2016 Pomona College Commencement

(crowd chatting quietly) – [Woman] Is it not live? – [Man] Yeah, they said live. Well somebody. – [Woman] Should I call Jerry? – [Man] No, he’s on it right here. – [Woman] It’s crazy! – [Man] Yeah! – [Woman] You see these people scored. (woman chatting) Messages! – [Man] Not today is right! (woman chatting) Oh yeah, it could be it’s like a handicap. (crowd chatting) – [Man] Are you guys ready? – [Announcer] Good morning and welcome to Pomona
College commencement. A couple of announcements. Ponchos are still available at
each of the coffee stations. Please only one per guest. In addition Bridges Auditorium on the south side of the quad is open with a full screen
video of today’s ceremony. If it gets uncomfortable, please
join us in Little Bridges. Finally, when the ceremony starts we ask you to take all umbrellas down as they block the view
of the people behind you. Please be considerate and
take your umbrellas down when the ceremony starts. Thank you very much. (crowd chatting) (gentle music) (people chatting quietly) – [Boy] What the heck? It’s nothing than a bird! (crowd chatting) (crowd cheering) (people chatting) – [Man] Two, three. (upbeat instrumental music) (audience applauds) (upbeat instrumental music) – [Woman] Yeah, it dropped! (instrumental music) (crowd chatting) (audience applauds) (The Star Spangled Banner instrumental) ♪ Whose broad stripes and bright starts ♪ ♪ Through the perilous fight ♪ ♪ O’er the ramparts we watched
were so gallantly streaming ♪ ♪ And the rocket’s red glare ♪ ♪ The bombs bursting in air ♪ ♪ Gave proof through the night ♪ ♪ That our flag was still there ♪ ♪ Oh say does that star
spangled banner yet wave ♪ ♪ O’er the land of the free ♪ ♪ And the home of the brave ♪ (audience applauds) – As we gather together to mark this precious moment with the members of the
Pomona College Class of 2016. (audience cheers) We pause to open our hearts
to the source of life, whom we call by many names
and many understandings. We acknowledge the accomplishments of our graduating students, welcoming them with both humility and joy into the long line of tradition of those who have walked before them. Poised now to determine what
kind of world is yet to be. Novelist, playwright, poet, and social critic James Baldwin wrote, “The paradox of education
is precisely this, “that as one begins to become conscious “one begins to examine the society “in which he is being educated.” And then goes on to say, “The world is before you “and you need not take
it or leave it as it was “when you came in.” Spirit of the universe, today we celebrate and give thanks not only for the honing of
our students’ intellectual and critical abilities, but also for their courage to examine the society in
which they are being educated. To question when there is injustice, to listen and to respond
to the pain of others, to persist when it is
difficult to move forward, and to uncover the inner resources that will be vital to the pursuit of a purposeful and meaningful life. On this auspicious morning we are grateful to the people who supported our students
on their path of learning, the family and friends who
provided the foundations of love and endurance and the students, faculty, administrators, alumni, and trustees, who inspired, mentored, and guided them through challenges and uncertainties. At this moment of gratitude and joy, we also acknowledge the sadness
for the end of this step on the journey, for things left undone, for friends about to part company. And for the ache we feel
for those who are missing but who are always present
in our hearts and minds. As we reflect on all that
brings us to this pivotal time, we offer these words of hope and prayer. Holy One, may these graduates
be constantly inspired by their Pomona education to consciously and
bravely examine the world that is around them and determine if they
will take it or leave it in a better way than when they came in. May they exercise civility
and strength of character in a global community that is desperate for
their ethical leadership and strive for equality
among all humanity. May they have the courage to be different and to be true to their
deepest spiritual values. May these graduates
responsibly care for the earth and all of creation and may the wisdom and
compassion they have learned here guide them to use their
intelligence and their hearts to create a world of enduring justice, loving kindness, and peace. Amen. (audience applauds) – Good morning! On behalf of the trustees,
faculty, and staff of Pomona College, and especially the members
of the senior class who will receive their degrees today, it is my pleasure to welcome you to the 123rd commencement
exercises of Pomona College. On this occasion I would like to extend particular thanks and appreciation
to the family and friends of the class of 2016. You have provided the
support and encouragement for the graduating seniors, bringing them to this
turning point in their lives. Graduation from college represents
a great moment of change. It is the culmination of
many years of schooling, initially broad and generalized, becoming more focused with time. In your four years at Pomona College I hope and trust that you
have discovered and valued the goals of a liberal education. First, to think critically and creatively. Second, to communicate
effectively in speech and writing. And third, to carry
with you a life-long joy and passion for learning. Commencement is a fresh start, a beginning of a new life
outside these college walls in which the abilities and
skills that you have gained here are the added riches that you
bear in trust for humankind. Each member of the
graduating class of 2016 has fully met the high
standards of Pomona College. Each has contributed in
varied and wonderful ways to our community, in the classroom, through
research projects, to campus life, and through
service to those around us. At yesterday’s class day award ceremony we learned some of the ways
in which members of this class have distinguished themselves. At commencement, which is
above all a celebration of the academic accomplishments
of our graduates, it has been traditional
to take special notice of one of these awards, the
Rena Gurley Archibald Prize, which is given to the member
of the graduating class with the highest academic achievement. This year the Rena Gurley
Archibald High Scholarship Prize is awarded to Kerin Lewel Evans. (audience applauds) The educational mission of this college relies critically on close collaboration between students and teachers. Pomona College faculty members are dedicated to excellent
teaching in all its settings, leading discussion in classrooms, supervising research projects
in library or laboratory, coaching teams on athletics fields, preparing students for concert
or theater performances, guiding artists in studios. And so every year at this time, as it awards degrees to its graduates, the college also honors
those of its faculty who exemplify teaching at its best, the winners of the college’s Wig Award for Excellence in Teaching. This award is granted each
year by a committee of trustees and faculty on the basis of
ballots cast by students. It is the highest honor the
college awards to its faculty. Let me ask this year’s winners of Wig Award for Excellence in Teaching to stand as I read their names. The H. Russel Smith, Professor
of International Relations and Professor of Politics,
Pierre Engelbert. (audience applauds) Professor of Psychology
and Asian-American Studies, Sharon Goto. (audience applauds) Assistant Professor of Media
Studies, Jonathan Hall. (audience applauds) Associate Professor of
History, April Mays. (audience applauds) Associate Professor of English and Gender and Women’s
Studies, Keila Tompkins. (audience applauds) Professor or Neuroscience, Nicole Weaks. (audience applauds) And Assistant Professor of
Economics, Michelle Zemol. (audience applauds) One lesson that I hope
every graduating student will take from this college is that the accomplishments
of people working together are greater than those
of single individuals, however distinguished. Pomona College strives to
foster collaborative work between students with faculty. And the chief goal of its staff is to enhance the educational experiences that take place on campus. On this occasion we are connected
also to past and future. The college that we see today and that will educate
future generations is here because of the hard work,
distinguished accomplishments, and generous support of past
members of our community. The literally thousands
of people who have taught, worked, and studied here, and the donors who have sustained them. We are particularly
honored to have with us, along with faculty, students,
staff, family and friends, 18 members of the
college’s board of trustees led by our board chair, Samuel D. Glick of the class of 2004. (audience applauds) I invite all of you to a
reception immediately following the ceremony on Marston Quad. I hope the rain will have stopped by then. (audience laughs) Today we welcome a new class
into this great fellowship. And so in each other’s company and in the great tradition
of all those who have taught, studied, worked, and played at
this college over the years, let us now proceed to
celebrate the class of 2016 and launch them on their way. Thank you. (audience applauds) – In 1972 the board of
trustees of Pomona College established the Trustees’ Medal of Merit to be awarded to alumni
and friends of the college who have rendered
outstanding service to Pomona or brought distinction to the institution through their actions or achievements. Thus far the college has
awarded 14 medals of merit and today we are pleased to do so again. Richard A. Fast hails
from Brooklyn, New York. One of two children born
of immigrant parents. His father was an honor student but never graduated from high school because of family obligations. His mother, Elizabeth Arger Fast, received her law degree in 1934 and retired at age 96 as an
assistant district attorney for Brooklyn. She died in 2013 at the age of 101. After attending The Cooper Union for an undergraduate degree
in chemical engineering he headed west. First to the University
of Wisconsin, Madison, for a PhD in physical chemistry. And finally to Claremont, California where he joined the Pomona faculty as an assistant professor
of chemistry in 1969. The professional career
Richard has enjoyed at Pomona is remarkable in both its variety and unpredictability of its course. All told, he has spent, yes,
47 years at the college. (audience applauds) I think that’s a timed
retirement for the record. Initially teaching in the
department of chemistry for four years. In short order he was tapped
for administrative service, first in student affairs, where between 1973 and 1990
he rose to the position of Vice President and Dean of Students. Richard was then asked to serve as Vice President for Planning, overseeing financial aid,
information technology and a nascent institutional
research operation. When asked what he did, Richard was known to reply and still does, I am vice president of this and that. (audience laughs) Wise, steady, and devoted to the college, Richard has for nearly half
a century been a quiet force. An administrator who, for example, has helped to provide
