Tommy Leonardi C'89
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Speaks Plainly in the Rain
out that the parents
of the Class of 2001, who had worked so hard for so long to help their
children graduate from the University, still had one more sacrifice to
maketo get drenched while watching them do it. This they did, to all
by the rain, as Penn President Judith Rodin CW66 put it, those parentsalong
with other family members and friends, and the graduates themselvespeered
from under umbrellas or from the scarce sheltered seating at Franklin
Field, as the University celebrated its 245th Commencement on May 21.
And they cheered this years Commencement speaker Senator John S. McCain
of Arizonaas well as the six men and women receiving honorary degrees
and, of course, Penns millennial class.
downpour was steady all morning, forcing cancellation of the traditional
academic procession through campus. While a notice on the Commencement
Web site instructed students to gather at the North Stands of Franklin
Field instead, and to wear appropriate raingear over their academic regalia,
the advice appeared to have been heeded by about two or three members
of the class.
the maverick Republican who challenged George W. Bush for their partys
presidential nomination in 2000, was introduced by Provost Robert Barchi
Gr72 M72 GM73 as a dedicated public servant, a proud patriot, and
a fiercely independent voice in Washington. Referring to the 51/2
years McCain spent as a prisoner of war in North Vietnam, Barchi said
the experiences are legendary, as is his humility in recounting them.
to Congress in 1982 and to the Senate four years later, throughout a public
career distinguished by love and reverence toward God, patriotism towards
country, and a profound sense of duty and honor, McCain has played David
to the Goliaths of special interests, said Barchi. He went on to list
the controversial causes that McCain has supportedincluding tax reform,
campaign-finance reform, a strong national defense, the line-item veto,
deregulation, and free tradeand added that the senator from Arizona
has also become known as a leading defender of the rights of Native Americans
McCains acclaim is due not just to the substance of his causes but to
the style with which he champions them, Barchi said. During the Republican
primaries, for example, his openness, his candor, his sometimes irreverent
style appealed to an electorate hungry for a refreshing and genuinely
honest voice in politics.
began his speech with joking references to this balmy Arizona dayand
to the fact that, given his own less-than-sterling academic career at
the United States Naval Academy (he finished fifth from the bottom of
his class), being invited to speak at Penn had reaffirmed my long-held
faith that in America anything is possible. But the main thrust of his
remarks was a sober meditation on the nature of honor and a stirring call
to graduates to take your place in the enterprise of renewal, giving
your counsel, your labor, your passion, and your time to the enduring
task of national greatness.
the difficulty of being original in Commencement speeches, McCain added
that one clichÈ that seems to insist on my attention is the salutation
leaders of tomorrow, which is probably uttered hundreds of times by
speakers addressing graduating classes from junior high schools to universities.
Whether or not specific individuals would assume the obligations of professional,
community, national, or world leaders, McCain said candidly: Ill be
damned if I know. Im not clairvoyant, and I dont know you personally.
I dont know what you will become. But I know what you could become. What
you should become.
citizens of the U.S.which confers advantages, no matter ones economic
status, that are the envy of people from every other country on earthand
having been blessed with a quality education from this prestigious university,
the new graduates should find success within their reach in whatever course
they choose, said McCain, absent unseen misfortune.
the graduates will face a choice: about whether you will become leaders
in our society
or allow others to assume the responsibility while you
attempt to reap the benefits of a prosperous country without meaningfully
contributing to its advancement, he said. I very much hope you will
make the first choice.
discussing the difficult choices between honor and dishonor that all
individuals face in their lives, McCain recalled his time as a prisoner
of war. I knew no one who ever chose death over homecoming. But I knew
some men who chose death over dishonor, he said. Their lesson has helped
him choose wisely when faced with difficult decisions in the years since,
he added. And when I chose poorly, their example made me ashamed and
left me no explanation for my failure other than my own weakness.
asserted that those who claim their liberty but not their duty to the
civilization that ensures it live a half-life, having indulged their self-interest
at the cost of their self-respect. But in the end, self-respect will
matter to you most, he said. And by sacrificing for a larger cause, you
invest your lives with the eminence of that cause.
are 21st-century Americans, McCain concluded. Be worthy of your time
and your advantages. Be worthy of your country. Serve a cause greater
than yourselves and youll know a happiness far more sublime than pleasure.
you be tomorrows leaders? I dont know. But I would be proud if you were.
