Commencement 2012: John C. Bravman address
Well good morning, everyone, on this glorious and warm Commencement day.
As our graduates processed today, they crossed a threshold beyond which they will receive a Bucknell degree. A threshold beyond which they will today formally leave campus and, as some might say, leave the Bucknell bubble and enter the "real world."
But they crossed another threshold too, one that they created and that I am convinced will achieve their goal of creating a lasting tradition at this historic University. That is, they stepped over the Bucknell seal that they, as their class gift, have had fitted in bronze into the very center of this, our most important University space, our main Academic Quad.
Graduates, parents, brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles, grandparents, siblings, and other family members, fellow trustees, faculty and staff colleagues, friends, and our distinguished speaker, Ms. Anna Quindlen, welcome to Bucknell's 162nd Commencement ceremony.
As long ago as 1865, Bucknell graduating classes have offered a class gift signifying their enduring part in the life of this University. Today, class gifts are everywhere on this campus. They include the pillars marking the entrance to the Grove from the Class of 1905. They include the clock on top of what is now called Kress Hall, given by the Class of 1907. And they include the Bison statue, given by the Class of 1942, 70 years ago, which stands before the Langone Athletics and Recreation Center.
Now, about 120 feet from me, straight up the quad heading toward you and the library, sits ensconced in brick, fashioned of bronze, a large replica of our University seal. All our graduates here today passed it as they took their seats, and will traverse it again as they leave with their diplomas. And because of our faith in the future of Bucknell, we believe that for as long as this University will stand, alumni and visitors of Bucknell will know: this seal on this quad was the gift of this class, the great Class of 2012. I daresay, they have set an enormous task before future classes to top this gift. As I told the class two weeks ago when this gift was revealed, I do not expect any class to surpass what this class, the Class of 2012, has done in provideing tribute to the University
The Class of 1865's gift of a tree, presented soon upon the conclusion of the Civil War, was a thing of beauty in more ways than one, for it was a sign of hope for a future filled with peace. When, 70 years ago, the Class of 1942 shared that stone Bison as their gift, they were doing so when civilization itself seemed to be in peril. World War II was underway, fascism was on the march, Pearl Harbor had just been bombed, and countries the world over were in shambles. Into that maelstrom of human events, a Bucknell graduating class gave a symbolic gift of enduring stone and declared: the future lies ahead.
Since our founding in 1846 in what was called the "wilds of Pennsylvania," this University has been a living expression of this same ideal.
When your class came to the University and told us their idea for their gift, what could we say but: yes. The faculty and staff of a university dedicate their professional lives to the principle that learning, discovery and idealism and promise of youth shall endure. That one generation passing its knowledge to the next creates a better world. And that education is, if nothing else, an expression of faith in tomorrow.
On the University seal is depicted a book above rolling waves of water. These were there before last September's flood. They signify the light of knowledge and education surmounting the storms we all know life can and indeed will bring.
The bronze replica now set in the quad comes from a class graduating during what some have called the Great Recession. During a world beset by strife and economic hardship, during internecine battles in our political culture that put our beloved nation at odds with itself, during a time when it might seem, in fact, that hope and confidence would ebb. But our graduates, in making this gift, have proudly said: We believe.
Class of 2012, we believe too. We believe in your future, the future you, in fact, will help create. And we believe in the future of Bucknell. We join in saying, "We are proud of you. The future is yours to make. We will stand in awe and watch."
As the years pass, and the decades unfold, as you transform your dreams into a life, you can always know that this quad, this campus, this University, will always offer you another home. Touch this seal and know it is yours.
Graduates, your education began with your parents and with your family. They have been with you every step of the way — from kindergarten to caps and gowns. You have done the work and earned the grades but in more ways than one, they have paid the price. I didn't mean tuition.
This is a day they have long awaited too, and in which they share a most meaningful part. You would not be here but for them. So graduates of 2012, I ask that you please stand now, turn to your families and friends, and show us how much you want to thank them.
Now, if everyone in the audience who is able would stand and face this way:
Bucknell's faculty and staff, represented by my colleagues here on stage, have helped our graduates in countless ways in the countless steps it takes to move from your first beginnings at this University to this celebration of your achievements. Without the dedication of our faculty and staff, Bucknell would be nothing. Would everyone here — students I have to ask you to rise for this. I know it's hot — would everyone here please thank the faculty and staff colleagues here, and all their peers for what they have done.
Thank you. Please be seated.
Graduates, on this quad that has been the center of your Bucknell education stands the seal you have emblazoned there. It is a sign of what you have done, the friends you have made, the impressions you have left. This seal shall remain on this quad with an open book always ready to greet you upon your return.
I have met graduates from the Class of 1942; think of the momentous changes seen by them since they gave us their class gift. Now imagine how you will feel when, some 70 years from now, you stand in this very place, gaze upon the gift from your class and look back over the days between now and then. This thought reminds us that we cannot know the future but we take comfort that we can believe in it.
And who believes in the Class of 2012?
You have been blessed with a Bucknell education. Make the most of it. Congratulations.
And now it is my honor to introduce our Commencement speaker, Ms. Anna Quindlen. An award-winning columnist, celebrated journalist and best-selling author of six novels, she is known for writing on topics of life, work and success. She is the first author ever to have fiction, non-fiction and self-help books appear on The New York Times bestseller lists.
Ms. Quindlen began her career as a copy editor at The New York Post. She soon began reporting for The New York Times, where she became only the third woman to write for that paper's Op-Ed page.
For nine years, she wrote a weekly column for Newsweek. Simultaneously, Ms. Quindlen has enjoyed success as a novelist, including the bestseller One True Thing. Earlier this month, her new book of essays, titled Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake, entered The New York Times bestseller list as well.
Ms. Quindlen has a gift for illuminating with wit, insight and precision the small moments in daily life — the moments that connect us in common experience. She recently revealed, for instance, that at age 58, after much practice, she has learned to stand on her head.
Not bad for a writer.
Ladies and gentlemen, we are honored that she joins us here today. Please welcome to Bucknell University Ms. Anna Quindlen.