students, faculty, and staff with the campus technology
on which their lives have increasingly depended. Over the years Richard
has also come to be known for prodigious involvement in Claremont and the surrounding communities. He is considered an
impresario of town and gown. He has known every member
of the city council as well as city managers
for nearly five decades. There are few non-profit
community organizations that have not benefited from his guidance, including The Intervalley Health Plan, Mount San Antonio Gardens, Pomona Valley Hospital Medical Center, and the City of Claremont
Police Commission, the boards of which he all chaired. At last count Richard
has served on no fewer than 15 Pomona College,
Claremont College’s committees and task forces. He’s a glutton for
punishment, best I can tell. Many of them focused on
vexingly complex issues. He also served for many years as liaison to the Consortium
of Financing a Higher Education and is the administrator responsible for coordinating the periodic
re-accreditation processes of the Western Association
of Schools and Colleges. On behalf of the Board of
Trustees of Pomona College, it is my honor to present the Trustees’ Medal of
Merit to Richard Fast, distinguished member of the
Pomona College administration, tireless volunteer, effective
and valued colleague, mentor, and advisor to many within and beyond the college gates, and steadfast champion
of students and alumni of Pomona College. – Thank you. (audience applauds) – My apologies, I have
one correction to make. I’m not sure how this happened but I left out one name
of a Wig Award winner for excellence in teaching. So let me correct that mistake now. The last awardee for the Wig Award for Excellence in Teaching
is Professor of Mathematics, Johanna Hardin. (audience applauds) (audience cheers) – Hi everyone! I think I’m ready to speak, but also I’d like to pose for a picture because I know this is
a very special position and my parents are right over there. So hi! (audience laughs) Okay, so. (laughs) (speaking in foreign language) Good morning to all
families, friends, faculty and staff present here today. My name is Jamela Fehed Espinosa and I’m a proud daughter of immigrants, a Questward Scholar, a
first generation graduate, and a low income Latina
(speaking in foreign language), who identifies as a woman of color. Woo! (audience cheers) (Jamela laughs) I stand here today honored to
have had the chance to serve as the Class of 2016
Senior Class President and further honored to have the chance to speak to you today. I hope that many of you
are able to find yourselves in the words that I have to share, however I realize that that
might not be true for everyone, and I’m okay with that. So before I delve in
further I have to confess that writing this speech and
sharing these words with you has been a process enveloped
in a bittersweet haze. A cathartic experience to say the least. I’ll be the first to admit that much of my time on this campus has been characterized by
an overwhelmingly strong, strong desire to leave, as I’m sure many of you
have experienced this during some point and if not, congratulations. (laughs) I arrived as a wide-eyed,
eager, first-year, as most of us did, drawn in by the dewy
freshness of clean cut grass and almost gluttonous obsession
with the cookies you get after catering. I’m sure we’ll have them today. You know the ones that are oatmeal raisin, double chocolate chip, and my personal favorite,
plain chocolate chip. I was captivated by sunny days and the promise of friendship
around every corner. I was enamored by professors
who honestly cared for what I had to say, for the first time. They were excited to share
their knowledge with me and my excitement was mirrored by the fact that I could find myself
in many of the professors who I chose to align myself with, especially during my first year. As I stand here now four years later I recognize the tension that exists between the image of the Pomona that we’re encouraged to consume and the realities that
many of us encounter while trying to navigate
social and academic spaces that honestly weren’t made for us. While trying to survive in an institution that was literally built for
people that don’t look like me and for people who, looking
at you right now, don’t look, it wasn’t made for many of you. I had to just survive by
depending on a lot of friendships and depending on a lot of support from the faculty here, many of whom have already won
the Wig distinguished award and I’m so glad that
that has happened today. Four years later I have recognized that much of the labor that goes into making
this beautiful campus that we are all able to take advantage of is invisible labor. The work that goes into
maintaining our grass green, our cookies warm, and our buildings clean, often goes unacknowledged. I want to acknowledge that Pomona staff, housekeeping, maintenance, and grounds, have always been there for me and for all of us in some way or another. So I’d like to pause and
give them thanks right now. (audience applauds) And in that same vein
I want to acknowledge that a lot of the people who are working so hard to
make all of this possible, they can’t be here cause they’re working to make this all possible. Yeah. So while writing this speech
I was really perplexed with the idea of how to acknowledge the work that is so
clearly visible around us but that goes so unacknowledged and is referred to as being invisible. Cause it’s clearly not. And I want to acknowledge
the love and the labor that is put into our community by so many people who are overlooked and so many people who are not thought of when we think of the
Pomona College community. Four years later I realize now that the professors I can relate
to are few and far between. I realize now that I can
more easily relate to again, members of staff,
housekeeping, dining hall, grounds keeping, and maintenance workers, who always are ready to offer a smile, an (speaking in foreign language), and a hi if they’re practicing through the Jayfour Center’s ESL program which I highly encourage
those who are not graduating to participate in next year. – [Man] Woo! (laughs) – And I’ve learned of how Pomona College chose to acknowledge the work and efforts of 17 workers who in 2012 were fired because they were unable to provide proof of their working status. And again, I want those who
are not graduating right now to keep that in your
memory and to never forget the history that has come before us. Four years have passed and as a class we have been affected by the defacement of a
Black Lives Matter mural, the forced hospitalization of
many folks in our community as a response to their
mental health issues, how sexual assault and further
how our school has chosen to respond to those
incidents of sexual assault. All of these have shaped
our experiences here and these are only to name a few. On a daily basis many of us find ourselves at the receiving end of
microaggressions, sexism, racism, classism, to name a few. So these four years have passed and where does that leave us today? My hope in acknowledging that not all aspects of our time here has been what we thought it would be, is to highlight the resiliency that I’ve seen in many of you. Whether holding an official title or not, such as like a club or an organization, or even sitting on Student Senate, many of you have taken on leadership roles that have allowed others
to come to you for support, and survive in times of duress. Since I probably won’t
have a chance like this to thank people again, I’m gonna take this time
to shout-out some people who have been super-important
in my experience here. And I know that many of their
families are in this audience so why not? You have wonderful children, here it goes. Montez, where are you? (audience applauds) Thank you for always
having that kind smile and for always saying hello
even when times were stressful. Jen, thank you for always
having a safe space in your room to have your beautiful
friends of color come and feel safe and supported. Sahill, thank you for
always having so many random and super-interesting
facts readily available at your disposal. Thank you Lucia for transforming the Woo into what it is today. And for always letting me sit in your bed, cause we’re suite-mates, and her bed is so much
more comfortable than mine. (man laughs) Thank you, Caesar, for being
the closest thing to a brother that I’ve ever had. (audience applauds) Thank you, Ficker, for the times in class that you’ve thrown knowledge on everyone and left people completely speechless. (laughs) Thank you to the trailblazers
who came before me, many of whom, Ricardo, if you’re watching, Karen, if you’re watching, and
Rachel, if you’re watching, all reached out to me before I wrote this and told me I could do it. So thank you for setting the stage for me and letting me believe
that I could do this. Thank you to all the immigrant parents who are here right now. Many of you who have
traveled some type of border at some point in time to allow your child or your
family member to be here and to be strong and to graduate. Shout-out to my parents
again who are over there. (laughs) And I know that’s not everyone. And I know that you know
that that’s not everyone. But before you leave here
today please take a look to your right and to your left, and acknowledge the person
who’s been there, or not. At least in this moment they’re there. (laughs) Oh wait, hi Aziz, I see you. Hi Della. Thank you for having such a
beautiful smile and laughter, and thank you for always
saying hi to me too, Della. But it’s with this kind
of hopeful and happy twist on where I started that I
want to leave you today. And keeping in mind so many of
the speeches that we’ve heard this past week, there’s always been like
a little nugget of advice and this is the advice I have for you that’s not from me, but from Gloria Anzaldua who
is a feminist Chicana scholar. “So though we tremble
before uncertain futures, “may we meet illness, death,
and adversity with strength. “May be dance in the face of our fears.” And again, from her, “Do work that matters.” (speaking in foreign language) Thank you everyone for listening. Congratulations Class of 2016. And if your family needs
some type of translation, I should have said this earlier, there are headsets available on the aisles for Spanish and simplified
Chinese, whatever that means. (laughs) Okay, thank you! (audience applauds) – Thanks! I’m gonna give my family
the same opportunity as Jamila because this if for y’all. So here’s the pose. (audience laughs) (audience applauds) Okay, thank you Jamila for
that incredible speech. I don’t know how I’m gonna
top it, but I will try. (laughs) So good morning faculty and
staff, family and friends, and a special hello to
my fellow graduates. I can’t begin to express how surreal it is for me to be up here on this stage and the significance of
me taking up this space. A black woman, a first
generation college student, a girl who grew up in an urban city. Hey, I even got a thick body. I mean how many people up here do you see that fit that mold? (audience applauds) But I’ve digressed. I guess I should formally
introduce myself. My name is Ashley Land. I hail from the windy
city of Chicago, Illinois. (audience cheers) Some people know Chicago as
