, in which he points out how many of the fundamental ideas and skills involved in abstract mathematical thinking are relevant to success in everyday life.
I quote from his book. “Education does not stop “with the end of your formal schooling. “Even if your formal school days are long past, “you are still a student and hopefully will always be one. “You can choose to learn habits of thought “that will help you to meet the ongoing challenges of life; “personal, professional, and societal.” We are proud to have Professor Michael Starbird as a Pomona alum and delighted to honor him today. Mr. President, on behalf of the Board of Trustees and the faculty of Pomona College, it is my great honor to present to you Michael Starbird for the honorary degree of doctor of science.
(audience applauding) – Michael Starbird, by the power vested in me by the Board of Trustees, I confer upon you the degree of doctor of science in Pomona College, honoris causa. (audience applauding) – I was a little disappointed that Jo didn’t mention that I also sing. (audience laughing) I was in the Pomona College Choir, I’ll have you know. (audience laughing) (audience applauding) I don’t know why that didn’t come up. (audience laughing) I first came to Pomona 47 years ago. (audience cheering) And it was just recently before that that 47 was actually discovered or invented. (audience laughing) If it weren’t for that, I would have to say I came here more than 46 years ago, but less than 48, but the mystery would remain. (audience laughing) So, my job is to give you life advice, and then I will proceed to do so. I learned some things at Pomona College, and one of them occurred during a class that I had when I was a senior in medieval art history. And this was a class that was taught by an extremely scholarly and an extremely old professor.
(audience laughing) She knew everything about gothic cathedrals, and we thought it was because she was there when they were built. (audience laughing) In any case, I would sit in the back of the room because you weren’t allowed to sit in the hall. (audience laughing) And one day, she would show a picture, you know, she’d show these pictures, these byzantine kinda pictures, and one day the dreaded words came from this mobile fossil. (audience laughing) She said, “Mr. Starbird, what do you see in this picture?” Well, the picture was of, I don’t know what they were thinking, the hands are way too long, the head is too small, it’s got a big halo; you know these pictures? You know what I’m talking about? I was a math major. Obviously, nothing was coming to my mind about that. But I had been in art history classes and I knew that art has meaning. (audience laughing) So, I said, “I think the halo represents the circle of life, “emerging from the darkness of the primordial void, “arcing into the glory of shining Heaven “and proceeding onto the infinity of the abyss.” I assure you, it was ripe.
(audience laughing) She said, “Cut out the bull and tell me what you see.” (audience laughing) And that’s the moral of the story, (audience laughing) to be honest about what you actually know and what you don’t know, instead of thinking about what you think the other person wants to hear, what do you actually understand? And I think that this is a transformational habit. If you get into this habit, it will actually completely change your life. However, that advice has some difficulties, and that is that, actually, most of us understand almost nothing. And what you now revere as core truths will often later reveal some disturbing nuance, such as, later it’ll seem completely bogus. In my generation’s case, the attitude was, you may remember, that you would never trust someone over 30.
Somehow, that’s an example that would not lend itself to an example of enduring wisdom that will stand the test of time. (audience laughing) But at the time, it seemed fine. So, I can ask you, do you really know why you support the collection of opinions that you hold dear: political opinions, religious views, social views? The answer is that you don’t, really. And neither do the people who have opposite opinions.
They don’t really know. Acrimony ensues, right? So, I have a modest proposal that promotes civility and anchors us all in the reality of our limited understanding. And here’s what I propose. Every time you state an opinion, such as, “I think the death penalty is not a great idea, “except, of course, for a few people I could name,” (audience laughing) you state that opinion, but instead of just stating it, you also state a percentage that captures how strongly you actually believe that. So, you say, “I think the death penalty’s a bad idea, 80%.” (audience laughing) Isn’t that a great idea? (audience laughing) And this way, if somebody gives you some credible evidence on the opposite side, you don’t have to abandon your opinion altogether.
You have room to wiggle and you say, “I still think the death penalty’s a great idea, “I mean, not a great idea, but now only 68%.” You see what I mean? I think it’s brilliant. (audience laughing) They’re not buying it. Also, anybody who says that they are 100% sure of any opinion are really saying that they’re completely close-minded and that no amount of evidence will penetrate the concrete. Those people should be ignored. (audience laughing) So, just getting in the habit of realizing and acknowledging to yourself that you yourself really are not certain and that you might well adjust your opinions with evidence and experience, that’s an important thing. So, you’re taking a huge step forward toward realizing personal understanding and wisdom. Doubt is good. I believe that the idea of embracing doubt is good advice, (pausing) about 93%. (audience laughing) But I do have one small complaint to make to President Oxtoby. I’m sorry, but when he called me and told me about this wonderful honor, I was quite sure that he said I would have three to five hours to speak.
(audience laughing) And I thought that was about right to get started. But only recently did I learn that it was supposed to be three to five minutes. That was annoying. (audience laughing) So, I decided the only way to handle this disappointment was to give you each a copy of my book co-authored with Edward Burger called The Five Elements of Effective Thinking, and it basically describes how to become more insightful, more innovative, and more creative. So, I hope you do enjoy it, and you all had it on your table there. So anyway, thank you, and best wishes for a constructive and happy life, 100%. (audience laughing) (audience applauding) – Every day in America, there are single moms struggling to take sick children to doctor’s appointments because missing work isn’t an option, there are dads straining to focus at their jobs because their employers don’t provide paternity leave, and there are young women questioning their ability to thrive in the workplace as they try to balance the needs of their families with their responsibilities at work.
