Standing up to the Future
Newsweek's Jon Meacham motivates 543 May graduates
by Matt Getty
June 29, 2010
President William G. Durden ’71 brandishes a now defunct dining-hall tray.
Though the skies may have been gray, the doors of Old West opened to bright futures for the 543 members of the class of 2010 who became Dickinson graduates during the 2010 Commencement ceremony on May 23.
“Very few people can say that they helped complete the dream of a signer of the Declaration of Independence, but now you can,” said President William G. Durden ’71 during his opening remarks, which highlighted the college’s revolutionary roots and activist mission. Noting that Benjamin Rush intended Dickinson to be “an agent of change,” Durden challenged the new graduates to “accept the responsibilities that come with
being a Dickinsonian.”
In a lighter moment, he also presented the graduating seniors with a gift no other Dickinsonians have ever received—dining hall trays. Thanking the students for embracing recent sustainability and budget-trimming efforts such as printing quotas and trayless dining, Durden held up one of the discontinued trays and promised the graduates they would each receive one with their diploma.
“You will never go trayless again,” he proclaimed to shouts of approval and a chorus of laughter from the audience.
Commencement speaker Jon Meacham, a Pulitzer Prize-winning author and the editor of Newsweek, also challenged the graduates to attack the future as an opportunity to “leave the world a better place than [they] found it.” Bemoaning the growing lack of balance and civility in the media and politics, he urged the graduates to use their liberal-arts educations to champion a more reasoned national discourse.
“May your generation be the one to stand up to reflexive extremism, online hyperbole and politics as sport and say, ‘Enough—this will not stand,’ ” said Meacham to an outburst of spontaneous applause.
Meacham also offered graduates some simpler advice on making the best of life after Dickinson. “Be curious,” he said. “Be gracious. Be hopeful. Love your neighbor. Say your prayers. Take naps outside on summer afternoons. Read detective novels now and again. Go to the movies. Subscribe to newspapers and magazines. Vote in each and every election. Never be embarrassed to put your hand over your heart and join in when a band plays the national anthem. Write thank-you notes on real paper.”
In addition to Meacham, who was awarded an honorary doctor of journalism degree, the college awarded three other honorary degrees during the ceremony. Paula Apsell, executive producer of PBS’s NOVA, received an honorary doctor of science education; Deborah Bial, president and founder of The Posse Foundation, received an honorary doctor of education; and Marcia Dale Weary, founding artistic director of the Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet, received an honorary doctor of performing arts.
Graduates recognized for high academic achievement included Simon Dosovitz and James Watson-Krips, who won the James Fowler Rusling and John Patton Memorial prizes, respectively. Lee Tankle and Alexandra Baranick earned the William F. Hufstader Prizes for leadership and service to the college.
The senior class presented the Constance and Rose Ganoe Memorial Award for inspirational teaching to Michael Poulton, senior lecturer practitioner in international business & management. Thomas Bowman Professor of Religion and Philosophy Philip Grier was awarded the college’s Distinguished Teaching Award earlier in the week.
Hear Jon Meacham’s thoughts on the current state of journalism, recorded just before Commencement.