(Boston) – Speaking to over 6,700 Boston University graduates and 20,000 guests at today’s 139th commencement at Nickerson Field, Google Chairman, Eric Schmidt, encouraged the class of 2012 to identify and connect as “they shape our times, define the human condition.”
“Boston University has built the platform from which you can do that,” stated Schmidt, who was awarded an honorary Doctor of Science degree by BU President Dr. Robert A. Brown. “I know it’s daunting. I know it’s not a great economy to be walking off this stage into. I know all this.
“But I know you have an advantage–a competitive edge–you have an innate mastery of technology, an ability to build and foster connections that no generation before you ever possessed. The fact that we are all connected now is a blessing, not a curse, and we can solve many problems in the world as a result.”
Schmidt concluded his address by telling the BU class of 2012 “I for one am happy to have you join us as adults, and the quicker we can have you lead, the better. Time to throw out all us aging baby boomers and replace us with those best-equipped to lead us into a new age, march us all to a better day.
“The power and possibility–the intellectual energy and human electricity–seated in this stadium, and in stadiums and auditoriums like this around the country–your generation will break a new day.”
The Honorable Sandra Lynch, chief judge of the United States Court of Appeals First Circuit, kicked-off today’s formal commencement events at New England’s largest graduation ceremony, by delivering the Commencement Day baccalaureate address at Marsh Chapel. Lynch later received an honorary Doctor of Laws degree at the main service.
Also receiving honorary degrees at Commencement were: former chairman and CEO of Lockheed Martin Corporation, Norman Augustine (Doctor of Science); Vietnam Medal of Honor recipient, Thomas G. Kelley (Doctor of Laws); and noted actor, Leonard Nimoy (Doctor of Humane Letters).
Leila Belmahi (CAS’12) delivered the student address.
High-resolution digital photography:
– 2012 BU Commencement participant photos can be downloaded at the following URL (password: BostonU, case sensitive): http://buphotos.photoshelter.com/gallery/Boston-University-Honorary-Degrees-2012/G00002j6WoNuFrm0
– 2012 BU Commencement ceremony photos can be downloaded at the following gallery (password: buphotos): http://buphotos.photoshelter.com/gallery/2012-Boston-University-Commencement/G0000ihNV75nBBwE (Note: this link will lead to a blank page until BU Photography populates it, beginning Sunday afternoon.)
Complete info on BU’s 139th commencement weekend, including individual convocation ceremonies, can be found at: http://www.bu.edu/commencement/2011/index.shtml. You can also follow us on Twitter or find us on Facebook for continuous updates.
Founded in 1839, Boston University is an internationally recognized private research university with more than 30,000 students participating in undergraduate, graduate, and professional programs. BU consists of 16 colleges and schools along with a number of multi-disciplinary centers and institutes which are central to the school’s research and teaching mission.
Sandra L. Lynch
U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit
Boston University Baccalaureate Speech
May 20, 2012
Thank you, Dean Hill, for such a warm introduction.
It is clear Boston University has thrived under President Brown’s leadership. Among his other attributes, it is impossible to say “no” to him. After I had accepted, with pleasure, the President’s invitation to receive an honorary degree, only then did he tell me he would like me to give this Baccalaureate address.
I feel a bit like those medieval minstrels, or even little Tommy Tucker from the nursery rhyme, who had to sing first before having supper. What a glorious supper this occasion is, filled with joy and pride, and hope, and expectations.
This morning’s service envelops you in the spiritual realm. Later today you honor people of distinction from technology, and commerce, the arts, the sciences, and military service. I want to speak of the civil realm: the realm of citizenship, of love of country, and of your government.
One of the greatest fortunes of your lives is that you are participants in our American democracy, with its independent judiciary and its system of justice. Our democracy is built on both the checks and balances structure of the three branches of government and on the Constitution and its Bill of Rights, limiting government.
The executive and legislative branches are meant to reflect the political will of the voters. In the judicial branch, unlike the other two branches, we judges take an oath of impartiality, not to be partisan, to do our jobs “without fear or favor.”