Last week, Valerie Jarrett painted this picture in a statement titled A 21st Century Workplace for Today’s Working Families. There, Jarrett tells us that 75% of American households are now run by either a working single parent or two working parents, yet we don’t have family-friendly workplaces to reflect this reality. This must change, Jarrett says, if we want to have a vibrant workforce and raise vibrant children, if we wanna help young people like today’s graduates achieve the good jobs and the good families that we have taught them to dream of having. Here, as she has done throughout her career, Valerie Jarrett brings passion, clarity, and intelligence to focus on lessening the everyday struggles of everyday life. From her time in Chicago government to her current role as senior advisor to President Barack Obama, Jarrett has used her own positions of power to try to help people who lack power.
For instance, as chair of the Chicago Transit Board 15 years ago, Jarrett fought to preserve transit service to the city’s minority-dominated South and West Sides. As chair of the White House Council on Women and Girls for the last several years, she has insisted on the importance of equal pay for equal work. She is known by many as the conscience of this presidential administration, as a person who straightforwardly addresses the real difficulties faced by real people in the real world today.
So, against the popular notion that politics is a dirty and self-serving business, Valerie Jarrett models a life in public service that is truly about serving the public. Thinking of Valerie Jarrett, I wanna paraphrase the words of the person I think is our greatest contemporary political philosopher, and here I mean, of course, Leslie Knope of TV’s Parks and Recreation. (audience cheering) I long for a day when women in government and women of color in government and mothers in government will all simply be seen as people in government. But since that day is not yet our own, let it also be said, Valerie Jarrett is a woman in government, a woman of color in government, and a mother in government, at the highest reaches of government, no less. For that, too, we must cheer her in the Pomona way, chirp, chirp, chirp. (audience laughing) Mr. President, on behalf of the Board of Trustees and the faculty of Pomona College, it is my sincere honor to present to you Valerie Jarrett for the honorary degree of doctor of humane letters.
(audience applauding) – Valerie Jarrett, by the power vested in me by the Board of Trustees, I confer upon you the degree of doctor of laws in Pomona College, honoris causa. (audience applauding) – Well, good afternoon everyone. Oh, come on. Good afternoon, everybody! – Good afternoon! – I’m just checking to see if you’re awake. I know how late you stayed out last night. (audience laughing) So, Susan, thank you for that incredible introduction. I was wondering maybe if you could come along with me every time I speak and give that same introduction. (audience laughing) Of course, I also wanna congratulate you on the Wig Award. I have– (light audience applauding) Yeah, come on, a round of applause. (audience applauding) I thank President Oxtoby for this incredible invitation and honor.
I’ve had the pleasure of knowing David and Claire for over two decades, since their son and my daughter were in nursery school together. (audience awing) Yeah, aw, this is really a very special day for me. I also wanna thank, of course, Jeanne Buckley, the president of the Board of Trustees, the rest of Board of Trustees, the faculty, the Honorary Degree Committee for this tremendous honor. It’s a pleasure for me to receive this degree from such a prestigious institution with my fellow honorees and also without having to take a single final exam. Eat your hearts out, Class of 2004. (audience laughing) But the Class of 2004, this is your day.
And so, for that, I wanna offer my congratulations to you. You’re about to embark on an incredible journey. And as painful as it is to say goodbye to heaven on Earth right here in Pomona, trust me, the best is yet to come. Of course, I wanted to also congratulate all the parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, siblings, members of your family, both here and back home, without whom none of you would be sitting here right this minute. So, how about a shoutout to them? Round of applause. (audience applauding) Thanks to their support and the incredible instruction and encouragement of the faculty and the staff right here at Pomona, you are now poised to write your next generation’s chapter in our collective history, and I hope you feel a little pressure, just a little pressure right there.
It does feel really good to be back in California. As you may know, I’m a Stanford alum, where our mascot is maybe admittedly just a little less intimidating than your mascot. (audience laughing) Sometimes I forget just how relaxing and friendly everyone is out here. I don’t know what I am doing in Washington. I belong right here with you. Talking about relaxed, I love the tradition of everybody clapping as the graduates walk by. And I want you to know that I was peeking, not at your faces, but at your feet. (audience laughing) I just didn’t see a whole lotta closed-toe shoes out there in the audience there, (audience laughing) but that’s wonderful. Which reminds me though, I’ve been asked to encourage all of the members of the new Alpha Phi fraternity/sorority to please keep your gowns zipped up. (crowd oohing) Yeah, I heard all about what happens. We’re gonna keep it PG right here. (audience laughing) But in all seriousness, I am just honored to be with you on this really special day.
Over the past four years, Class of 2014, you’ve made this campus your home under the watchful eyes of your spomas and your spopas, right, did I get that even remotely close? (audience laughing) And I was also warned not to mention the sponcest that happens from time to time, (audience laughing) so we’re not gonna go there. You have no doubt made lifelong friendships, as you grew to understand and appreciate both the rewards and the responsibilities that go along with being a member of this very special Pomona family. Now, as you leave campus, I urge you to hold fast to your extended family, for those relationships will only grow much more precious if you continue to nurture them. My best friend from college, Gwen Poindexter, that’s a name you never forget, right, remains one of my closest friends to this day.
In fact, not long ago, when Peter O’Toole died, we exchanged emails, literally, they passed each other in cyberspace, remembering how we sat and watched one of my favorite movies, Goodbye, Mr. Chips, which I encourage everybody to watch, and we cried together at the end. But it is the bonds that we shared since graduation and the hard work that we did to maintain that incredible bond and friendship over the years that has solidified our lifelong friendship. I also encourage you to embrace the philosophy of Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the president of Liberia and the first African woman head of state, who famously said, “If your dreams do not scare you, “then they’re not big enough.” Your Pomona diploma is evidence that you are among the best and the brightest. You’ve proven that you’re smart, you’ve proven that you know how to work hard, you’ve proven that critical thinking is something that you embrace.
