More than anything else, the world today needs do-ers — people of action who push the boundaries of life and give of themselves to make the world a better place — former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright said to the crowd at Bucknell University's 2019 Commencement. Looking over the nearly 900 members of Bucknell's Class of 2019, Albright had reason to hope for a brighter future.
Find Your Path
"Members of this class hail from six continents and have already served as advocates for orphans, studied sustainable development in the Maldives, and won scholarships for promise in social justice," she said. "Regardless of where you came from, at Bucknell you have learned much about what is outside you — and much about what is inside you, as well."
Moments before the graduates received their diplomas and set forth to make their mark upon the world, Albright challenged them to apply that experience throughout their lives — and to never forget the common human journey tying them, and all of us, together.
Doing so, she said, may be more important today than it has ever been before.
"We are blessed to live in a country whose very identity and purpose are wedded to respect for humanity and all who comprise it," she remarked. "No matter our race or creed, we are all equal shareholders in the American dream. Living up to that principle, and valuing fairly the contributions of each other, is the great test our nation must pass in the 21st century."
Rejecting what she described as a rising tide of intolerance and isolationism, Albright offered a passionate defense of community, compassion and global connection in her address to graduates at Bucknell's 169th Commencement Ceremony.
Albright, one of the highest-ranking women in the history of American government, began by recognizing a common belief uniting her with the graduating class: the idea that "a true patriot is someone who wants to help his or her country become respected and admired — to be a leader among nations and the champion of values to which people everywhere can subscribe."
But she also warned of "another kind of nationalism — the kind that talks about 'my country, right or wrong,' the kind that pays no heed to the well-being of others, the kind that retreats from global responsibility and confuses its own claims of greatness with greatness itself."
When national pride descends into fear or hatred of others, "the American tapestry unravels and the social fabric is torn," she said, prompting a swell of applause from the roughly 7,000 attendees gathered on Malesardi Quad for the ceremony.
Nearly 900 Graduates
Albright delivered her remarks to the 881 graduates receiving their degrees at Commencement, and the thousands of parents, family members, faculty, staff and other well-wishers who gathered for the occasion at Bucknell or watched online from afar.
The Class of 2019 included 863 students earning bachelor's degrees and 18 earning master's degrees. Among undergraduates, 565 received degrees from the College of Arts & Sciences, 154 from the College of Engineering, and 144 from the Freeman College of Management.
In addition to the graduates, the ceremony also recognized members of the Bucknell faculty with awards for distinguished and inspirational teaching: Professors Kat Wakabayashi, chemical engineering; Michelle Johnson, anthropology; Anjalee Deshpande Hutchinson, theatre & dance; Brantley Gasaway, religious studies; Ben Vollmayr-Lee, physics & astronomy; Janice Traflet, management; and Erica Delsandro, women's & gender studies.
The Class of 2019 includes students from 36 states and 26 countries, a geographic diversity Albright noted in her remarks. "You have gained a global perspective," she said, "and that is true whether you studied animal behavior, philosophy, or markets, innovation & design; the art of diplomacy or the science of engineering."
Instead of shunning global problems, Albright encouraged the graduates "to exercise leadership in support of peace, in defense of liberty, and to further justice" both at home and abroad, and to "use the knowledge gained here at Bucknell to be more than a consumer of liberty, but also a defender and an enricher of it, employing your talents to heal, help and teach."
'Imagine What We Will Know Tomorrow'
In his class response, student Commencement speaker Johnathan "Chief" Coleman '19 challenged his classmates to take up Albright's charge, encouraging them to "imagine what we will know tomorrow."
"The world is changing quickly, and through our Bucknell education we now have the tools to adapt to the fast-paced world. However, merely adapting to the world is not enough," said Coleman, a philosophy and political science major who is now law-school bound. "For years our elders have reported that we are the future of this great nation, but, to be honest, we are the now. Bucknellians, I challenge you to go forward and innovate."
A Posse Foundation scholar from Long Beach, Calif., member of the men's water polo team and Admissions tour guide, Coleman said his Bucknell experience urged him to expand his understanding of the world, question the status quo and put his trust in others. He recounted coming to Bucknell intending to major in international relations, but then shifting his academic trajectory after discovering a love for philosophy — something he never could have imagined when he enrolled. He likewise encouraged his classmates to recall the courses, internships and life experiences that have acted as catalysts of change in their own lives, and to use those experiences to build the world they wish to live in.
"When the days seem long and hard, when weeks don't go your way, think about the difference four years have made and continue to persevere," Coleman said. "Leave no stone unturned and let your imagination become your reality."
Bucknellians Now and Forever
In his closing remarks, University President John Bravman picked up Albright's theme of connection and community — reminding the graduates that they are part of an alumni community more than 50,000 strong. As they forge new relationships and expand their connections, Bravman implored the graduates to strengthen their connection to Bucknell and "be students forever."
"Continue to be mindful of the world around you," Bravman said. "Stay curious. Ask questions. Seek out those with different views, and have the courage to start the kind of conversations that lead to meaningful, positive and enduring change."
"Go forward with confidence," he added in closing. "You are Bucknellians — now and forevermore."