the city of deep-dish pizza. Some know it as the city
of great architecture. Some know it from the news
as a city with a gun problem. But I know it simply as home. It is important for me to
start here as a reference point because where I am from
has made me the person that I am today. One of the most important
lessons I have learned here at Pomona is that a
person must always remember their past if they wish
to build a better future. I grew up in a working class predominantly black neighborhood on the south side of
Chicago to a single mom who always instilled in me
the importance of education. I would travel by public transportation for an hour every morning in order to get to one of the
top high schools in the nation on the city’s north side. My senior year of high school, I applied to this scholarship
called Quest Bridge, a scholarship for low-income, first-generation college students that was meant to reward high schoolers that had showcased
outstanding academic ability but also the ability to overcome economic and situational hardships. You see, college to many
people is just the next step in their lives after high school. It’s something that has
happened in their family for generations. It’s something that was
never kept from them legally, or institutionally. It’s just a simple right of passage. On the other hand, for me
college was an opportunity. An opportunity to reach
for something higher. An opportunity to make it
out of a bittersweet city. An opportunity for me and my family to one day have a better life. Not only was Quest Bridge
key to me believing that I could one day
become somebody monumental, despite my situation, it was also my first contact with Pomona as an elite institution that I finally could believe
was actually in my reach. My first couple of years at
Pomona was love at first sight. I mean what was not to like? They fed me three times a day. I had two awesome air conditioned rooms my first and second years. (audience laughs) I was able to go and come as I pleased without any parent supervision. I joined a multitude of
different clubs and activities. I turnt up for the first time in my life. (audience laughs) I even made incredible new friends. Life was perfect! And although first year
is sort of a blur now, I do remember hearing brief
mentions of racism, sexism, homophobia, et cetera, and all I could remember
is getting super-agitated because I felt like everything
was turned into an ism. It’s all about race, it’s all about class, it’s all about if you’re a
citizen or if you’re not! I was unable to recognize
the systems of oppression that were beyond me and chose to be ignorantly
unaware of complexity. Of the complexity of race
relations and social problems plaguing the United States. Fortunately during 2014 that all changed. What was that professor? I got a D on my psychology midterm? I feel so stupid. Oh girl, I just don’t have the money to go to the village for dinner. I have to buy my flight back home. Is media studies even a real major that I can garner success
with in the future? Did my professor really just
ask me to give the class the black perspective on
blank idea slash theory? These are just a couple of scenarios that occurred during my time here. And although they didn’t make
me completely lose my love for Pomona and all it has to offer, there was also some sense of not belonging that I began to feel. I wasn’t the academic
scholar I thought I was. I was no longer able to
hide my class background. I no longer had faith in
myself or my abilities. I was no longer an individual but instead a representative
for a whole entire group. Even though I may be using
my personal experiences to share these frustrations, I have a feeling that
many of my classmates have experienced similar struggles and thoughts in their minds. The frustrations and
disappointment continued in 2014 when I went abroad to Salamanca, Spain. I was often stared at for my black skin. I struggled with my non-fluency
in the Spanish language, which I often felt defeated for. And unfortunately this all
occurred during the time when news outlets everywhere began to highlight to police brutality and oppression occurring within
black and brown communities across the United States. Wait, let me rephrase that. News outlets across the world began to highlight a
marginal amount of instances of police brutality and oppression within black and brown communities, minus any amount of compassion, empathy, or acknowledge of injustice
surrounding these victims. These victims were not people with families that were mourning. They were transformed into
animals and criminals, used be trendy and get rating up. That’s when I woke up. When I got back to campus I
heard from my fellow black peers the reactions to their efforts and protesting and demonstrating in response to the
violent anti-black racism that permeates our society which were inexcusably
disgusting and horrendous. That’s when I woke up. When administration then came together and decided that when they
were being problematic, dismissive, and unresponsive to students, that they were just going to
silence our demonstrations and invalidate our anger, that’s when I woke up. When I was called a racist and a liar, when I was merely trying to advocate against the annihilation of my community, that’s when I was officially pissed off. (audience laughs) Pomona frequently prides itself on being one of the most
diverse institutions in the country, which I agree is a very
solid strength of the school but it can also be a weakness. It seems like the institution brings all of these people together and just expects them
to get along perfectly. At large, the US is set on the ideologies of democracy, freedom, diversity,
opportunity, and equality, being what makes this nation so great but none of these ideals can be achieved without pivotal justice. I watched multiple unjust homicides of numerous members of my community. I saw my community being
annihilated one by one, while I was thousands of miles away. I saw my Pomona community, the place I have called
home for three years begin to annihilate specific
members from the inside and this was unacceptable. That’s when I recognized the importance of acknowledging privilege,
community collaboration, and radical community love. Acknowledging privilege
is a often difficult, disruptive, unsettling, sometimes internally violent, process that I realize can be uncomfortable for both the person
acknowledging their privilege as well as the person
calling said person out. Note, if you sighed or rolled your eyes or sucked your teeth, when I started talking about privilege, it may be time for you to check your own. (audience applauds) But again, I digress. I too was unable to grasp
the idea of privilege fully. I was unable to see how my
heterosexual cis gender being or my blue passport gave
me a wealth of passes and freedoms that other
people did not have. I was unable to see how
privilege is tied to power, that we have been trained
not to acknowledge so that some people can
benefit more than others. I have come to terms with the fact that much of this is because when we do acknowledge our privilege we become actively
responsible for calling out those who take their
privileges for granted, whether that be ourselves or others. This is where all my fellow
graduates come into play because time after time we have heard that one thing, that the one thing Pomona faculty, staff, alumni, and trustees can agree on is the fact that students truly
create the campus climate. Pomona students are some
of the most compassionate, mindful people that I know who are willing to take action and hold people accountable
for their words and actions and how they affect others. This includes having tough
conversations at three a.m., taking classes outside
of their comfort zones, being honest and willing
to share their stories, listening to someone
they do not agree with, and the list goes on. I’ve seen students create
programming in spaces that lift people’s sprits,
hold others accountable, that challenge notions of how much change can actually happen, and that people love themselves
and their communities the way they deserve to be loved. And because of this it is imperative that I also extend some
special thank yous. Thank you to my fellow graduates who worked at and mentored for the identity based centers on campus that support and enhance the wellbeing of marginalized
communities on this campus. Thank you to my fellow
graduates who marched, protested, and sat in endless meetings taking up time from their academics so that this campus would
be a better place for us and generations of students to come. (audience applauds) Thank you to my fellow graduates who never looked at staff like strangers, who always acknowledged
that without the labor of departments like
Facilities, Housekeeping, Catering, and Grounds, that this school literally would not run. (audience applauds) Thank you to my fellow graduates who wrote thought provoking
pieces for The Student Life that inspired people to think
about the social problems we all face. Thank you to my fellow graduates
who created art and poetry to convey the pain as well as the healing that goes along with
true community building. Thank you to my fellow graduates who have never forgotten
where they come from, who stay humble and open to hearing others’ experiences as well. Thank you to my fellow graduates
who shared their stories and experiences, even when they face ridicule and critique. Thank you to Jamila
Espinosa and Donald Abrams for helping your girl write this speech at three o’clock in the morning. (audience applauds) And most importantly thank
you to my fellow graduates who were allies and up-front, even when no one was watching. When there was no chance
of fame or recognition, when you were simply doing
what should have been done. Genuine compassion is transformative. Before I mentioned a sense of
not belonging here on campus, especially in part of because
of the place I come from and the experiences I have endured. Because of the radical collective love my classmates have imparted on me, I now understand that I now longer need this institution invalidate me because I and my classmates have left endless marks on this community that will in the future
lead to true radical change. (audience applauds) I also mentioned before the importance of knowing one’s past in
order to carve a better future which makes me think of my ancestors who made several sacrifices so that I could be standing
on this stage today. Therefore I know that me
obtaining this degree today is not just about me. It’s about my family, my community, and about using the knowledge
I’ve gained from this place the fix the injustices I see in the world so that true revolutionary
change can happen. (audience applauds) Class of 2016, you are
all already daring minds, compassionate souls, and
incredibly talented people. I urge you to think about
the words I’ve communicated to you today. Acknowledging privilege,
community building, and radical community love does not cease after you
leave the Claremont bubble. Displaying these traits
is an ongoing process, one that can never really be mastered and like a muscle it
must always be exercised. If you have found
yourself to be complacent this entire time, that probably means you