So, the question now becomes, do you have the courage to succeed in the real world? Each of you has had an irrefutable potential to achieve your wildest far-reaching dreams. And, in fact, I’ve heard many of you are off to a pretty good start. Johnny Hyung, are you here today? Where’s Johnny? I know you’re out here somewhere. (audience cheering) So, for example, Johnny has conducted in-depth research to maximize the impact of global aid to empower young girls. Love that. (audience applauding) Rodrigo Renaro has spent much of– (audience cheering) See, I got some good names. Has spent much of his undergraduate year reviving dead and dying languages in South America, so that’s incredible. (audience applauding) Deanna Ortiz. (audience cheering) Now, she intends to follow her passion for faith-based activism on immigration reform and the rights of farm workers at Harvard University; you know, that Pomona of the east. (audience laughing) So, we wish her luck too. (audience applauding) So, it seems, it seems that the Pomona faculty must’ve done something right. So, whether it’s Professor Shahriari, who flipped off his sandals and flails his arms wildly until calculus somehow just starts to make sense, (audience laughing) or Professor Flapan, sometimes jarring, but always charmingly honest while answering her irrelevant question of the day, or Professor O’Leary unlocking the secrets of organic chemistry with his mastery of colored chalk– If only for the colored chalk, I might be a physician today.
(audience laughing) But now, as you leave behind your ready access to their teaching, I hope you have the courage to embark on a lifelong passion for learning from a richly diverse range of people and places and experiences that you actively seek along life’s journey. And if you aren’t scared yet, you really should be. Now, I’ll tell you a little secret. I have had the extraordinary privilege of meeting some of the most important, effective leaders in the world. I’ve never met a single one who wasn’t scared. Some hide it better than others, but all have found the courage to overcome their fear and listen to their own voices, even when that voice is much softer than the voices that surround them, to trust their gut, to take calculated risks, to advocate for themselves while running the risk of rejection, to follow their both personal and professional passions. Now, passion evolves or even changes over time. And I have news for you, not every moment at home or at work is gonna be totally fulfilling. But over the arc of your life, you must really care about what you do.
And if you stop caring, you have to have the courage to be flexible and change course when opportunity knocks, and it often knocks at the most inopportune moments. Think of John Payton, who’s one of your revered alum, who was also a very dear friend of mine. John passed away in 2012, but his legacy remains so strong. He had an incredible career, including serving as the president of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund for four years and the lead counsel who successfully defended the University of Michigan and the University of Michigan Law School, my alma mater, before the United States Supreme Court in a landmark case on affirmative action. Now, he started out doing what? He was an admissions officer right here, doing an amazing job, but I think the world is grateful that he changed course.
Think of Mary GrandPre, another proud Pomona alum, who worked as a waitress before making a change and joining an ad agency. She was later tapped to illustrate the Harry Potter books, and I hear her illustrations of Hogwarts may have been inspired by your very own dining hall. (audience laughing) As my grandmother used to put it, I quote her a lot, put yourself in the path of lightning; don’t be afraid. I often think about how very different my life would be if I hadn’t found the courage to change course, and I mean radically change course.
I certainly wouldn’t have been invited to be here today and receive this incredible honorary degree and I may never have found my passion. During my senior year of college, sitting there where you are, I constructed what I thought was the perfect plan. First, straight to law school. Then, of course, I would find the love of my life, marry within a couple of years, I’d have my first baby by 30, ever mindful of that biological clock ticking away. I’d then make partner at a great law firm by the age of 31. Sounds like a pretty good plan, right? Well, I went to straight to law school and I soon married the proverbial boy next door. After three years of practicing law at one excellent firm, I traded up for what I thought was an even more prestigious firm. And my daughter was born just shy of my 29th birthday, right on schedule, I might add. But not so fast. By 30, I was separated from my husband and I clearly remember sitting in my beautiful office on the 79th floor of the Sears Tower in Chicago, with a magnificent view of the sailboats and the lake, staring at my very lucrative paycheck, and I burst into tears because I was absolutely miserable.
So, I had to make a decision. Keep following my original plan, and I was a little rigid back then, or be honest with myself and search for my true passion? A year earlier, at the recommendation of my first real mentor, I had participated in a young leaders program that exposed me to a diverse range of business and civic and political leaders all working to try to make Chicago a better city. That experience motivated me to consider for the first time public service. And so, I took a leap of faith and I joined the City of Chicago Law Department. I moved outta that really cushy office with a great view into a tiny cubicle with a window that faced an alley. But from my very first day, I knew I was right where I belonged. And as a bonus, four years later, I hired a brilliant young lawyer with whom I instantly bonded over our shared desire not to practice at a big law firm and to serve our community.
Her name was Michelle Robinson. And when we met, she was engaged to this skinny guy with a really funny name, Barack Obama. And the rest, well, you know the rest. Now, a lot has changed since I began my career a long, long, long, long, long time ago. Today, women are graduate from college and graduate school at higher rates than men. Women make up nearly half of our workforce. Two-thirds of all families, as you heard a moment ago, are headed by single women or co-breadwinners. And when I graduated from college, women earned only 59 cents on the dollar. And although we’ve made a lot of progress, women still only earn 77 cents on the dollar and women of color, the disparity is even greater, and that pay gap grows over a woman’s career.
That’s why the president has decided to have a White House summit on working families coming up on June 23rd, a shameless plug for our summit, and we’re gonna discuss how to keep the United States globally competitive as we face these changing demographics. So, I do believe that the 21st-century workplace needs to reflect the values and priorities of the 21st-century workforce. Class of 2014, that means your values. It means your priorities. At the summit, we’re gonna highlight the best practices of workplace flexibility and closing the pay gap and creating opportunities for promotion and paid leave for sick leave and maternity leave and paternity leave and to take care of our elder parents and as many other improvements as we can think of to improve the workplace so that it can be expected to retain and attract the talent that we’re seeing right here in front of us. But here’s the thing: You all have to have the courage to speak up.
