As the Class of 2010 celebrated Class Day on May 17, the College’s newest alumni were treated not just to mild temperatures and sunny skies but also to a rousing call to arms from keynote speaker Benjamin Jealous ’94, NAACP president.
“These are days when we each are called on to be clear about what we want not just for ourselves, but for the world,” Jealous said shortly before announcing that the NAACP would be filing a lawsuit with the ACLU to invalidate Arizona’s new immigration law. “Now is the time for you to decide that you will move this country always forward and never backward. Now is the time for all of us who believe in hope, not hate, to speak up and be heard, because change happens every day, not just during elections.”
Jealous touched on his suspension from Columbia before launching into a story about his time as an activist in the South, when college students threatened to lynch minorities and old white men sometimes sided with the change that was inevitable. He warned of the need to always be questioning who are your enemies and who are your friends.
For the seventh year, the procession included the Alumni Parade of Classes, with 115 alumni from as far back as the Class of 1936 marching with their class banners to welcome seniors into the alumni community.
Presiding over her first Class Day, Dean Michele Moody-Adams received a rousing ovation as she addressed the graduating class. “You dove into this big pond that we call Columbia College and you did what was required of you not only to stay afloat, but to swim with assurance and power, and to do so in more than one sense,” she said, drawing a laugh with her reference to Columbia’s famous swim test. She quoted from John Dewey, who said, “Education is not preparation for life, education is life itself,” and urged the graduates to remain lifelong learners.
Moody-Adams also referred to John Stuart Mill, who wrote that truly happy people always have their minds fixed on some object other than their own happiness. “Now, that object might be the happiness of others, it might be the improvement of mankind, it might be some other art or pursuit, as Mill says, ‘followed not as a means but as itself an ideal end,’ ” she said. “Aiming at something else, Mill concludes, we will thus find happiness by the way. But now it’s your turn. You must find something in life that takes you outside of yourself, something that provides a goal far richer and more compelling than the fleeting pleasure of the moment. Your Columbia College education has taught you just how to find such a goal, and its value in this regard may mean more to you in the future than it already means today.”
Adam Bulkley ’10, Senior Fund chair and recipient of the 2010 Alumni Association Achievement Award, announced that a record 92.7 percent of seniors had donated $18,628 this year, and that surpassing the participation goal of 91 percent triggered a gift of $50,000 from Charles Santoro ’82. Bulkley, accompanied by the nine Senior Fund vice-chairs, presented Moody-Adams with a scroll bearing the names of the 945 seniors who contributed.
While the weather smiled on the College’s Class Day on May 17, it wasn’t as happy the following day at University Commencement, where the sea of light blue in the center of campus was somewhat obscured by waves of umbrellas.
President Lee C. Bollinger addressed the crowd, which did not seem to mind the drizzle, and College graduates tossed replica apples into the air, symbolizing the Core Curriculum.
Ethan Rouen ’04J