Dartmouth Class of 2013 Urged to Do More
Graduation Speaker: 'We Have Left You a Real Mess'
Above, Sidney Sands-Ramshaw of Washington, center, balances a half-finished breakfast and her phone in her hands while waiting to walk in with her class at Dartmouth College’s commencement in Hanover yesterday. (Valley News - Libby March) Purchase photo reprints »
Andrea McClave, of Bedford, N.Y., gets kissed by her aunt Pam Jackson, right, as her grandmother Camilla Witman waits her turn for a hug. (Valley News - Libby March) Purchase photo reprints »
Angela Perry, of Philadelphia, holds an umbrella over herself and her cousins Natalie and Egan Perry of West Warwick, R.I., to protect them from the sun during Dartmouth’s commencement. They attended to see Natalie and Egan’s brother, Tyler Perry, graduate. (Valley News - Libby March) Purchase photo reprints »
Hanover — Just when they thought their workload had been at least temporarily cleared, nearly 1,900 Dartmouth College graduates were assigned a hefty challenge by one of the nation’s most accomplished education reformers in yesterday’s commencement address.
Geoffrey Canada spoke to a crowd of more than 10,000 about a promise that he had made after he received a graduate degree in education from Harvard University — to be better than “the greatest generation” that had fought and won World War II.
“I would love to say to you that my generation has accomplished my dream of being a better generation than my parents’,” said Canada, president and CEO of the nonprofit Harlem Children’s Zone that provides support for impoverished children and their families. “Alas, we have not. While my generation has done real good and made real progress, we have also left you a real mess.”
Canada went on to list environmental damage and child poverty statistics. He mentioned America’s high rates of incarceration and the lack of significant gun control legislation passed by Congress, even after the Newtown, Conn. school shooting last December.
“It’s not that we haven’t done any good ... but we haven’t kept my promise to eliminate those places where our children don’t have a chance,” said Canada, as he stood behind Dartmouth’s wooden tree-trunk podium on the north side of the green. “America’s children are more imperilled than ever.”
Canada, who was born in the South Bronx and grew up around extreme poverty, listed in his speech four icons of the Civil Rights movement — Rosa Parks, John F. Kennedy, Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr. — as “role models” that moved him to try and make America “a better place for its children.”
He recited a portion of King’s “mountaintop” speech and spoke about being a tenth-grader in 1968 — the year that both Bobby Kennedy and King were assassinated.
Canada championed the “heroic sacrifice” of those Civil Rights icons along with the example of Susan B. Anthony, whose work toward women’s suffrage was not realized until long after her death. Those role models, he said, “taught me that the best of America is yet to come.
“The work we don’t complete that attempts to make this a better country — the next generation will finish it,” said Canada, emphasizing that was his challenge to the graduates of the renowned learning institution.
“I promised my kids that America could be and would be a better place for them,” Canada said. “I need you to promise me that you will do your part. I’m not asking you to take a vow of poverty. Some of you will have to make money — a lot of money. ... I’m just saying that everyone must play their part. Together, you can finish what we have begun.”
Clad in plastic white sunglasses, Atlanta native Ben Turner, who received his history degree yesterday, described the speech as a “nice history lesson with good words for the future.
“It was wonderful,” said Turner. “Thinking about JFK and (Martin Luther) King Jr., and thinking about how we can take those lessons and use them as we go out and we’re all looking for jobs and trying to change the world; it was good.”
Michael Burbank, a Peterborough N.H., native who received his degree in government, was chatting with family after the ceremonies drew to a close yesterday, wearing a thin red, white and blue knotted rope around his neck that signified his Marine Corps service. Burbank, who was twice deployed before attending Dartmouth, including time in Iraq, said he enjoyed Canada’s speech.
“He referenced some very famous old speeches and I think that really played to a lot of people because we recognize those words, and taking that and applying it to life now that we’re graduates was significant,” he said.
Kaitlyn D’Orazio, of York, Maine., graduated with degrees in chemistry and environmental studies. She said that Canada’s speech had a “good message,” and took heart in his reference to environmentalism.
While D’Orazio said that studying environmental issues can be “depressing” at times, she concluded, “I guess you’ve got to start somewhere.”
According to the college , 1,894 total degrees were awarded yesterday, including 1,059 undergraduate degrees.
Dartmouth College graduates in 2012-13 school year from the Upper Valley: Holly A. Ceplikas, Lebanon; Robert J. Collier, Hanover; Ryan L. Collins, Etna; Claire E. Hornig, Etna; Rajas R. Kane, Hanover; Gray A. Kelsey, Lyme; Kyle M. Lawson, Bradford, Vt.; Rosalie J. Lipfert, Cornish; Marcelo V. de Menezes, Lebanon; Benjamin F. Newton, Cornish Flat; Richard S. Sanderson, Hanover; Nathan A. Severance, Lebanon; Alessandra J. Slayton, Hanover; Jacob W. Sotak, Norwich; Gwendolyn P. Tetirick, Cornish; Valeria Wiens, Hanover.