You have to advocate for yourself over and over and over again and fight for that balanced life. I’ve often said that in life you can have it all, but not necessarily at the same time. But I also believe that the 21st-century workforce shouldn’t have to choose between family and success. Evidence shows that employers who recognize the importance of balance end up with a more productive workforce with less turnover and more profitable. So, Class of 2014, if you have suggestions, you can tweet me, @VJ44. Let me know what you think you need in order to thrive in the workplace. Speaking of technology, these advances in technology have provided another source of fundamental change, dramatically improving our productivity and how we interact. But I caution you to ensure that those advances do not rob your generation of the inherent richness of the human experience. Raise your hands if you have texted, tweeted, Facebooked, Instagrammed, Snapchat, any of that, while I’ve been talking. (audience laughing) I know it’s more than one person. When I leave here, I’m gonna be checking and finding out, so you might as well fess up. But this is what I’m talking about.
It’s okay, but please make sure to regularly pause from social media and take in life in realtime. It’s all right. Enjoy the moment with no pixels, with an even clearer picture than HD is gonna give you. The reason why you came here to learn rather than simply taking classes online is direct engagement, human interaction. And I do worry, as we are increasingly using technology to connect, that we run the risk of missing out on an intangible but essential element in creating healthy, honest, and trusting relationships.
Let’s face it, it takes courage to say what you think and feel while looking directly into someone’s eyes. And it also takes practice. And the truth is, you will suffer both professionally and personally if you don’t master that skill. We all know the pain that ensues from cyberbullying, yet it is increasingly happening at an alarming rate. And believe me, in the public life, we all have no choice but to develop tough skins. Just look at my Twitter feed and you’ll see it firsthand. But you will be the ones who determine just how we use that precious ability to connect. The future of our culture is actually in your hands. With courage, you can inject decency rather than coarseness into our dialogue, and, boy, could we use some of that in Washington. So, please, run for office. Bring it with you and run for office. And you can begin right now by putting down the phone when you have dinner with your families tonight.
I know that you’re all gonna have dinner. And so, when you do, and now, I’m not here to lecture you, so don’t get touchy, that was just a gift to your family. #YoureWelcome. (audience laughing) But also remember that before I hire anybody, I always check out everything that they’ve been doing online. And believe me, we have ways of finding out (audience laughing) everything you’ve been doing online. All right, so, that was actually funnier than I intended it to be. (audience laughing) Having cautioned you about the internet, I also wanna remember to remind you that everybody makes mistakes; goodness knows, everyone. And you just can’t allow those mistakes to paralyze you or the fear of anticipating the inevitable failures of life that lie ahead; and I mean that, inevitable failures. And while you’re gonna need courage to take risks and try new paths, you’re also gonna need courage to have resilience, to learn to laugh, bounce back, learn from your mistakes whenever you stumble and fall.
One more subject that I’m sure your family is gonna appreciate is your health. There’s a reason why we call your generation young invincibles: You actually think you’re young and invincible. But even though you feel like a million bucks today, life can throw you a curveball. It’s not courageous to gamble with your life. As you graduate, you too are gonna have the opportunity to have insurance, health insurance. You can receive it through your job, you can stay on your parents’ plans until you’re 26– (audience applauding) Your parents are delighted to know about that. Or, if you don’t have those options, you can go to the very, very smoothly working Healthcare.gov and sign up for health insurance! (audience applauding) I was gonna edit this out, but just one more thing.
By the way, do you know the number of Americans who did not have health insurance before the Affordable Care Act was passed? 47 million. (audience laughing) 47. 47’s everywhere these days. Now, Class of 2014, when I was in your place, it would’ve been inconceivable to me that one day I would serve as a senior advisor to the president of the United States or even work in the White House, because it wasn’t in my plan.
But I know your dreams are far greater than mine, and the experience that you’ve had here at Pomona has been so enriched by a buffet breakfast delivered to you so eloquently by Emma, who I am happy to quote, that you are far better prepared than I could’ve possibly been to be citizens of the world, a shrinking world. So, please believe in your infinite possibilities. I can’t imagine a more pivotal or exciting moment to be entering adulthood. The diploma you’re about to receive is definitely well-earned, but it is also a gift, one which remains out of reach for far too many of your peers across America and across the world. It is not a gift to simply be treasured. It carries with it a new set of expectations and responsibilities to leave the world better than you found it. One of my favorite quotes is from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., when he said that the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice. Last year, at the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, President Obama added that the arc does not bend on its own.
It bends because of each of us in our own ways putting our hand on that arc, and we bend it, we bend it in the direction of justice. And just yesterday, in celebration of the 60th anniversary of Brown v. Board of the Education, a landmark civil rights case, President Obama said, “Let’s remember that while progress has never come easily, “people who love their country can change it.” So, please, Class of 2014, remember that real progress is only possible if each of you recognize your awesome power to shape the future of our country and the world and have the courage to use that power for good.
Whether you pursue public service, which I certainly hope you do at some point, or work in a cutting-edge laboratory, a remote village, high-tech factory floors, or a classroom that inspires the next generation of leaders, remember that the important part of your legacy will be determined by whether you had the courage to be flexible and seize opportunity without succumbing to fear or failure, not just looking out for yourself, but promoting opportunity for all and leaving the doors that you walk through just a little wider for those who follow behind. Class of 2014, have the courage to do what my grandmother said and put yourself in the path of lightning. And always remember, always remember the words inscribed on the gates of this institution. “They only are loyal to this college who, “departing, bear their added riches in trust for mankind.” Thank you very much. (audience applauding) – We will now proceed to the conferring of degrees. (audience cheering) – Will the members of the Class of 2014 please rise? (audience applauding) Mr. President, upon the recommendation of the faculty of Pomona College and by vote of the Board of Trustees, I have the honor to present these candidates for the degree of bachelor of arts in Pomona College.