This system is the envy of the world. Your counterparts elsewhere, in the Arab Spring, in Russia, in Syria, in Iran, in China, in Chile, to give a few examples, have put their lives at risk to achieve what you have.
Dr. Martin Luther King said: “There is nothing in the world greater than freedom.” Under our secular “sacred” text, the U.S. Constitution, you enjoy considerable freedoms, including the freedom of academic inquiry here at Boston University. You have freedom to worship your own religion and not be forced to join another. You enjoy the freedom from arbitrary police and government action.
Perhaps most significantly, you have the ability to change your government and your country. You enjoy freedom of speech, of association, and the benefits of free press. You have the ability to vote, the ability to communicate your views, and the ability to associate together with others to challenge and change a government you do not like. You have the ability to make laws and to change the laws, and to do so in order to address the problems which you face.
These freedoms are important human values in their own right and worth preserving. As Justice Sandra Day O’Connor has said, our Constitutional values are not embedded in the human gene code. Far from it: they must be taught, and valued, and used, lest they be lost.
Our system of government has worked remarkably well for over two centuries. It has gotten our country through profound problems and changed who we are, and done so for the better. My own life experiences tell me that is true, and it will be true for you.
When I came to BU, our country was rocked by unrest and faced difficult issues. My generation wondered if we would survive. It was the era of the possibility of nuclear annihilation, of the civil rights movement, the women’s movement, and the anti-war movement. Blatant race and gender discrimination were prevalent. Extreme inequities in access to opportunity had led to demonstrations, riots, the burning of neighborhoods and clashes with police. During this time and in the Boston area, I was tear gassed while marching to protest the war in Vietnam and I was called foul names by ugly crowds when I marched with people of color in favor of civil rights. Talk of revolution and dissolution was in the air.
My fears about the future were captured in the words of William Butler Yeats, in his poem “The Second Coming.” He wrote: “Things fall apart, the center cannot hold. Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world.” The problems then were daunting. But under our democracy, we got through them.
The hymn we just sang at this service was “Behold a broken world.” You know better than I the problems of this broken world and that you and your country must somehow address them.
There is much corrosive cynicism today, much polarization, much lack of civility. Some say they have no faith in government to address problems. You could reasonably ask whether the fact that our democracy has not failed us in the past is any assurance at all that it will lead you to solutions in the future.
My response is that our democratic form of government and the tools the Constitution gives you provide some of the best ways you have of addressing current problems. And I also answer that, if you do not use those tools, including your right to vote, to speak and to organize in order to assure government will be honest, responsive and to be relevant, the chances of your finding solutions are considerably less.
You are graduating and being asked to take responsibility for yourself and your own life. The scope of that responsibility goes beyond yourself, to the sort of society in which you live. President John F. Kennedy famously said, “to ask not what your country could do for you, but what you could do for your country.” Your country needs you.
That responsibility means the preserving of the institutions of your democracy, which are the institutions of government.
It also means exercising those freedoms that the Constitution has given you, and to do so in order to shape your society and your futures.
BU students often have done so before. Forty five years ago, students on this campus used those tools and changed our country. Defying a state law, a man named William Baird gave a lecture at Boston University to over 2,000 students. The topic was birth control. An unmarried 19-year-old female student accepted from Baird some contraceptive foam. Married people, but not unmarried people, could legally be given contraception. Baird was arrested and convicted for violating a state law prohibiting distribution of contraceptives to unmarried people. The penalty was up to five years of imprisonment.
The whole event had been deliberately set up on the BU campus in order to bring a constitutional challenge. The federal court on which I now sit held the statute unconstitutional and released Baird on the writ of habeas corpus. In 1972 the Supreme Court agreed, in a case is called Eisenstadt v. Baird, after the then Sheriff and Mr. Baird. When the story is told, it is most often about Baird, who deserves great credit.
