Campaign Launch Speech: John Payton '73
This speech was presented at the public launch of Campaign Pomona: Daring Minds on October 16, 2010. Text of the speech is available below the video.
I’m a lawyer and Pomona College certainly prepared me for law school, but it did much more than that. When I entered Pomona, I was really not sure what my career was going to be. And looking back, I would say that Pomona prepared me to be able to find my career. It enabled me to be able to find my career. And for me, that was incredibly important.
There was an openness and a skepticism at Pomona that I found almost intoxicating. It was throughout the campus. I wanted to learn everything. And I questioned everything. I retained that questioning attitude and that deep interest in learning to this day.
I was a student in the 1960s in the middle of the civil rights movement, and I was in the middle of the civil rights movement. When I was here, we had the sense that the changes we were seeking were unique in our society because we were at a unique moment when our society was open to change.
Looking back, I can see that my perception then was incorrect. There’s always uncertainty in the world and there’s always change in the world. Always. And there’s often profound change even when you don’t see that it could come about. We don’t perceive it at the time, but looking back, we can see that profound changes are happening literally all of the time.
Therefore, the important thing that Pomona provided to me, and that I believe it provides to its students today, is the critical ability to be able to handle change, to anticipate change and to manage change. And, on that score, Pomona was simply fantastic. Pomona helped prepare me to thrive in this changing world. I’ve spent most of my life attempting to make this a better and more just society and to make the world a more just world. It’s been exhilarating, and Pomona has played a major part in my ability to do what I do today.
I have come back to Pomona on a fairly regular basis. I’ve spoken in classes, I’ve given talks at the College, I was a commencement speaker, and now I’m a trustee. So, I have many vantage points. You can come home again. I just wish I had the time to be a student again. The college is far more diverse today than it was when I was here back in the sixties. Men and women, African American, white, Latino, Asian, straight and gay, rich and poor. And while there remain problems associated with that diversity, the College seems very comfortable with its diversity. And the courses today. Some of the courses that are offered today are in categories that literally did not exist when I was a student, so I am envious of the students and the faculty today.
Pomona College is preparing its student to be able to help change our world into a better world. All daring minds are welcomed at Pomona College, and they won’t be disappointed when they get here.
Thank you very much.