– Now, by the authority vested in me by the Board of Trustees, I confer upon you as you individually present yourselves the degree of bachelor of arts in Pomona College with all the rights and privileges appertaining thereto. – Miranda Elise Fox. (audience applauding) Kyle Adrien Redford. (audience applauding) Nicholas Robert Shorer. (audience applauding) Hannah Elizabeth Walhout. (audience applauding) Alexandra Sophia Antonopoulous. (audience applauding) William Anselm Appleton. (audience applauding) Kelsey Marie Atkinson. (audience applauding) Ayana Oforiwah Austin-Depay. (audience applauding) Yanaya Spree Autumn. (audience applauding) Gabrielle Andrea Badie. (audience applauding) Prachie Banthia. (audience applauding) Jacob Anthony Barrera. (audience applauding) Laura Barry. (audience applauding) Nicole Jacqueline Bauthier.
(audience applauding) Eve Jacqueline Beausolay. (audience applauding) Lorraine Lancelot Beck. (audience applauding) Taylor Allen Beckwith-Ferguson. (audience applauding) Colin Paul Bellinger. (audience applauding) Alexander Matthew Bell. (audience applauding) Garrett Michael Bell. (audience applauding) Adam Martin Belzberg. (audience applauding) Christopher Bergeron. (audience applauding) Mark Edison Berry. (audience applauding) Bethany Karen Beutler. (audience applauding) Sarah Ann Black. (audience applauding) Natasha Ann Block. (audience applauding) Gina Lee Bock. (audience applauding) Allison Lee Boden. (audience applauding) Lauren Mary Boden. (audience applauding) Stephanie Ann Boden. (audience applauding) Dalton Bulger. (audience applauding) Maya Lauren Booth. (audience applauding) Travis James Bowers. (audience applauding) Jonah Share Breslow.
(audience applauding) Claire Rosemary Brickson. (audience applauding) Kristin Nicole Brikmanis. (audience applauding) Benjamin Jacob Brostoff. (audience applauding) Sarah Christine Buhorn. (audience applauding) Michael Slade Burns. (audience applauding) Ian Patrick Byers-Gamber. (audience applauding) Eva Jordan Byrne. (audience applauding) Byron King Callan IV. (audience applauding) James Avery Canepa. (audience applauding) Jesse Alexander Caro. (audience applauding) Pia Diane Carretta. (audience applauding) Emma Katherine Carroll. (audience applauding) Abraham Cass. (audience applauding) Michael Andrew Ceragioli. (audience applauding) Alice Sayu Chan. (audience applauding) Albert Chang. (audience applauding) Howard Chang. (audience applauding) Samantha Chao.
(audience applauding) Alan Paul Chen. (audience applauding) Robert Stefan Chew. (audience applauding) Jackie Ching. (audience applauding) Nicholas Cho. (audience applauding) Julia Clover Clark. (audience applauding) Sami Maruff Cleland. (audience applauding) Oluwatobi Orayluwa Clement. (audience applauding) Rebecca Molly Clingman. (audience applauding) Thomas Lyle Conkling. (audience applauding) Larkin Margaret Corrigan. (audience applauding) Adam Whittenberg Cox. (audience applauding) Maxwell Clark Coyle. (audience applauding) Marilyn Grace Creswell.
(audience applauding) Claudia Delaney Crook. (audience applauding) Maricela Cruz. (audience applauding) Rachel Kalani Davidson. (audience applauding) Nayda Degracias. (audience applauding) Madeline Rose Demuyle. (audience applauding) Eric Alexis Derris. (audience applauding) Hannah Michelle Deworth. (audience applauding) Claire McKay Dickey. (audience applauding) Cesia Dominguez-Lopez. (audience applauding) Maurissa Jean Dorn. (audience applauding) Leah Renee Dove. (audience applauding) Meredith Jane Durbin. (audience applauding) Ishan Dutt. (audience applauding) Sydney Cheryl Dyson. (audience applauding) Rose Parker Egelhoff. (audience applauding) Maria Grace Elmun-Horvath. (audience applauding) Zachary John Ernst. (audience applauding) Joaquin Estrada. (audience applauding) Anatolia Maya Evarkiou-Kaku. (audience applauding) William Ellsworth Evenson IV. (audience applauding) Joel Falliano. (audience applauding) Melissa Takara Fedornak. (audience applauding) Peter Christian Ferrin. (audience applauding) Giselle Fierro. (audience applauding) Charlotte Susan Fisken. (audience applauding) Jennifer Lynne Flannery. (audience applauding) Emma Grace Foehringer-Merchant. (audience applauding) LaMarcus Andre Ford II. (audience applauding) Kara Diane Freedman. (audience applauding) Chelsea Burleson Fried. (audience applauding) Emma Kaplan Fulham. (audience applauding) Logan Beth Galansky. (audience applauding) Cooper J. Galvin. (audience applauding) Luis Alberto Garcia-Herman. (audience applauding) Delilah Lacy Garcia. (audience applauding) Isabelle Garcia.
