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Volume 41. No. 2.
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Commencement 2005: Great Quotes
Speakers draw from many sources to make their points

The senior class speaker made his point borrowing the lyrics from a song. The chaplain leaned on the wisdom of a Holocaust survivor. The senior class president challenged an author’s theory. The College president quoted a former college president. The commencement speaker reiterated the words of Abraham Lincoln.

“Commencement is a fresh start, a beginning of a new life outside these college walls in which the abilities and skills in which you’ve gained here are, ‘the added riches that you bear in trust to humankind.’” said President David Oxtoby, imparting the words of former President James A. Blaisdell now emblazoned on the College gates. “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.”

Every commencement speaker wants to convey “words of wisdom,” advice that will carry the graduates through life. For the Class of 2005, the theme revolved around shared vision rather than the individual’s walk.

Lucy Beatty Meyer ’05, senior class president, commended the class for disproving a theory by Albert Jay Nock in The Memoirs of a Superfluous Man: “Epstean’s law said that man tends to satisfy his needs and desires with the least possible exertion, and thankfully, I believe you guys have proven Nock’s assertion wrong. There is such a lack of cynicism and pessimism in our class. ... We are overly idealistic and committed.”

She said the class also challenged Nock’s “conviction that the masses inevitably tend toward self-inflicted misgovernment.”

“In our case, I don’t believe too many cooks spoil the broth, and we’re not the law of diminishing returns … We are a small house of representatives. … We’ve accomplished a heck of a lot compared a to house of representatives,” said Meyer, drawing laughter from the audience.

The Class of 2005 already proved the words spoken by Victor Franco, a Viennese psychiatrist imprisoned during World War II. “Everything can be taken from a person but one thing,” said Rabbi Leslie Bergson in her invocation, recounting the words of Franco. “The last of the human freedoms is to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s way.”

“Democracy depends on each successive generation to recommit to its values and to see that they are preserved,” said John Payton ’73, one of the nation’s leading civil rights attorneys, in his keynote address. “Because what our government does it does in our name. Of the people, by the people and for the people. It is our democracy.

“My generation thought we could achieve racial and social justice. We thought we could affect the Vietnam War. Perhaps more important, we thought we should do these things. ... It is not that we all went off to be activists. It is that we took these attitudes with us wherever we ended up.”

“There are huge issues before us today,” Payton continued. “So what can any of us do individually? You all know the answer … It’s your turn. Make us proud.”

Payton was one of three recipients of honorary degrees to be recognized for important achievements in their fields. Also honored were Steven Koblik, president of the Huntington Library, Art Collections & Botanical Gardens, and Thomas Dean Pollard ’64, professor of molecular biophysics and biochemistry at Yale University.

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by Pomona College
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