Let me shift the perspective. Of all the college campuses in Boston, this took place at BU and that does not surprise me – – BU has always looked to the future. More than that, credit must be given to the BU students who went to the lecture, and particularly to the unmarried 19-year-old female undergraduate, who made the test case possible. Those students wanted to change an unjust law and to expand the protection of individual freedoms. This was no small matter and it was not just about contraceptives. The overturning of the state law led to the development of doctrines of constitutionally protected personal privacy, which have reshaped our society.
These changes take time, they take patience, they take perseverance. As Dr. King said, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”
You have keys to affect your future and to take steps to be sure that “the center holds.” Take responsibility. Go forward with your intelligence, your education, and with courage. And use all the tools and freedoms our American democracy and its system of law give you. No one is better suited than you.
We give into your hands the safekeeping of our Constitution and our democracy. Please, we ask you, keep them safe and flourishing.
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Long-time New England Cable News (NECN) anchor R. D. Sahl will join the journalism department at Boston University beginning in January 2011. Sahl, who brings to BU 40 years of broadcast journalism experience, will remain at NECN as a special contributor.
“It’s been my privilege to be part of NECN for more than 13 years. This newsroom has been an important part of my life and my career, but it’s time for me to turn a page. That turn takes me to Boston University’s Department of Journalism. I’ve picked up a few lessons over the last 40 years, and I hope to bring those lessons to the classroom,” said Sahl.
“Our students will be the beneficiaries of R.D. Sahl’s career in which he epitomized the kind of accurate, objective and compelling reporting that we believe is so critical for students to learn in the frantic age of digital journalism. He not only brings a legacy of local, national and international reporting to our classrooms, but also his reputation as a trusted news anchor familiar to literally millions of NECN viewers across the six New England states,” said Tom Fiedler, Dean of Boston University’s College of Communication (COM).
Sahl has anchored the NECN primetime news since 1997 and is the host of Right Now with RD Sahl and co-host of NECN Business and NECN Tonight. Sahl has earned multiple Emmy Awards for his reporting and anchoring and has covered every major story during his 15-year tenure at NECN, including the attacks on 9/11, the clergy abuse crisis, and most recently the Haitian earthquake. During his tenure, Sahl has made numerous foreign trips with assignments in Haiti, Cuba, Italy, France, Germany and Japan.
With three weeks remaining to mid-term elections, a new Bloomberg poll shows that voters are unhappy with both parties. Despite their unpopularity, the GOP appears to have the edge heading into the elections. Political science department chair Graham Wilson offers the following view:
“Much research on public opinion takes a dim view of the average citizen. Here’s more evidence to support that view:
“Cut the deficit but don’t cut any major program. We hate the health care law except for the part – requiring everyone to have insurance – that might save the average citizen money. And then end by attacking American politics.
“Perhaps the American voter should revisit Shakespeare: The fault dear Brutus is not in the stars but in ourselves.”
Contact Graham Wilson, 617-353-2540, firstname.lastname@example.org
Tonight, a panel of Boston Unviersity experts will examine the controversy surrounding the proposed Islamic cultural center and mosque near Ground Zero. According to BU Today, the event is an “effort to dispel what the speakers call Americans’ mistaken beliefs about Islam.”
The Ground Zero Mosque Controversy: What You Need to Know begins at 7 p.m. in room 222 of BU’s College of Arts and Sciences (CAS).
The event is free and open to the public.
The French Parliament passed a bill banning women from wearing burqas and other full-body robes in public. International Relations professor William Keylor gives some historical perspective on the issue.
“The great irony of this whole affair is that the deeply felt sentiment in France against public displays of religious affiliation originated in the anti-clerical campaign waged in the 19th and early 20th century against the Catholic Church.
“The church was seen as the enemy of republican secular values and a defender of the aristocratic, monarchical, anti-democratic tradition. Now it is the Muslim religion that bears the brunt of this historical obsession with (no pun intended) keeping religion under wraps.”
Contact William Keylor, 617-358-0197, email@example.com