(audience applauding) Jamie Marie Garcia. (audience applauding) Katherine Nayeli Garcia. (audience applauding) Ricardo Garcia. (audience applauding) Alexandra Maria Gavlake. (audience applauding) Nicholas John Gebbia. (audience applauding) Renata Gerecke. (audience applauding) Brendan James Gillett. (audience applauding) Devin Michael Gilliam. (audience applauding) Blake Gilmore. (audience applauding) Zachary Aaron Glassman. (audience applauding) Dustin Alan Godevais. (audience applauding) Eduardo Gonzalez. (audience applauding) Myra Alejandra Gradia. (audience applauding) Felicia Marie Grady. (audience applauding) Benjamin Freeman Graubart. (audience applauding) Armand Alexis Gray. (audience applauding) Gillian Roxanne Grindstaff. (audience applauding) Ethan Orin Grossman. (audience applauding) Gabriela Marie Guerra. (audience applauding) Angela Gunn. (audience applauding) Kevin Alexander Townsend Guttenplan, summa cum laude. (audience applauding) Justin Andrew Gutzwa. (audience applauding) Laura Guzman. (audience applauding) Derek Ha. (audience applauding) Marlene Haggblade. (audience applauding) Esther Mingie Han. (audience applauding) Todd Everett Harris. (audience applauding) Rachel Elizabeth Havranek. (audience applauding) Emily Ann Hayes. (audience applauding) Jenny He. (audience applauding) Dulci Eileen Head. (audience applauding) Anne Maynard Hedlund. (audience applauding) Andrew Dane Helgren. (audience applauding) Gabriela Heller. (audience applauding) Christopher Charles Helwig. (audience applauding) Austin McMaster Henderson.
(audience applauding) Brian Nevin Henshell. (audience applauding) Charles Russell Herman. (audience applauding) Ryan Hampton Higgins. (audience applauding) Samantha Christine Hill. (audience applauding) Tyler Frasier Hill. (audience applauding) Danielle Holstein. (audience applauding) Benjamin Hoober-Burkhardt. (audience applauding) Mary Horgan. (audience applauding) Karen Hou. (audience applauding) Mira Tressa Howard. (audience applauding) Rebecca Justice Howland. (audience applauding) Jonathan K. Huang. (audience applauding) Raywin Hwang. (audience applauding) John Wiley Hunt.
(audience applauding) William Graham Hunt. (audience applauding) Johnny Hwin. (audience applauding) Caitlyn Michelle Hynes. (audience applauding) Brenda Iglesias. (audience applauding) Sharon Esther Jan. (audience applauding) Madeline Brilliant Jenks. (audience applauding) Chandler Philip Jennings. (audience applauding) Sarai Gabriela Jimenez. (audience applauding) Katia Jimenez. (audience applauding) Jing Jin. (audience applauding) Alexander Wesson Johann. (audience applauding) Spencer Johnson. (audience applauding) Chanel Jones. (audience applauding) Miriam Louise Kay. (audience applauding) Amanda Leigh Kaliss. (audience applauding) James Jiungmo Kang. (audience applauding) Sam Joseph Kaplan. (audience applauding) Matthew Koenitz Karkut. (audience applauding) Jessica Kaushal. (audience applauding) Cameron Reed Kell. (audience applauding) Katherine Louise Kelly. (audience applauding) Kate Meredith Kennelly. (audience applauding) Deirdre Pauline McKenna Kessler. (audience applauding) Bryan Kevan. (audience applauding) Emma Ann Killoran. (audience applauding) Jacob Alan Klewer. (audience applauding) Paul Julian Koenig. (audience applauding) Olufela Adeleke Koleoso.
(audience applauding) Utsav Kothari. (audience applauding) (audience laughing) Tara Krishna. (audience applauding) Timothy Paul Huang Kung. (audience applauding) Molly Elizabeth Kupfer. (audience applauding) Frances Katherine Kyl. (audience applauding) Daniel Lear LaPook. (audience applauding) Alex Andrew Lammers. (audience applauding) Jack Stevenson Latourette. (audience applauding) Nicholas James Lawson. (audience applauding) Deirdre Hee Suk Lee. (audience applauding) Howard Jinsu Lee, Jr. (audience applauding) Jasmine Grace Lee. (audience applauding) Jim Leng. (audience applauding) Hannah Nagishi Levin. (audience applauding) Harris Reynold Levin. (audience applauding) Jonathan Tsing Jian Leu. (audience applauding) Linga Li. (audience applauding) Yi Li. (audience applauding) Jessica Sen Lin. (audience applauding) Alexandra Elizabeth Lincoln. (audience applauding) Scott Lindberg. (audience applauding) Patrick Yewhow Liu.
(audience applauding) Stephanie May Liu. (audience applauding) Patrick Loftus. (audience applauding) Joseph Daniel Long. (audience applauding) Eli Winfield Longnecker. (audience applauding) Kathy Lu, summa cum laude. (audience applauding) Ethan Ma. (audience applauding) Jason Christopher Machado. (audience applauding) Ian Bennett Mayer. (audience applauding) Danielle Alexis Maldonado. (audience applauding) Michael Joseph Maltese. (audience applauding) Eric Marcovix. (audience applauding) Jeremy Seth Marks. (audience applauding) Daniel Jeffrey Martin. (audience applauding) Eric Martinez-Cornejo. (audience applauding) Karen McCarthy. (audience applauding) Corey Edward McDonald. (audience applauding) Robert John McElwain. (audience applauding) Michael Owen McGuiness. (audience applauding) Daniel Paul Mendez. (audience applauding) Jace Antonio Mendoza-Macias. (audience applauding) Eliana Rachel Meryl. (audience applauding) Kimberly Vega Meryl. (audience applauding) Kyle Schuart Metcalf.
