“When you build something from scratch, you acquire a depth of understanding that no ‘professional,’ no management expert can match. There are few better ways to learn about yourself, your strengths, your weaknesses, than building something from scratch. There is no better mirror.”
This observation recounting specific experiences—the building of a restaurant, and later, the creation of a political campaign—also served as a metaphor for the moment at hand. That moment was the 178th Commencement Ceremony at Wesleyan, on Sunday, May 23. The speaker, Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper ’74, M.A. ’80, who trained as a geologist, received a Doctor of Laws degree.
“There’s one thing other commencement speakers forget when they advise everyone to follow their bliss,” Hickenlooper told the graduates. “Bliss often doesn’t start out as bliss; passion often doesn’t start out as passion. It’s more likely to begin as a quirk or nagging awareness, a nagging idea coming in from left field.”
Also receiving honorary degrees were: Brown University President Ruth J. Simmons, author and scholar Stanley Cavell, and scholar and Professor of Music Emeritus Richard Winslow ’40.
They were joined by 706 students who received Bachelor of Arts degrees; 63 awarded a Master of Arts in Liberal Studies degree; one receiving a Certificate of Advanced Study; 36 who were granted Master of Arts degrees; and 10 bestowed with Doctor of Philosophy degrees.
President Michael S. Roth ’78 spoke of rejecting common themes and practices and finding one’s own way through innovation, creativity, and the “rejection of conformity.”
“The rejection of conformity can mean creating an environment for learning that prizes inclusion and celebrates achievement while not caving in to narrow professionalism,” he said. “The rejection of conformity: now there’s an idea that would generate enthusiastic assent from generations of Wesleyan graduates. . .Wes alumni have used their education to change the course of culture themselves lest the future be shaped by those for whom creativity and change, freedom and equality, diversity and tolerance, are much too threatening. Now we alumni are counting on you to join us in helping to shape our culture, so that it will not be shaped by forces of oppression and violence.”