May 17, 2009

President Brian C. Mitchell addressing the Class of 2009.

Good morning everyone. Maryjane and I welcome today’s graduates, and their families and friends, to Bucknell’s 159th Commencement ceremony. We also welcome the faculty, who have worked side-by-side with you since your arrival on campus. And we welcome the staff, who have supported and guided you through the past four years.

We are also delighted to welcome members of the University’s Board of Trustees and today’s three honorary degree recipients, including our distinguished keynote speaker, Mr. Elie Wiesel. This is a joyous day for our seniors, and we are glad that you are here to share it with them.

Congratulations to the Class of 2009!

Years of intense work
Graduates, we confer upon you today your diplomas. They represent four years of intense effort, discovery and deployment of your talents, and unwavering determination to earn your degree. Challenged by your outstanding professors, supported by your dedicated staff, nurtured by your families and encouraged by your fellow students, you have met the challenge. 

You entered this quad with countless questions and new hopes and dreams. You will leave the quad as Bucknell’s newest graduates and, we trust, with even greater hopes and dreams and, we trust, smarter questions. You will join a community of 49,000 Bucknell alumni around the world who have also proven themselves worthy and who take lifelong pride in this accomplishment.

I congratulate each of you. And we congratulate your families, too. As parents, we know how complex the family college experience can be. Your own college years were probably quite different from your children’s. But whatever path your children take, your footsteps are right behind theirs, and their successes are yours. Today these young men and women step forward as graduates of one of the finest universities anywhere. Today you see the culmination of your years of encouragement and expectations, your patience and your love. We are honored that your family chose Bucknell for your children’s education, and we thank you for sharing them with us.

Liberal arts
Graduates, in choosing Bucknell, you chose the liberal arts, a decision that has already influenced who you are and where you will go in life. As you sit today among your fellow graduates-to-be, consider what a wise man once said: “The value of an education in a liberal arts college is not the learning of many facts but the training of the mind to think something that cannot be learned from textbooks.”

It is hard to argue with the logic of Albert Einstein.

We trust that you will leave this beautiful campus with an appreciation for the old, an appetite for the new, an enthusiasm for the diverse, and an ability to adapt to anything. Perhaps more so than you yet recognize at this thrilling hour, you are prepared to think, lead, serve, explore, and make a difference in your community and your world.

Three guests
Today, Class of 2009, this community of Bucknell welcomes into your midst three guests who exemplify the breadth and depth of the liberal arts. They represent science and teaching, engineering and business, and literature and human rights. Their backgrounds and areas of expertise vary widely. Yet their love of knowledge and flexibility of intellect, their common values, remind us of the endless possibilities for students of the liberal arts.

Two of these individuals hold strong ties to Bucknell: Larry Breakiron is an alumnus of the class of 1952. Gary Sojka is Bucknell president emeritus and professor emeritus. Our third honoree and keynote speaker, Mr. Elie Wiesel, is a writer and humanitarian of international renown. We would now like to recognize each of them one at a time.

Be it known that in recognition of his distinguished achievements, which exemplify the qualities of intellect, character and creativity most cherished by the University, we therefore, by the authority committed to us by the Board of Trustees and the Faculty of the University, hereby confer upon Lauren Paul Breakiron the honorary degree of Doctor of Humane Letters.

Be it known that in recognition of his distinguished achievements, which exemplify the qualities of intellect, character and creativity most cherished by the University, we therefore, by the authority committed to us by the Board of Trustees and the Faculty of the University, hereby confer upon Gary A. Sojka the honorary degree of Doctor of Humane Letters. 

Be it known that in recognition of his distinguished achievements, which exemplify the qualities of intellect, character and creativity most cherished by the University, we therefore, by the authority committed to us by the Board of Trustees and the Faculty of the University, hereby confer upon Elie Wiesel the honorary degree of Doctor of Humane Letters. 

Elie Wiesel
It is now my great honor to introduce the Commencement speaker for the Class of 2009, Mr. Elie Wiesel. You have already heard about his important work as a defender of human dignity, but I would like to share with you a few more details about Mr. Wiesel’s remarkable story of survival.

He was born in 1928 in Transylvania, now part of Romania. When he was 15, he and his family were deported, along with all other Jews of his town, to ghettos and concentration camps around Europe. Mr. Wiesel and two older sisters survived, but his mother, father and younger sister perished. After spending time in Auschwitz, Elie Wiesel was freed from Buchenwald in 1945 and went to France.

Educated at the Sorbonne, he worked as a journalist for French and Israeli papers before coming to the United States. By the late 1950s, Mr. Wiesel found the courage to describe the horrors of the Holocaust in his extraordinary book Night. He has since written more than 50 other works of fiction, nonfiction and scholarship. 

Foundation for Humanity
He and his wife, Marion, are the founders of the Elie Wiesel Foundation for Humanity. Its mission is to “combat indifference, intolerance and injustice through international dialogues and youth-focused programs that promote acceptance, understanding and equality.” Mr. Wiesel is also a member of the International Council of the New York-based
Human Rights Foundation, and he was chair of the President’s Commission on the Holocaust.

For his humanitarian efforts, Mr. Wiesel has received many honors including the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the U.S. Congressional Gold Medal, the Medal of Liberty Award, the rank of Grand-Croix in the French Legion of Honor and the 1986 Nobel Peace Prize.

It is a privilege to welcome to the podium Mr. Elie Wiesel.

Tradition of excellence
Graduates, you leave this great University, your University, carrying on a tradition of excellence. As alumni, you can ensure by your continued involvement with Bucknell that those who come after you will have a similarly positive and rewarding experience here. 

G
o forward with confidence. You are Bucknellians.

We congratulate you and wish you the best.

And now, I invite everyone here today to rise for the singing of the Alma Mater.

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