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Volume 41. No. 1.
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No Limits

The Class of ’04 received a solemn send-off from America’s most trusted man and poignant reminders from two of its own...

Pomona College’s 111th Commencement on May 16 was, as tradition dictates, a time of reflection for its approximately 400 new graduates. The members of the first Pomona class to matriculate in the new millennium surely didn’t know what lay ahead when they arrived in August 2000.

There was the naked man running across the field during Homecoming, their first year. The Sept. 11 tragedies occurred their sophomore year. Junior year was remembered as a series of all-nighters. As seniors, they reacted to the raging fires in Claremont, another naked man at Home¬coming and a troubling series of racially-charged events.

Senior class speaker Olatunji Abdulrahman Balogun summarized four years of “struggle, pain, hardship, adversity, highs and lows and ultimately triumphs” in what he said was an unrealistic timeframe of seven minutes—“as a result, I had to cut a few corners. This speech only pertains to the first half of this class, Adams to Matute.”

Through it all, the Class of ’04 kept its sense of humor. Senior class president Jacqueline Karis Wong-Hernandez recalled the explosive discussions in and out of class following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. “Our class was really a family, a family complete with its arguments, differences and dysfunctionalities, for sure,” she said. “We cared about, antagonized and shaped each other.”

College President David Oxtoby thanked the class for showing leadership during the hate-crime incidents at The Claremont Colleges during the first three months of this year, the most serious of the incidents alleged by Claremont Police and the FBI to have been a hoax. “Discussions were held, manifestos circulated, marches organized, classes were cancelled,” said Oxtoby, who commended the seniors for turning a “divisive action into a force for positive change.”

For a campus so cozy that Balogun said he knew 99.3 percent of the audience in Bridges Auditorium, the response brought an awareness: “I had a friend say to me that it was the first time he ever felt uncomfortable and unwelcome at Pomona,” he said. “We must all acknowledge the realities of differences in impressions that exist in our world. We must look at what happened here in Claremont not as individual, isolated incidents, but as significant and revealing experiences that tell us a lot about our world … We share a responsibility to this world and, more importantly to ourselves, to challenge and interrogate the systems that keep our society from being truly equal.”

“No fears, no limits, no regrets,” added Balogun in his final charge to the class of ’04.
Veteran TV newsman Walter Cronkite, who delivered the keynote address, also spoke of the reality of the time. Criticized in the 1960s for giving what one distinguished Brandeis University alumnus called a pessimistic commencement speech, Cronkite—dubbed the “most trusted man in America” —stood by his words, which he called the truth as he saw it. Decades later, he again painted a bleak picture of the world that the graduates will be living in. He noted the Iraq War, an environmental crisis, collapsing infrastructure, budget deficit and lagging educational system.

“So, with all these problems, am I supposed to stand up here today, as proud as I am, … and give you a message of unqualified hope for our immediate future? I’m sorry, but that would be outright dishonest. However, let me now render—a bit anyway—of that inspirational message that is expected of commencement speakers,” said Cronkite, whose grandson, William M. Ikard, was one of this year’s graduates.

“All those problems I enumerated before can be solved, or at least mitigated a great deal, by an enlightened population and courageous leadership. You—this class of ’04—are particularly qualified by the education you have received here, to provide both—the leadership and the enlightened population.”

Cronkite added: “I believe we’ve got to put idealism on at least an equal footing with practicality. We’re going to make it, we human beings. We’re going to make it—if we cling to the belief, if we work for bringing to reality the achievement of peace.”
He noted: “The biographies of our future leaders may well include the notation … graduated from Pomona College, 2004.”

Cronkite was one of three recipients of honorary degrees, receiving the honorary award of doctor of human letters. Known as the “Most Trusted Man in America” during his career in journalism that spanned more than 65 years, he covered virtually every major news event of the last half of the 20th century and pioneered the first evening news broadcast covering history-making events. He is the author of six books and writes a nationally syndicated column.

R. Stanton Hales ’64, president of The College of Wooster, received the honorary degree of doctor of science. A native of Pasadena, he joined the Pomona College faculty in 1967 and in 1973 was named associate dean of the College, serving in that capacity for 18 years. He is
treasurer and a member of the board of directors of the Association of American Colleges and Universities and chairs the board of directors of the Association of Independent Colleges and Universities.

Andrea L. Van de Kamp received the honorary degree of doctor of fine arts. She is chairman of west coast operations and senior vice president for Sotheby’s, the world’s oldest art auction house, a position she has held for 14 years. From 1991–2001, she was a trustee at Pomona. She has served as director of development for the Los Angeles Museum of Contem¬porary Art and as chairman of the board for the Music Center of Los Angeles County.

©Copyright 2004
by Pomona College
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