need to exert these traits and I challenge you to do so mindfully. I know that I am part of
a class that is special and I cannot wait to see what impact you all will have on the world. Congratulations Class of 2016. Thank you. (audience applauds) (gentle music) (singing in foreign language) (audience applauds) ♪ Amazing grace how sweet your sound ♪ ♪ That saved a wretch like me ♪ ♪ I once was lost ♪ ♪ But now I’m found ♪ ♪ Was blind but now I see ♪ ♪ T’was grace that
taught my heart to fear ♪ ♪ And grace, my fears relieved ♪ ♪ How precious did that grace appear ♪ ♪ The hour I first believed ♪ ♪ When we’ve been there
10 thousand years ♪ ♪ Bright shining as the sun ♪ ♪ We’ve no less days
to sing God’s praise ♪ ♪ Than when we first begun ♪ ♪ Amazing grace ♪ ♪ How sweet the sound ♪ (audience applauds) – Vikram Chandra says some
of his earliest memories are of his mother, who was a playwright and screenwriter, seated at their dining room table in India writing on long sheets of paper. Those childhood memories left
a deep imprint on Vikram. The evidence being four
critically acclaimed books, a film, and a television series. Those books have visited bestseller lists and appear in 20 different
languages worldwide, while taking Vikram from the
classrooms of Crookshank Hall to his own classrooms at
the University of California at Berkeley. In his work, Vikram splices genres criss-crossing Indian and Western cultures as he guides us through
shadowy underworlds in his novel Sacred Games. Or through the beauty of coding in his book-length essay Geek Sublime. His writing has been
called dazzling, elegant, magnificent, earning
comparisons to Salman Rushdie and Michael Ondaatje. But whether fiction or nonfiction, he floods the page with
irradiation, sympathy, wit, and humanity. Vikram has amassed prestigious
awards on his literary path, including two Commonwealth Writer’s prizes and the Hutch Crossword prize, and he is a two time finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award in criticism and fiction. Last year he was the recipient of Guggenheim Fellowship in Fiction. As one might expect at Pomona, Johns Hopkins, and the
University of Houston, Vikram studied English
and Creative Writing but he also taught himself
computer programing and had a successful side business that put him through
grad school loan-free. Trust I got your attention just then. (audience laughs) In true liberal arts spirits Vikram says that whether
you are creating code or writing about heartbreak, you’re searching for
patterns and solutions. Both require passion and
are ripe with possibilities. We are honoring Vikram Chandra
today because of his capacity for helping us through those patterns to grapple with our human experience in the company of his vivid characters, luminous language, and audacious concepts. – Vikram Chandra, by
the power vested in me by the Board of Trustees, I confer upon you the
Degree of Doctor of Letters in Pomona College. (speaking in foreign language) (audience applauds) – Thank you Jonathan and
thank you to the faculty and the Board and the
Trustees of Pomona College for this great honor. It’s always a pleasure to
return to beautiful Pomona, this haven named appropriately for the goddess of fruitful abundance. I will be forever grateful
and count myself fortunate that I was invited to
share in Pomona’s bounty. I am reminded as I look out at you, that 32 years ago almost to the day I stood on the stages inside Bridges as a commencement speaker and told an ancient Indian story. I first found this story, although it was Indian I
found it here in the library at Pomona and it has
stayed with me ever since. As Jonathan said, since
I’m a fiction writer, a storyteller, I am obsessed
with patterns and repetitions, with leave-takings and homecomings, with beginnings and endings,
and the turnings of wheels. So I can’t resist telling
you that story again today. And as you will see, it is also a story about repetitions, about leaving a place of learning. So my Indian story is a
story about human beings and about the divas, the shining ones, the gods and the goddesses. And also about the usuras,
who are the old gods, somewhat similar to the
titans of the Greek tradition. These were threefold descendants
of Prejobithy, the creator. And once, a very long time ago, they were students at
the feet of their father. When they had finished their education the gods and goddesses said tell us something good for our souls and the creator answered,
but as he tends to do, he spoke enigmatically in the form of a huge crash of thunder. Within the Indian tradition in thunder people hear
the single syllable da, so the creator uttered the syllable da and then asks the gods and goddesses whether they had understood. We understand o god of thunder, they said. You have said to us (speaking
in foreign language), have self-control. Yes, the creator said. You understood indeed. Then the human beings asked and they heard the thunder and the same syllable da. And the creator asked them
whether they had understood. We understand they said. You told us da da, give to others. Yes, the creator said. You understood indeed. Then the useras asked and
they heard the thunder, the syllable da, and the creator asked them
whether they had understood. And they said yes, you told us (speaking
in foreign language), be merciful, be compassionate. Yes the creator said,
you understood indeed. And so the blessed voice of the thunder ever repeats da, da, da. (speaking in foreign language) da, da, (speaking in foreign language). Teaching the lessons of
self-control, charity, and compassion. And so after today, after you
leave this home of abundance, your place of learning, whenever you hear the thunder speak, remember this is what it says. Be self-controlled, give
generously, be kind. Thank you. (audience applauds) – Helen Pashgian is an artist, one of the pioneers of the
light and space movement and as part of a small group of artists which coalesced in LA in 1960s and included James
Turrell and Robert Irwin. Pashgian worked in the linked
phenomenon of color and light, utilizing materials
that were just emerging from the aerospace industry. Whether working at an intimate scale or in immersive environments, Pashgian’s work is
seductive and destabilizing. Edges and shapes float
in and out of focus, colors meld and shift. Her fellow artist and fellow
sage hand, James Turrell describes her as the
light and space sculptor who spiritualized the material world. Think about that for a moment. An artist who crates work that simultaneously evokes experiences both sensuous and spiritual and does it from the most
banal and rigid materials, polyester, epoxy, and acrylic plastics, the stuff used in
shatter-resistant windscreens and containers. In a major project for the LA
County Museum of Art in 2014 Pashgian transformed that stuff into monolithic sculptural
forms that seemed oddly ethereal only to shock her viewers as they moved through that space when they suddenly saw
a jolt of intense color. How does that happen? Well, curiosity, persistence, passion, and an almost
pretty natural awareness of the specificity of light
in southern California, whether that be an ocean daybreak or the intense light and shadow
of San Gabriel Foothills. When she came to Pomona she was prime to absorb the teaching of
art historian Symore Slive, who emphasized the quality of light in Dutch Golden Age painting. And after graduating, Pashgian
went on to pursue studies first in the history of art and then ultimately the
making of art at Columbia and Boston University. Back in southern California
she was invited to participate in Caltech’s Artist in Residence Program, an initiative that connected artists with engineers and scientists. It provided Pashgian with
access to new materials and to material scientists. She recalls that the scientists working with those new polymers were shocked by her mode
of experimenting with them in the studio, pushing materials to do things that the developers had
assured her they couldn’t do. That was in 1971 and she
hasn’t stopped since, asking the impossible from her materials. Today she’s coaxing whips
of disembodied color to float in polymer lenses. Being an artist doesn’t
stop at the studio door. Sensitive to the ways in which the natural and built environment combine to create a profound sense of connection, Helen Pashgian as a trustee of the college focused on preserving and
improving this special place. In the buildings and grounds committee where she served for over 20 years she advocated for Pomona as
the college in the garden and through design and architecture became an ever more distinctive space. Helen was and is the artist’s
voice on issues of the campus. Helen continues to work in
what once almost dismissed as a distinctly west coast
artistic set of preoccupations, light, color, and the
phenomenon of vision. Those preoccupations are now
part of a global vocabulary and she continues to make the ineffable somehow present and apparent. Mr. President, on behalf
of the Board of Trustees and the faculty of Pomona College, it is my great honor to
present Helen Pashgian for the Degree of Doctor of Fine Arts. (audience applauds) – [Mr. President] Helen Pashgian,
by the power vested in me by the Board of Trustees I confer upon you the Degree
of Doctor of Fine Arts in Pomona College (speaking
in foreign language). (audience applauds) (Helen coughs) – To you, the Class of 2016. This is your day. In the brief time I have, I wish to touch on two thoughts. First, over 100 years ago President Blazel incised some words on the
stone gates of this college. Some on the side of entrance, others on the side of departure. Today I wish to speak of departure. They only are loyal to this
college, who departing. Today you depart. Not yesterday, today. And today his words now speak to you. They are simple words and yet, and yet, they are elusive, enigmatic, and full of mystery. Should you think of them again as you move forward to
invent your own lives, they may change and evolve even as you yourselves
grow and change and evolve into the persons that you will become. This is your day. And so today I hope that
you will take the time to pass through the gates just once more. In the excitement of this day, even as you make plans to visit classmates in the near future, it might be well to pause and reflect. After all this has been your
home as it once was mine. And even though you may
return again and again, never again will you inhabit this place as you have for these four years. At this moment you depart
through these gates as an inhabitant one last time. So pause, pause. Second, curiosity. That intangible quality
whatever it may be. This curiosity that has been
sparked in your Pomona years will stay with you and serve you well. It will pay wildly unexpected dividends even as it may take you to
wild and unexpected places. Not only will your curiosity guide you into areas that most attract you, but it will also direct you
away from wrong choices. You may, for example, enter into a promising
field of study or a job, with great expectations and excitement only to find that what was most exciting has soon given way to
boredom and exhaustion. You fear your curiosity has vanished. However it is in fact
still powerfully present. If you will let it, it will