(audience applauding) Emily Elaine Meyer. (audience applauding) Lindsey Ann Meyer. (audience applauding) Daniella Alexandra Mesa. (audience applauding) Julia Grace Miller. (audience applauding) Ryan James Miller. (audience applauding) Tara Sonali Miller. (audience applauding) Will Charles Mitchell. (audience applauding) Vijay Mohung. (audience applauding) Garrick Monahan. (audience applauding) Christian Monroy Rodriguez. (audience applauding) Lauren Jiyoung Moon. (audience applauding) Lucia Moreno-Nava. (audience applauding) David Warren Morgans. (audience applauding) Amy Christina Morey. (audience applauding) Jacob Daniel Morris-Knower. (audience applauding) Thomas Moscher. (audience applauding) Laura Consuela Verin Munoz. (audience applauding) Nicholas Nanez. (audience applauding) Mauricio Levy Navarro. (audience applauding) Ann Devereaux Niehaus. (audience applauding) Stephanie Njow. (audience applauding) Jacob Mehao Nowitski. (audience applauding) Dylan Cole O’Connell. (audience applauding) Durrell William O’Neal. (audience applauding) Joseph Antonio Ocon. (audience applauding) Tyler Oi. (audience applauding) Michael Thomas Opal. (audience applauding) Kai Oranz. (audience applauding) Diana Verenecy Ortiz. (audience applauding) Jessica Christine Osorio. (audience applauding) Cassandra Upunco Owen. (audience applauding) Charles Abdul Hamid Owens. (audience applauding) Arthi Padmanabhan. (audience applauding) Emma Delores Paine. (audience applauding) Diana Partida. (audience applauding) Peter Taylor Pelletier. (audience applauding) Jessica Pena. (audience applauding) Lauren Marie Penfield. (audience applauding) Elizabeth Autumn Pennel.
(audience applauding) Madeline Judith Perez. (audience applauding) Laura Marie Perrone, summa cum laude, and winner of the Rena Gurley Archibald High Scholarship Prize. (audience applauding) Emma Katherine Peterson. (audience applauding) Sean Thomas Pianca. (audience applauding) Hannah Rachel Pivo. (audience applauding) Caitlyn Fiona Plefka. (audience applauding) Alexandra Panamarova. (audience applauding) Ayana Marie Powell. (audience applauding) Chad Ellington Powell. (audience applauding) Eric Puma. (audience applauding) Wesley Quevedo. (audience applauding) Stephen Wesley Ragan. (audience applauding) Rebecca Powvort Raible. (audience applauding) Stephanie Michelle Ramirez. (audience applauding) Ryan John Randle.
(audience applauding) Rodrigo Ranero-Etchevarria. (audience applauding) Niquel Angela Raschek. (audience applauding) Michelle A. Reed. (audience applauding) Johanna Recalde. (audience applauding) Nicole Sylvia Redford. (audience applauding) Christopher Reeves. (audience applauding) Natalie Marie Reid. (audience applauding) William Matthew Reiley, summa cum laude. (audience applauding) Kelly Joan Rein. (audience applauding) John Michael Replogle. (audience applauding) Max Rich. (audience applauding) Sean W. Robinson. (audience applauding) Thalia Rodriguez. (audience applauding) Melisa Belen Rojas. (audience applauding) Kyle William Roskamp. (audience applauding) Amy Sophia Ruskin. (audience applauding) Aiden Saavedra-Buckley. (audience applauding) Rina Sadun. (audience applauding) Gideon Joseph Saltzman-Gubbay. (audience applauding) Adriana Michelle Sanchez. (audience applauding) Aparna Sarka. (audience applauding) Neja Gajendra Savant. (audience applauding) Nicholas Anthony Sbardeletti. (audience applauding) Jennifer Elise Schmidt, summa cum laude. (audience applauding) Kyle Alexander Schneider. (audience applauding) Brendan Ray Schneiderman. (audience applauding) Jessica Schroeder. (audience applauding) Kelsey Lynn Schuetz. (audience applauding) Ella Beth Schwab. (audience applauding) Luke David Sedney. (audience applauding) Benjamin Michael Shand. (audience applauding) Clara Shale (stammering), Clara Hale Shelton. (audience laughing) (audience applauding) Roger Sheu. (audience applauding) Alana Dakota Shine. (audience applauding) Bianca Amy Shiu. (audience applauding) Amy Lauren Shoemaker. (audience applauding) Zachary Edmund Siegel. (audience applauding) Dorothy Leah Silverman. (audience applauding) Daniel Callen Skooby.
(audience applauding) Beth Leigh Smilkstein. (audience applauding) Emma Marie Valenzuela Smith. (audience applauding) Alana Faith Springer. (audience applauding) Jonathan Edward Starzyk. (audience applauding) Weston Joseph Staubus. (audience applauding) Ryan McAllister Stort. (audience applauding) David Eric Stritter. (audience applauding) Nicholas Sundback. (audience applauding) William Alfred Tachov. (audience applauding) Allison Andrea Law Tao. (audience applauding) Claire Stort Teitelbaum. (audience applauding) Makeda Tekle-Smith. (audience applauding) Alec Michael Terrana. (audience applauding) Tina Danielle Thaw. (audience applauding) Rebecca Thornquist. (audience applauding) Abunalowe Abeni Tinubu. (audience applauding) Anna Okutu Tscheum. (audience applauding) Danielle Esmay Van de Sande. (audience applauding) Titus Alexander Van Hook. (audience applauding) Saul Vasquez. (audience applauding) Lauren Vasquez. (audience applauding) Robert Immedio Ventura. (audience applauding) Jesse Vincent. (audience applauding) Zuzana Vuova. (audience applauding) Allison Noelle Wallingford.
(audience applauding) Sophie Chen Wang. (audience applauding) Chloe Webster. (audience applauding) Michael David Weil. (audience applauding) Ariel Hannah Wein. (audience applauding) Noah Davis Weingarten. (audience applauding) Marisa Weisberger. (audience applauding) John Samuel Weiss. (audience applauding) Olivia Juliana Weissblum. (audience applauding) Jessie Marie Welcomer. (audience applauding) Nicole Wellant. (audience applauding) Robert Edward Saki Weller. (audience applauding) Jasper J. Werby. (audience applauding) Morgan Courtney Westner. (audience applauding) Caitlyn Marie Wheaten.
