Brokaw addresses Class of ’09

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May 17, 2009

5:20 PM

__Flat Hat Variety Editor Mike Crump collaborated on this report.__

Ubiquitous black graduation caps were replaced by a sea of brightly colored umbrellas as the Class of 2009 trekked across a rainy campus to Kaplan Arena for commencement exercises Sunday afternoon.

After opening remarks from College of William and Mary President Taylor Reveley and Chancellor Sandra Day O’Connor, the soon-to-be graduates were met with the customary words of encouragement from commencement speaker and former NBC Nightly News anchor and managing editor Tom Brokaw.

“We may not have given you a perfect world but we have given you dynamic opportunities for leaving a lasting legacy as a generation that was fearless and imaginative,” Brokaw said. “It will not be easy, but I promise you it will be rewarding in ways that a Wall Street or even a shot on the American Idol cannot compete.”

Despite the fact that graduation is often characterized as the final step towards “the real world,” Brokaw dismissed the notion.

“This may come as a surprise to you, but in fact, the real world was junior high,” he said. “You’ll be astonished by how much of the rest of your life will be consumed by the same petty jealousies you encountered in adolescence: the same irrational juvenile behavior, the cliques, the dumb jokes and hurt feelings.”

He later elaborated in an interview.

“One of my daughters said to me that your 20s are for [self] discovery. There’s more opportunity to take a little time to go out and find what works for you,” he said.

In his speech, Brokaw cautioned the graduating class to avoid the trappings of modern luxury and technology, specifically referencing Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Google. Although each of these resources proves useful in everyday communication, they are no substitute for human action and ingenuity.

“You’ll not solve global warming by hitting the delete button, you’ll not eliminate reckless avarice by hitting backspace, you’ll not make society more just by cutting and pasting,” he said.

Both Brokaw and Reveley used their remarks to highlight the resilience of the College community in the face of an unstable economy.

“The academic year of 2008, 2009 has been good to William and Mary despite the economic flapdoodle in which we, along with the rest of the galaxy, are currently mired,” Reveley said.

Reveley also urged the graduating class to continue to reflect and remember their years on campus while also minding the College’s development in the years to come.

“Once you leave the campus, look back in love but with a demanding, indeed relentless, eye at your alma mater, to be sure it keeps growing in excellence, in service, in stature,” he said.

Jacob Schoonmaker ’09 delivered student remarks prior to the conferring of earned degrees.
Schoonmaker was denied admission in his first attempt to attend the College. His speech emphasized the importance this initial failure had on his approach to life’s obstacles.

“Rejection was my first taste of William and Mary,” he said. “I realized I could choose how to react to this rejection. That is, I did not have to spend the rest of my days wallowing in bruised self-esteem and settling for second best. I could try again. And try again I did.”

1,416 undergraduate degrees were awarded at the ceremony, along with 764 graduate degrees. Honorary degrees were extended to Brokaw, actress Linda Lavin ’59 and entrepreneur Sherman Cohen, who recently donated $6 million for the construction of the College’s new Sherman and Gloria H. Cohen Career Center.

Departmental ceremonies that were to take place outdoors later that day were moved due to rain.

__Check back in with flathatnews.com for photos from the ceremony.__

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