turn you towards new directions. But, you will say, what might
these new directions be? How will I proceed? I don’t know, I cannot tell you. I am not you. (audience laughs) But I can offer you a glimpse through words I have loved from long ago. Many years ago the legendary
New Yorker theater critic, Brendon Gil, wrote a review
of a Broadway revival of Checkov’s Three Sisters. He said this, “Checkov’s theme is the
conflict that exists “between the hope of happiness
that rises unbidden in us “coupled with our total ignorance
of where happiness lies.” I would like to suggest that if you examine closely
what you love the most, keep your curiosity ever
before you and work very hard. The result will be not just one, but multiple opportunities that will open. And be careful not to hurry this process. Time is your partner. You will eventually find
that place that is yours and yours alone. And I would dare to further suggest that that is where happiness lies. I would like to close with a
child’s poem about curiosity and I would like to dedicate this poem to someone many of you know, my friend and colleague,
Professor Jonathan Right. (audience cheers) A more curious person one cannot imagine. (audience laughs) This is a child’s poem and to a child it is always literal. But to you, to the Class of 2016, it is of course a metaphor. It goes like this. He stopped to watch a singing bird. The rest walked on, they had not heard. He paused again to watch a bee. The others passed, they did not see. A chipmunk ran across the lawn. He saw it hide, the rest walked on. Then from his hand a small coin dropped. He did not hear, but they all stopped. Thank you. (audience applauds) (audience cheers) – Good morning! – [Audience Member] Good morning! (audience laughs) – Mic check. Call me Black Psyc, but you
might know me as Professor. I run with Posse Eight and
we’re rhyming for your pleasure but we got you under pressure cause your world needs improvement. We’re workin’ in a movement. (speaking in foreign language) We can do this! (audience cheers) Okay, that’s enough of that. (audience laughs) I’m a little out of my comfort zone. (audience laughs) – [Debora] That was good. – Good morning faculty, staff, students, Mr. President, guests, families, Class of 2016. (audience cheers) My name is Eric Hurley. I’m a member of the
faculty here at Pomona. I’m appointed in Psychology
and Africana Studies. Especially germane today though I’ve had the pleasure
over the last four years to be mentored by Pomona
Posse Eight Chicago, BP Eight! I’m up here this morning to introduce Doctor Debora Beal, our
2016 commencement speaker. I’m really pleased to have
to opportunity to do so for a number of reasons. I’ve learned over the last few years to have a great deal of
respect and admiration for Doctor Beal. For her starting in leadership in creating the Posse Foundation and for other things that you can read about in your program. Right now I want to focus
on a particular reason, especially, that I respect and admire her and that is for her acts of pushing me out of my comfort zone. Let me explain. To me this is a main achievement
of the Posse Program. It’s the flagship of what
are called cohort programs. Programs that find, identify students who are highly qualified but for one reason or another may or may not end up
in a place like Pomona and sends them here. Sends them here at enough numbers that they can form and
maintain a sense of community and support, right? And that’s the whole
story, or the main story, that we hear and know about
these kinds of programs, right? And that in itself is a
magnificent accomplishment. But low key, that’s only
half the story, really. Half the story. The second half, and that is not the part
that by the way had me, for example, picking up a mic
at the 2013 Posse Plus Retreat and dropping bars in front
faculty, staff, and students, cause I’m really not
that guy, I promise you. But this other half I see as related to what that sense of
community enables in them. It enables I think the self-assurance to, and the sense of belonging to, and the sense of, and we often use this to
throw shade on young people, but that sense of entitlement. You’ve been told your
generation is entitled. More power to you, because that sense of entitlement to basically push us out
of our comfort zones, here and other places. So these 10 remarkable young people, you know I have to say
their names, bear with me. Donald Abram. (audience applauds) Brenda Benitez. (audience applauds) Dion Boyd. (audience applauds) Vivian Cahio. (audience applauds) Hanna Durello (audience applauds) Jurise Gains. (audience applauds) Maxine Garcia. (audience applauds) Bladimir Ordunyo. (audience applauds) Thomas True. (audience applauds) And Javier Vasquez. (audience applauds) I love you all, I really do. These 10 remarkable young people and the 40 others who are here, joining to form critical mass with their 1,500 or so student colleagues, have done a fantastic job at what I call an essential and necessary kind of comfort zone troubling
around here at Pomona. I think the dais this morning
has demonstrated that. Yes? They push us to see the
imperfections of our current selves reflected back by a whole range of used to be even more
unusual around here identities. And perspectives. And in so doing this I think they push us to be our better selves
individually and institutionally, but that’s a place where we get pushed out of our comfort zones. How, they join and start
conversations and organizations that seek social justice in every imaginable and necessary way. By helping to mobilize
the Pomona campus versions of what’s happening in the
nation and around the world. Yes, we’ve heard about it. There have been protest and
occupying the faculty meeting and meetings with President Oxtoby and marches, et cetera, this year, right? And they been doing it at a level, you have been doing it at a level, and now I’m speaking
about all the students, at level that makes me proud and hopeful for our
students on our campus, but also at times rather uncomfortable. Yes, I’m setting up to
blame you for this, Debbie. (audience laughs) This activity so much so that last Thursday, May 12, 2016, the Pomona College faculty
amended unanimously the terms of our own tenure
and promotion criteria to specify that effective teaching necessarily involves the
creation of inclusive classrooms where students, applaud
for that, it’s a big deal. (audience applauds) Where students of oft
marginalized identities feel encouraged and supported to engage with course activities. This is a very big deal. It’s kinda hard for me to
say quite what a big deal it is except to say that
the faculty handbook is something of a sacred
document around here and it’s never changed
lightly, but we changed it. We changed it because
of you and your voices. (audience applauds) And our doing this marks
change and it marks growth, but again, not a hugely
comfortable exercise. I think my colleagues can
back me up on that point. Not a hugely comfortable exercise. And you should know that a
lot of students showed up at that meeting. Those meetings, and occupied
the faculty meeting. And occupied, right? And I want to tell you that their presence was a huge voice in that room along with the about a third of you who also signed that document, a petition asking us to support it. So let me bring it home now. While I as posse mentor
was busy encouraging them to see possibilities and feel entitled to all that Pomona has and to request what they
need if it isn’t offered, I also began to feel a change in me. I began to see possibilities again that I might have lost my clear view of. I may have spent a few years
sorta keepin’ my head down and tryin’ to get that next paper out and protecting my course evaluations. But I began to see and I began to desire to get involved again. I began to see that my own discomfort would also be a sign of growth. And like I said, I wanted
to get involved again, and then the next thing I knew I was involved in some
bobin’ my head to a beat, ably provided by human
beat box Bladamir Orduno. (audience cheers) And waiting for my turn on the mic after Nostra Thomas, MC Splenda, MC Queso, and Hanna D, aka, High Def. (audience laughs) And yes, feeling way
outside my comfort zone. And since then I’ve gotten
involved in some other things as well, not least of which
is together with my colleague, Fernando Lozano, and several
others, crafting and pushing for this landmark new
diversity inclusion policy in the faculty handbook. So thank you, Debbie Beal. From where I sit your work
has really made a mark here as in other places. On the Posse Scholars themselves, and through them as
catalysts on other students, as with other students around the nation, and on me and other faculty
and staff at Pomona College who are agents in the
enterprise that is higher ed as with I imagine such
agents around the country, I do, and I think many of us,
really do appreciate your work in all its subtlety and magnitude. Mr. President, I present
Debbie Beal for the honor of Doctorus Honora. Thank you. (audience applauds) – [Mr. President] Debora Beal,
by the power vested in me by the Board of Trustees, I confer upon you the Degree
of Doctor of Humane Letters in Pomona College (speaking
in foreign language). (audience applauds) – Oh my gosh! Are you guys okay? Thank you so much! (audience laughs) I don’t know what to do now,
I don’t know what to do! And I have a wardrobe malfunction. My zipper’s broken on my robe. (audience laughs) Eric said it’s okay, I’m
standing behind the podium and you can’t see it. (audience laughs) Can you see it? (audience laughs) Okay, you look really good by the way. – [Audience Member] I love you! – I know. (laughs) Thank you President Oxtoby,
the Pomona Board of Trustees, the wonderful Pomona faculty and staff. It’s an honor to be here getting an honorary degree
with Helen and Vikram. And my God, the student
speakers that you had, Jimela and Ashley, I’m so impressed. (audience applauds) This is a good place. And it is pretty and it’s cold. So I want to begin by
saying congratulations to the Class of 2016. It’s a big deal to be
here with your families who are sitting in raincoats
and shivering a little, but everyone is so proud of you. I want to give a special
shout-out to Posse Eight who’s graduating here today. I’m incredibly honored to
be graduating with you guys and hopefully you’ll let
me be part of your posse. (audience laughs) I want to take a moment just as an aside. This is a complete aside from my speech, to acknowledge President David Oxtoby. – [Audience Member] Woo! – He has announced, right, that next year will be his
last as Pomona’s President and I would like to thank him personally for his partnership. David, you’ve been a tremendous
collaborator and friend, bringing more than 100 Posse
Scholars to this campus including STEM Scholars. You’ve been acting as a powerful advocate, I don’t know if all of
you realize how much, for the promotion of
diversity in higher education everywhere across the country. I admire and respect you and I know that everyone here
will celebrate your tenure at this this institution. (audience applauds) So I think there’s about
400 of you sitting out there and you’re on the cusp of
the next part of your life. It’s one of those really special