(audience applauding) Grace Ann Wilibinski. (audience applauding) Zachary Jordan Williams. (audience applauding) Bryan David Williamson. (audience applauding) Sasha Lutz Winkler. (audience applauding) Madeleine Diane Wolfe. (audience applauding) Katherine Rose Wright. (audience applauding) Constance Wu, summa cum laude, and winner of the Rena Gurley Archibald High Scholarship Prize. (audience applauding) Wu Shen. (audience applauding) Brian Jacob Wysolmierski. (audience applauding) Xiao Xiet. (audience applauding) Mitsuku Alexandra Yabey. (audience applauding) Elizabeth Ann Yaffey. (audience applauding) Nathaniel William Yale. (audience applauding) Emily Grace Yang. (audience applauding) Richard Michael Yannow. (audience applauding) Andrew Wayne Yost. (audience applauding) Katherine Patricia Yserdiaga. (audience applauding) Jeffrey Collin Zellisin, summa cum laude. (audience applauding) Xiwei Zheng. (audience applauding) Brian Edward Zhu. (audience applauding) Raewi Vera Zru. (audience applauding) Sonya Ming Zu. (audience applauding) Lilly Jaeyi Zuang. (audience applauding) Kelobekeli Clara Zurobo. (audience applauding) Candice Nicole Lee. (audience applauding) (audience cheering) Emma Wolfarth Marshall. (audience applauding) Darrell Jones III. (audience applauding) – The Class of 2014. (audience applauding) Last November, I read an article in the New York Times that probably few of you noticed, but I put aside because I wanted to tell you about it today.
It described an Argentine car mechanic named Jorge Odon, who had developed a new device to save babies stuck in the birth canal during difficult births. How did he come up with this idea, which is now being tested widely and has the potential to save many lives in the future? He had watched a YouTube video about how to extract a lost cork from inside a wine bottle using a plastic bag. While sleeping that night, his unconscious made the leap to the conclusion that a similar approach could help extract a stuck baby from the birth canal. Odon tested the idea using a glass jar and his daughter’s doll, and then, through the intermediary of a cousin, spoke with an obstetrician at a major hospital in Buenos Aires. That doctor put him in touch with a friend at the World Health Organization, which led to a meeting between the car mechanic and Mario Merialdi, the head of the WHO program for improving maternal and postnatal health, who was in Buenos Aires for a medical conference.
Dr. Merialdi was excited. Their 10-minute meeting turned into two hours, and the Odon device has now gone through laboratory development, a New Jersey company has begun to manufacture it, and it is undergoing limited testing in Argentina and elsewhere. Why in the world am I telling you this story at your graduation? (audience laughing) Because I think it illustrates some important lessons about the nature of creativity and innovation, core values that we teach and encourage at Pomona College as part of a liberal arts education. It also shows how the process of bringing new ideas to the world has changed and become more global in recent years.
Coming up with new ideas has always been somewhat mysterious. It’s often when you’re thinking of something else, simply taking a walk or even sleeping, that inspiration strikes. A familiar example in my own field of chemistry is the discovery of the structure of benzene by August Kekule during a dream about snakes chasing each other in circles. Odon made the link between wine bottle and birth canal in a dream. He woke up his wife, who said he was crazy and went back to sleep. (audience laughing) The mysterious ways in which the brain works, making connections where they are least expected, provides much for neuroscientists to explore in the future. Sometimes, it seems that chance plays a central role. But in the words of Louis Pasteur, chance favors the prepared mind. While some elements of this story are timeless, others could only have taken place in the 21st century.
A car mechanic watches a YouTube video produced somewhere else in the world and uses that as a key link in his invention. YouTube did not even exist 10 years ago. Knowledge has been transformed by the lightning-fast communication of information around the world. Just coming up with an idea’s not enough. I’m sure that many of you have come up with world-changing ideas talking with friends late at night in your dorm room. What also mattered here was the persistence of the car mechanic, teamwork, and the network of real, not virtual, relationships that connected him in four steps to exactly the person in the world who could help put his idea into reality. There are Pomona College stories about creativity and innovation that illustrate the same principles I’ve been discussing. When I was traveling in India with my family over the New Year holiday, I opened the local paper in the town of Tirovanintapuran and saw an article about how a young local entrepreneur had helped to develop a new and affordable infant warmer for newborn premature babies.
The article described how a team of four had met at Stanford, traveled to Katmandu, Nepal, where they witnessed the immense need firsthand, then came up with a new concept, tested it, and is now manufacturing the device in India and saving thousands of lives. What caught my eye when I saw the article was another member of the team, Jane Chen. I recognized her as a Pomona graduate who majored in psychology, several years ago won our Inspirational Young Alumni Award for exactly this joint work. So, as you graduate today and go on to further education or directly into the workforce, I urge you to think about how you can use your Pomona College education to advance creative and innovative ideas that will help the world. Some of you may actually invent new devices, like the Embrace infant warmer or the Odon device. Some of you may unwittingly play a role in future discoveries by creating YouTube videos that will cause someone across the world to come up with a brand new idea.
Some of you may follow what could be described as a more conventional path to success, becoming head of a New Jersey medical device company or a highly-placed doctor in the World Health Organization. By seeing and supporting the creative ideas of others, you will also play a role in causing change. And finally, some of you will move from being students to being educators, helping to prepare students to work together and come up with new ideas with world-changing potential in every field. I wish you the best of luck in whatever creative and innovative adventures you embark on today. Thank you.
(audience applauding) (reverent orchestral music) .