life moments, graduation. But for the next few minutes I’d like you to remember a time when you were much, much younger. Let me take you back. It’s 2004, a few years only after 9/11. This is what was happening. George Bush was president. He had declared a war on terror. American forces were fighting
in Iraq and Afghanistan. That year the CIA acknowledged
that there had been no immanent threat of weapons
of mass destruction in Iraq. This was the year that Ronald Reagan died and also the year that New
York City began building The Freedom Towers to
replace the fallen towers of The World Trade Center. In Massachusetts in 2004 the first legal same sex
marriage was performed. The Red Sox won the
World Series that year. (audience applauds) First time since 1918 by the way. Google launched its IPO and Ron Churno published
his biography of Hamilton. (audience laughs) I don’t know if those of you
graduation today remember that but maybe you remember that
the movies Harry Potter and The Prisoner of Azkaban
and Shrek 2 came out that year. (audience laughs) Of course you might remember that because you were eight
or nine or 10 years old! You were just a kid. 2004 news headlines may not
be what you remember most. As a kid other things were on your mind. I mean think about it,
think about being that kid. Maxine Garcia, June Park, Montez Brownly, Alexander Palmer, can you remember yourself
then at nine years old? What you looked like? (audience laughs) Can you all remember the
clothes you liked to wear when you were that age? Did you like to have
your hair a certain way? Were you tall or short? Izeah Boon, Benjamin Cohen, are you thinkin’ about this? (audience laughs) Were you shy, were you outgoing? Was there something
you really loved to do? Do you remember your dreams and what you wanted to
be when you grew up? Who did you look up to? My guess is that people
who were 20 or 21 or 22 were definitely people you thought of as responsible adults. (audience laughs) Well so this made me want
to talk to some people who understand the profound responsibility that you have now that you’re graduating. So earlier this month I talked to 53 eight and nine and 10 year olds. I told them I was gonna
be talking to all of you and that I would tell you
anything they wanted you to know. I wanted to find out
what was on their minds and asked them what they
wanted to see in the world and see what they would want by the time they graduated from college. I asked them what they like, what they want to be when they grow up. I asked them about what world
problem they would solve. I thought well maybe they’d
have a message for you, right? And it could kind of
inform the responsibility you now have as a Pomona
graduate, as an adult. And actually what they had
to say was kinda interesting. First of all, they were excited. They truly love the idea
that you were gonna hear what they had to say. It kinda filled my heart, ya know? They each filled out this
worksheet that had 10 questions. And there was this one little girl who shyly asked my colleague, “Will you make sure she sees mine?” I know, I love them, my God, so cute! (audience laughs) And then we had this conversation and they were just wide-eyed and open and speaking at the same time. And they were just
straining to get a word in. And so here’s a snapshot, okay? You might not be surprised
that they like video games, animals, and meatballs. (audience laughs) They like books, bubble gum, bunnies, drawing, ice cream, jump rope,
and making things explode. (audience laughs) One says I really love my Mommy and Daddy. Another, I like to be bossy. (audience laughs) When they grow up they want
to be a police officer, the best soccer player in the world, a doctor because doctors help people, a rapper, a deejay, a singer because I like to sing, a veterinarian because I love animals, and a wrestler because it’s cool (audience laughs) When they grow up they
want to be the President because I want to tell the world
to be happy and nonviolent. They want to be an inventor, a track superstar, a chemist, a teacher. Sound familiar? Yeah, one wants to do makeup and hair. One wants to work for the INS. The little girl who likes to
be bossy wants to be a lawyer because she is bossy and
doesn’t take no for an answer. (audience laughs) No, this is what they said. I asked them what worries
them about their future. They worry about the
things you might expect. Big things that seem beyond their control. They worry about kids getting lost, that I won’t be with my mom every day. I know, all you moms out there. They worry about school getting harder, kidnapping, bullying, and hate. One little girl wants the
world to be rid of all spiders. (audience laughs) They worry about pollution, tigers and pandas going extinct. They worry about dying
and the world ending. They worry that robots
will take over the earth. (audience laughs) I know, something I
hadn’t really considered. But they also worry about things you might not typically expect of an eight or nine or 10 year old. I know that when I was nine I wasn’t thinking about
the things they brought up. I had a ponytail and I had braces. I had a doll I loved. She also had a ponytail. With a knob on her back I could
make her hair long or short. I worried about the
universe being too big, I worried about dying, and like that little girl, I
worried a lot about spiders. But these kids, on their worksheets and in their conversations seemed to be aware of today’s
problems and challenges in a much more personal way. They knew a lot about Donald Trump. (audience gasps) Of the 53 students who
completed the worksheet more than a third of them wrote that they were afraid of him. One little boy said no one
should be sent to another place without their family. To my surprise their
conversation focused heavily on racism and hate. They worried that the next
president will keep Muslims out or will deport my parents. They began a conversation
during which they explained that they are worried
that all black people could be sent to Africa. One said, “For me, I am
worried that the next president “will bring back racism “because he’s going to
send all black people “to Africa and then he’s
gonna kick Mexicans out “so only white people “can have the whole New
York to themselves.” I found this heartbreaking. While they are picking up
a lot from their parents they are also dwelling in a place of fear that we formerly reserve for adults. It is possible that there is a shift in what kids think about today. It may have to do with
social media and TV. The 24 hour breaking
news that flashes by them in their living rooms
or on their computers. The pop-up, blogging,
tweeting, texting culture surrounds us with news flashes. They see it too. The television is constantly
telling us to be afraid of what could potentially happen from terror attacks to the
next most horrible storm. We are quick to give
up our civil liberties or run to the store to
stock up on emergency items that we don’t really need. Kids pick up on this. The truth is there are many problems that we have let fester. My generation has quite
frankly failed yours. Did we make the world the way you would have wanted it to be? I don’t believe we have. These things that scare
kids today scare us all. We are still fighting for peace, for equal rights, for equal treatment, for equal opportunity. Women still make 79 cents
for every dollar a man makes. The United States Senate is 93% White and 80% male. And these are our representatives. The kids are right. Over the past 40 years we have lost 50% of the world’s wildlife. The kids are right. There’s too much killing. In 2015 alone, those with guns killed
more than 13,000 people in the United States. This country is far from the flying cars and teleportation they dream of. Our infrastructure is crumbling, our bridges, our tunnels,
our roads, and our schools, need major repair. There are families who are
afraid for their safety. There are those who want to
come here but are kept out and those who are afraid
they will be forced to leave. And the kids are right. There’s too much hate. A recent national pole that CNN did found that 49% of Americans believe that racism is a big problem. These things are scary for
kids as they are for us, but we have a special responsibility
to make them feel safe. Not feel safe, be safe. I asked them about their
dreams for the future. Of course the future
seemed abstract to them, but they had ideas about it anyway. They want cool technology. They want the future to be
peaceful, caring, and happy. They want the whole world
to have hope and faith. Their ideas were reasonable. One told me I think the
President should make sure there’s peace around the world and you don’t just
start kicking people out of where they live and start
sending them somewhere else. They thought there should be
talking instead of violence, including in the Oval Office. They thought the President
should just talk to people and reason with them. For you specifically,
they wanted you to know that when they get to college they want the world to be beautiful. One said I think it’s
helpful for college people, that’s you, (audience laughs) to know that everyone has
the responsibility to listen, be a good student, and
clean up after themselves. (audience laughs) Everyone has to use
teamwork and work together. When did we lose these basic
principles of behavior? Do we remember ourselves at this age? We were all there, weren’t we? Everybody. We had imagination. Maybe this was when we
were at our most honest and our most trusting. So what is the responsibility
of adults today? First of all, we have to act like adults. The children explain clearly that adults shouldn’t smoke,
they should be mature, pleasant, and truthful, respectful and smart. They should be nice, they should listen and please no screaming. (audience laughs) If you have been paying attention to our current political situation, it’s painfully clear that in this respect, we have lost our way. Second, we need to do all we can to protect our idealism. It is what is expected of us from the most important
citizens of this country, little kids. In 2015, Millennials became the largest and most diverse generation
in the workforce. Researchers say you are idealists and while some criticize this aspect of your age group, I
say keep your idealism. In fact do everything
you can to protect it. It’s a tricky thing to balance, acting like an adult and
remaining idealistic. But you could do it! It’s the only way to create a world where the dreams of
little kids can come true. You’re sitting here today
at the edge of opportunity. You have so much power and so much reach. Much more reach than any
generation before you. You have the same tools that we had. You can work hard, you can vote, you can speak out. But you have a whole set of new tools at your fingertips, literally. And that can help make
the world not only better, but a little closer to
the nine year old’s ideal. So I’m talkin’ to you
guys individually, right? John Albright, out there, and Janet Herrera, right? Kira Sweeney and Paul Carter
and Avi Sheldon, right? Catherine Fortsen, Daisy Adams, Dion Boyd. We all remember being nine, right? (audience laughs) We trusted the adults. You’re in the same position
as these kids, really. When we hit adulthood we
somehow see our current selves as separate from our childhood selves. But the dreams of nine year
olds don’t really change when we turn 21. Maybe you’re a little more practical now, but your idealism is still there. Thank goodness! Today you’re graduating and this rite of passage
is one more declaration of your adulthood. You’re now the adults to
whom the responsibility of protecting the world is given. You are now the adults that
these 53 little nine year olds believe in. There are approximately
4.1 million nine year olds in the country today. We entrust their future to you. In only a little more than a decade they will be sitting here in your chairs. They will walk in the footsteps
you place on this platform. It will be their turn, today it’s yours. So don’t forget the nine
year old in yourself and all the nine year olds that are looking to you to pave the way. Stay close to their dreams and let them remind you of yours. You could do extraordinary
things in your life and in the world. They need you and we all do. Congratulations everyone! (audience applauds) – Thank you, Debbie. We will now proceed to
the conferring of degrees. (audience cheers) – Will the members of the
Class of 2016 please rise. (audience applauds) Mr. President, upon the
recommendation of the faculty of Pomona College and by
vote of the Board of Trustees I have the honor to
present these candidates for the Degree of Bachelor
of Arts in Pomona College. – Now, by the authority vested in me by the Board of Trustees, I confer upon you as you
individually present yourselves the Degree of Bachelor
of Arts in Pomona College with all the rights and
privileges appertaining thereto. (audience cheers) – Ready? Cole Conrad Clark (audience applauds) Danielle Burle Shickly. (audience applauds) Ryan Folk Smith. (audience applauds) Kira Matthews Sweeney. (audience applauds) No, right. (audience applauds) Dane Andrews Zalinsky. (audience applauds) Donald Ray Abram, Junior. (audience applauds) Austin Seaward Abrams. (audience applauds) Stacey Rebecca Abrams. (audience applauds) Daisy Elizabeth Adams. (audience applauds) Tessa Alexandra Adams. (audience applauds) Kayla Agiya Rodriguez. (audience applauds) John Alexander Albright, Summa Cum Laude. (audience applauds) Davin Patrick Alison. (audience applauds) Nicholas Patrick Alvarez. (audience applauds) Adiza Veronica Ame. (audience applauds) Denanda Anjay. (audience applauds) Oren Arod Neiman. (audience applauds) Marialouda Arcenyega. (audience applauds) Ferrel Joseph Atkins. (audience applauds) Margaret Shoeyoung Austin. (audience applauds) Runvier Sing Vajwa. (audience applauds) Cara Isabel Bank. (audience applauds) Natalie Ann Barbarisi. (audience applauds) Mylo Brenden Verisof. (audience applauds) Gram Larson Barlow. (audience applauds) Michael Vincent Bartoli. (audience applauds) Elaina Eliza Basara. (audience applauds) David Zacharia Baxter. (audience applauds) Ficker Todes Bickeli. (audience applauds) Owen Winters Bell. (audience applauds) Brenda Sashi Benitez. (audience applauds) Laura Michelle Berman. (audience applauds) Ester Chieza Bebe. (audience applauds) Angela Bee. (audience applauds) Andreas Beakert. (audience applauds) Roy Lance Lee Bird, The Fourth. (audience applauds) Hanna Maureen Bishop. (audience applauds) Anna Lynn Blackman. (audience applauds) Suzanne Helene Boden. (audience applauds) Iseah Lamont Brun. (audience applauds) Sammy Cuprino Bore. (audience applauds) Dion Xavior Boyd. (audience applauds) Shana Perry Brady. (audience applauds) Benjamin Ezra Brash. (audience applauds) Casey Flather Breen. (audience applauds) Laura Catherine Breen. (audience applauds) Kevin Dylan Bryce. (audience applauds) Gabriel Mark Bronstein. (audience applauds) Colin Christopher Brown. (audience applauds) Sydney Piper Browning. (audience applauds) Montez Terel Brownly. (audience applauds) John Michael Bryan. (audience applauds) William Cockrell Jansen Bookholtz. (audience applauds) Emily Dorothy Berdican. (audience applauds) Paula Elizabeth Berkhart. (audience applauds) Reid Alexander Callan. (audience applauds) Andrew Morgan Capron. (audience applauds) Elena Almarla Cardinos Munos. (audience applauds) William Daniel Carpenter. (audience applauds) Vivian Lynette Cardillo. (audience applauds) Paul Michael Carter. (audience applauds) Lilly Shana Carver. (audience applauds) Sabrina Ray Cash. (audience applauds) Lazerous Hokeyas. (audience applauds) Alex Junhook Bong. It’s Chong, sorry. (audience applauds) Emily Chong. (audience applauds) Catherine Shwin Chin (audience applauds) Peter Hal Chen. (audience applauds) Samuel Song Ming Chen. (audience applauds) Vivian Chen. (audience applauds) Wenin Chen. (audience applauds) Rosanna Chang Hey. (audience applauds) Jessica Chang. (audience applauds) Philip Douglas Clayman. (audience applauds) Ricky August Cleary. (audience applauds) Benjamin Ezra Cohen. (audience applauds) Elana Ruth Cohen. (audience applauds) Molly Ann Cole. (audience applauds) Nelson Wayne Cole. (audience applauds) Madalynn Simone Culvan. (audience applauds) Alyssa Knowl Cook. (audience applauds) Michael Allen Clark. (audience applauds) Laisha Naima Kanaho. (audience applauds) Madilynn Carol Cohen. (audience applauds) Molly Rebecca Kalger. (audience applauds) Samuel Austin Crawford. (audience applauds) Ver Martin Crossman. (audience applauds) Melina Questa. (audience applauds) Gabriel Emory Currior. (audience applauds) Arron Burton Serimuti. (audience applauds) Gera Alexandra Davis. (audience applauds) Makayla Lee Diyoung. (audience applauds) Tatina Elienishna Denisova. (audience applauds) Peter Martin Durdain. (audience applauds) Alok Abigit Desai. (audience applauds) Sahir Abigit Desai. (audience applauds) Amelia Youyon Snow. (audience applauds) Youbia Dee. (audience applauds) Pamela Chiamela Diala. (audience applauds) Nathaniel James Dornberg. (audience applauds) Julia Lynn Donor. (audience applauds) Hanna Lea Duelo. (audience applauds) Kai Louis Norton Douting. (audience applauds) Samuel Wang Do. (audience applauds) Kyle Gank Easton. (audience applauds) Laura Christina Edwards. (audience applauds) Lane Warren Epps, Summa Cum Laude. (audience applauds) Elvia Espinosa. (audience applauds) Leo Estrada. (audience applauds) Michael Aron Etsal. (audience applauds) Kieren Lewel Evens, Summa Cum Laude and Rena Gurley Archibald
High Scholarship prize winner. (audience applauds) Gibson Hill Farone Collins. (audience applauds) Mariah Jane Ferris. (audience applauds) Julie Marie Fodorko. (audience applauds) Jaqueline Fernandez Vela. (audience applauds) Joanna Fay Elle Finklestein. (audience applauds) Luke Robert Fishinger. (audience applauds) Natalie Catherine Fokerts. (audience applauds) Neil Logan Forsythe. (audience applauds) Catherine Taylor Fortson. (audience applauds) John Michael Fowler. (audience applauds) Enlynn Aurora Foxon. (audience applauds) Nathan Ari Franklin. (audience applauds) Grant Hays Fraser. (audience applauds) Joel Clement Freeman. (audience applauds) Alana Ray Freedman. (audience applauds) Churese Jamel Gaines. (audience applauds) Brenda Liliana Garcia. (audience applauds) Maxine Solange Garcia. (audience applauds) Emma Caroline Gardner. (audience applauds) Charmain Isabel Garzone. (audience applauds) Brian Michael Gee. (audience applauds) Alex Jasmine Gerard. (audience applauds) Audry Carolyn Glazer. (audience applauds) Hamil Louise Gering. (audience applauds) Douglas Norris Goldstein. (audience applauds) Jose Luis Gomez. (audience applauds) Daniel James Gonzolez. (audience applauds) Hamela Fernanda Gonzelez Montesteauka. (audience applauds) Harrison Malone Goodall, The Third. (audience applauds) Alexandra Cathrine Goss. (audience applauds) Ellen Tachia Green. (audience applauds) Mary Margaret Groves. (audience applauds) Jona Bryce Bowen Grub. (audience applauds) Tiffany Gu. (audience applauds) Sharon Rose Ha. (audience applauds) Mia Ha. (audience applauds) Evan Taylor Hamiguchi. (audience applauds) Angela Chihun Hun. (audience applauds) Song Lee Hun. (audience applauds) Elizabeth Elan Hanson. (audience applauds) Sarah Devero Hardiman. (audience applauds) Brent Kogee Harper. (audience applauds) Hanna Jane Hachel. (audience applauds) Jenna Catherine Hoffer. (audience applauds) Marianna Elizabeth Heckendorm. (audience applauds) Andrea Gould Helibust. (audience applauds) Janet Herrera. (audience applauds) Emily Charlotte Hill. (audience applauds) Hugo Bailey Ho. (audience applauds) Maximillian Wolfgang
Hoffman, Summa Cum Laude. (audience applauds) Cecilla Nolan Holinhorst. (audience applauds) James David Holmes, Junior. (audience applauds) Gajong Hong. (audience applauds) Casey Hobson. (audience applauds) David Hwan Howell. (audience applauds) Irene Shung. (audience applauds) Ting Hu Wong. (audience applauds) Karen Lindsey Huddleston. (audience applauds) Brittany Louise Hughs. (audience applauds) Olowa Myawa Oyinkonsula Ige. (audience applauds) Mohamud Asul Jallal. (audience applauds) Huan Huan Jun. (audience applauds) Wanyee Jua. (audience applauds) Sona Javeri Kadrie. (audience applauds) Albert Ari Kaquis. (audience applauds) Jane Kong. (audience applauds) Kevin Michael Kanipan. (audience applauds) Nicholas Matteo Kass. (audience applauds) Ida Baran Casa. (audience applauds) David Kyle Katomie. (audience applauds) Alexandra McKim Kelly. (audience applauds) Anna Kim. (audience applauds) Julia Shay Rian Kim. (audience applauds) Min Ju Kim. (audience applauds) Stefan Minsu Kim. (audience applauds) Ying Kim. (audience applauds) Kevin Matthew Knox. (audience applauds) Andrew Norbert Cosinski. (audience applauds) David Andrew Colon. (audience applauds) Nana Kurantama Aquia Currenting. (audience applauds) Anna Marie Kramer. (audience applauds) Conner Samuel Commerlow. (audience applauds) Payru Queck. (audience applauds) Joshua James Landgraph. (audience applauds) Robert Kimoy Lunyot. (audience applauds) Sarah Jacqueline Pui Li Laos. (audience applauds) Johnny Lei. (audience applauds) Twi Chien Na Li. (audience applauds) (audience laughs) Brenden Kumabi Lee. (audience applauds) Jerry Winho Lee, Summa Cum Laude. (audience applauds) Warren Andrew Lee. (audience applauds) Isaac Benjamin Levy Rubynet. (audience applauds) William Skylar Lewis, Summa Cum Laude. (audience applauds) Belinda Lee. (audience applauds) Hanna Quhan Lee. (audience applauds) Woo Yee Lee. (audience applauds) Yee Lee. (audience applauds) Ginguan Liao. (audience applauds) Voyu You. (audience applauds) Matthew Allen Lu. (audience applauds) Carolyn Elizabeth Long. (audience applauds) Christina Elizabeth Lopez. (audience applauds) Diego Tiso Clusero Lopez. (audience applauds) Thomas Ray Lowe. (audience applauds) Ryan Lucas Lowe. (audience applauds) Roshie Lu. (audience applauds) Byron Samuel Maltez. (audience applauds) William Gorge Marks. (audience applauds) Diana Martinez. (audience applauds) Jeremy Martinez. (audience applauds) Jerry Martinez. (audience applauds) Melina Brook Mastrodimus. (audience applauds) Calum Lee McCarthy. (audience applauds) Sean William McCoy. (audience applauds) Madilynn Patricia McGoy. (audience applauds) Alison Lee McGlocklin. (audience applauds) Samuel Ely McGlocklin, Summa Cum Laude. (audience applauds) Alexander James Ray McFee. (audience applauds) Stephanie Pria Merchant. (audience applauds) Daniel Ness. (audience applauds) Caesar Julian Nezza. (audience applauds) Rachael Louise Miller. (audience applauds) Charles Cusie Minka Premo. (audience applauds) Reid Bradford Mitchel. (audience applauds) Tashid Mitra. (audience applauds) Alisha Pingjon Misis. (audience applauds) Tatsu Drake Monkman. (audience applauds) Lee Ellen Moonen. (audience applauds) Makayla Vern Morriset. (audience applauds) Christina Ann Morrison. (audience applauds) Samantha Shingwa Morrison. (audience applauds) William Cliff Mount Joy Vening. (audience applauds) Noah William Mulfinger. (audience applauds) Miles Alexander Mundy. (audience applauds) Margaret Elizabeth Muntz, Summa Cum Laude. (audience applauds) Eileen Twee Nuin. (audience applauds) Kevin Andrew Win. (audience applauds) Alexandra Lynn Nolan. (audience applauds) Hukie Numata. (audience applauds) Jennifer Okonquo. (audience applauds) Page Lauren Oliver. (audience applauds) Kimberly Elizabeth Ona Aillah. (audience applauds) Gladivir Odonyo. (audience applauds) Aden Orly. (audience applauds) Steven Joseph Orey. (audience applauds) Edmond Amonte Packlev, Junior. (audience applauds) Maritza Pedilla. (audience applauds) Stephano Pedilla. (audience applauds) Selma Victoria Packetchi. (audience applauds) Robert Andrew Palmer. (audience applauds) Laura Ellen Pandori. (audience applauds) June Juan Park. (audience applauds) Shauni Adea Paul. (audience applauds) Kirsten Marie Peterson. (audience applauds) Daniel Dragon Pfan. (audience applauds) Paul Dawson Pichiano. (audience applauds) Angela Camilla Pico. (audience applauds) Laura Daniella Pico. (audience applauds) John William Pietrokovski. (audience applauds) Samuel Artly Posner. (audience applauds) Woodson E. Banicker Powell. (audience applauds) Simone Prince Eishner. (audience applauds) Emily Francis Prue. (audience applauds) Jackson Connor Rafter. (audience applauds) Mark Edward Raftree. (audience applauds) Elizabeth Prunham. (audience applauds) Megana Row. (audience applauds) Johanna Marsh Rail. (audience applauds) Taylor Windell Reef. (audience applauds) Melissa Elizabeth Ray. (audience applauds) Elen Camil Reise. (audience applauds) Desente Robles, Junior. (audience applauds) Ismeri Rodriguez. (audience applauds) Serio Rodriguez Camerina. (audience applauds) Savanna Gwen Rose. (audience applauds) Simon Rosenbaum. (audience applauds) Lucia Ruan. (audience applauds) Jose Valentin Ruiz. (audience applauds) Andrew Hinton Russel. (audience applauds) Serahi Hennesis Santos. (audience applauds) Andrea Isabel Sartorious. (audience applauds) Catherine Jordan Savino. (audience applauds) Michelle Anna Rose Shultz. (audience applauds) Anna Pearson Shwab. (audience applauds) Zachary Paul Schwartz. (audience applauds) Sydney Roxanna Scott. (audience applauds) David Justin Sharty. (audience applauds) Ozzy Lee Shard. (audience applauds) Avi Peter Sheldon. (audience applauds) Marlie Rebecca Shelton. (audience applauds) Sarah Sun She. (audience applauds) Christen Stephanie Silva. (audience applauds) Alexandra Morris Smith. (audience applauds) Erin Francis Smith. (audience applauds) Megan Marie Snow. (audience applauds) Lucas Minsok Son. (audience applauds) Leanna Dominique Solis. (audience applauds) Christopher Ryan Song. (audience applauds) Jonathan Eric Song. (audience applauds) Cleo Marquel Spencer. (audience applauds) Vine Schwenebosin. (audience applauds) Miranda Pomroy Star. (audience applauds) Kira Christian Stone. (audience applauds) Bear Reid Strayer. (audience applauds) Hong Sa. (audience applauds) Raul Augustine Sun Hong Chong. (audience applauds) Julia Ann Keiler Swanson. (audience applauds) Leth Amhed Sweden. (audience applauds) Daniel Thomas Swift. (audience applauds) Chahira Tomafusi. (audience applauds) Daniel Charles Tan. (audience applauds) Scott Howard Tan. (audience applauds) Gage Allen Taylor. (audience applauds) Cody Toc Vong Sun Young. (audience applauds) Kevin J. Tidmarsh. (audience applauds) Alice Cho Timkin. (audience applauds) Julios Ramone Torres Kilinghosen. (audience applauds) Jackie Tran. (audience applauds) Thomas Vin Tru. (audience applauds) Nelson Troy. (audience applauds) Eric Bjorn Van Swan. (audience applauds) Aaron Christian Varner. (audience applauds) Javier Vasquez. (audience applauds) Eric Francisco Valesquez. (audience applauds) Olivia Ann Voris. (audience applauds) Hela Funfedler Wall. (audience applauds) Adam Thomas Waterberry. (audience applauds) Wotisarah Watnoni McGun. (audience applauds) Analis Rose Woodell. (audience applauds) Daniel Timothy Weinen. (audience applauds) Ian James Welty. (audience applauds) Archer Hail Wieler. (audience applauds) Elizabeth Josephine Wilcox. (audience applauds) Carson Riggs Witty. (audience applauds) Alise Welty Wolfe. (audience applauds) Teresa Marie Bartlet Wong. (audience applauds) Sophia Louise Wrench. (audience applauds) Kevin Win. (audience applauds) Sheen Shin. (audience applauds) Chow You Young. (audience applauds) Ariana Yee. (audience applauds) Lelan Yen. (audience applauds) Solina Song Wan You. (audience applauds). Andrew Wilder Young. (audience applauds) Maria Ha Young Young. (audience applauds) Morgan Ann Yousel. (audience applauds) Vion Zeda. (audience applauds) Jing Young Jong. (audience applauds) Sue Ha Jong. (audience applauds) Lee Jow. (audience applauds) Nancy Chu. (audience applauds) Narik Dominque Zorowski. (audience applauds) James Marzola Waller. (audience applauds) Ashlie Sheray Land. (audience applauds) Jamila Ferra Espinosa. (audience applauds) – The Class of 2016! (audience applauds) Okay, cool. Ever since arriving at
Pomona College 13 years ago I’ve heard the phrase Pomona bubble used to refer to the
idea that here on campus we are in an artificial environment protected from the real world outside. I’ve always questioned that trope since in fact the issues from that world keep breaking in on us in an urgent, important ways. This concept though still came
to mind for me in February when we screened the award winning movie, The Martian, here on campus. Together with an
appearance by the producer, Pomona alumnus Aditya Sood, class of 1998. Most of you probably know
the story of the movie. Matt Damon’s character, Mark Watney, left behind on Mars by
his fellow astronauts after a huge storm. Scientifically impossible, but who cares. (audience laughs) Has to repair the artificial bubble in which he lives, providing for food and oxygen to breath, and plan a trip across
the planet to the cite where a launch vehicle has been placed so he can blast off from Mars, join up with his fellow
astronauts, and return to earth. Damon uses incredible
creativity to fix the dome on which he depends for his survival, planting crops, monitoring oxygen levels. You, the Class of 2016, have used just such creativity, together with a healthy
dose of critical thinking and a lot of hard work, to help create positive change in this bubble that we
call Pomona College. You have organized, protested, demanded, and met to plan a series of changes to make this environment a more inclusive and supportive one, and I am proud of all of you. You have done this at the same time as you have taken classes,
written amazing senior thesis, competed for fellowships,
won games and championships in varsity and club sports, and performed music, dance, and theater at the highest level. I am proud of the way
that students who differ in race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, national origin, and political views, have come together to make change. The progress we have made
in your time on campus will be a foundation for the future. Thank you. (audience applauds) But today is May 15, 2016 and the countdown in
on for you to blast off from Pomona College and head off to earth. (audience laughs) It’s here that the movie
does not provide us guidance, since the distant green earth on screen is just a vague but happy
and comfortable place to imagine returning to. I have news for you. The earth has changed quite a bit during the four years
you have spent on Mars. Rather than the usual
graduation ceremony platitudes I need to remind you that this earth you are about to rejoin has vexing problems that
require your attention, and activism. This planet is one in which
the major steps we have taken to address climate change have involved switching from
strip mining high sulfur coal to fracking to release cheap natural gas. On this earth a black woman
in a small town in Texas is stopped for having
a broken turn signal, is arrested, and dies in jail. A presumptive presidential candidate celebrates an endorsement
from a convicted rapist and takes every opportunity
to mock and degrade women. A young married couple are
driven by twisted ideologies, perversely using the name of religion to terrorize a community
just 25 miles from here. A group of apparently intelligent men talk about plans to deport up to 10 million men, women,
and children from this country. You must use the skills you
have gained at Pomona College to make positive change on this earth you are blasting off to. Whatever your plans for further education, or professional engagement, find the time to organize, to vote, to attack the problems of the world with the creativity, the leadership, and the inclusivity that
you have worked to build here in Claremont. This year several inspiring
speakers came to our campus and challenged us to act in
the face of huge problems. Last month, United States
Senator, Pomona alumnus, Brian Schatz, Class of 1994, talked with us about the
issue of climate change and urged us to work both within and outside the political
system to change policy. Earlier in the semester attorney and activist, Brian Stevenson, gave a tough talk about our
broken criminal justice system and the millions of people
living under shocking conditions in our nation’s prisons. He inspired us to learn about these issues and make a difference in changing them. And last fall, Supreme Court
Justice Sonya Sotomayor spoke eloquently about
her own personal journey from Puerto Rico to New York City to Princeton University to the highest court in the country, encouraging us all to find
ways to prepare ourselves to address the inequities in our society. These messages of radical hope in the face of what seemed
like insurmountable problems are what I want to leave with you today. They are reminders as well
that, like Brian Schatz, Brian Stevenson, and Sonya Sotomayor, none of you can know sitting here today what amazing opportunities
to serve and to lead change will present themselves to you because of who you are
and the gifts and talents you each have. Like Matt Damon’s character in The Martian you will need all of your creativity, abilities to collaborate, and the habits of mind and
knowledge you have gained through your four years at Pomona College. It may be through your
creative or performance work or your skills at critical thinking, writing, and analysis, organizational leadership or yes, to paraphrase Matt Damon, by sciencing the blank out of a problem. (audience laughs) Each one of you has so much to offer. As you blast off today and leave this campus, I charge you to use your Pomona education to build communities that together can make
positive change in the world. Congratulations to the Class of 2016 and best wishes! (audience applauds) (upbeat instrumental music)

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