You are blessed. Your opportunity is at hand. Make the most of it.
McCains speech, Dr. Rodin conferred honorary degrees on him and five
other men and women. (See box.) In her remarks to the graduating class,
Rodin praised the students for having boosted the intellectual wattage
of Penn to create a powerful electrical charge and generated a buzz
of excitement, fascination, and enjoyment that has electrified the campus.
some of the ways members of the class have taken charge to leave the
campus and the West Philadelphia community better places to live and learn
than you found them, Rodin said that future generations of Penn students
will appreciate the convenience of a 24-hour diner, library renovations
and Ethernet connections, a PennCash debit system, and the new recreational
facilities that you helped bring to campus, among other achievements.
on, with apologies to Ben Franklin, Rodin quoted baseball legend Yogi
Berraanother great American philosopheron the subject of theory and
practice: He said, In theory, there is no difference between theory
and practice. In practice, there is.
concluded by quoting a passage from Jack Kerouacs On the Road: What
is that feeling, when youre driving away from people and they recede
on the plain till you see their specks dispersing? Its the too-huge world
vaulting us, and its good-bye.
we lean forward to the next crazy venture under the skies.
they hit the road to pursue the next crazy venture, Rodin urged the
class to do it well, and remember what you did so beautifully while you
were here: You have gained knowledge. You have had impact. You have made
a difference. And you have cultivated great and lasting friendships.
David Hackney, professor of radiology and chair of the Faculty Senate,
put in a strong plug for the so-called real world. Dont worry, he said.
Life gets better after college.
students intellectual horizons are bounded by the course catalog and
the notion that if it will not be on the final exam, you have to turn
your attention elsewhere, he pointed out that after college, you can
learn what you want, or need, as interest and circumstances dictate, without
the artificial constructs of terms, courses, and grades.
himself as someone who went to college to get his ticket punched and
then move on to professional studies, Hackney said that since college
had given him what he asked for, he had no complaints. On the other hand,
almost all of my education has taken place since I finished college, and
it has been a lot more interesting.
rather than provide the usual graduation exhortation to continue your
education once you leave college, Hackney concluded, I am suggesting
that it is time to begin.
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Gazette Last modified 6/28/01
And the Honorands
discovery, with Rolf Zinkernagel, of how the immune system recognizes
virus-infected cells, has revolutionized the way researchers think about
T cells and has led to further research that may lead to the treatment
of infectious diseases and other chronic, inflammatory conditions. You
have created a better platform for the construction of new vaccines.
with Alfred Nobelthat war is the greatest of all human disastersand
believe that infectious disease is a close second. Your work to combat
this second greatest disaster will be remembered as part of the Nobel
legacy, for you have been recognized, in Nobels words, as one of those
who have conferred the greatest benefit to mankind.
as a faculty member at the University of Pennsylvania and Wistar Institute,
you were a mentor, role model, and friend, for which you deserve our utmost
thanks and praise.
AndrÈs M. Duany and Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk
prize-winning architects, town planners, teachers, and pioneers who founded
The New Urbanism movement, you have realized a holistic and revolutionary
vision for contemporary urban planning and development. You have created
inviting, livable towns and neighborhoods that foster social engagement
while treating the natural environment as a benefit to treasure, not a
barrier to remove or a force to subdue.
Duany Plater-Zyberk & Company Town Planners and Architects (DPZ),
crafted the master plan to create the new town of Seaside, Florida, which
was hailed by Time magazine as the most astounding design achievement
of its era. Like the scores of other towns throughout the world that
you have designed or reshaped, Seaside forms a compact, pedestrian-friendly,
mixed-use community that brings civic, business, educational, and recreational
activities into harmony.
work has been in diverse areas of psychology, including vision, attention,
psychophysiology, the study of counterfactual thoughts and emotions, the
valuation of public goods, applications of psychophysical reasoning to
the setting of punitive damages, and the study of well-being. You did
much to establish the field we call behavior decision theory and developed
the model of how people make decisions in the face of risk and uncertainty.
a century ago, Hermann Ebbinghaus wrote, Psychology has a long past,
but only a short history. We recognize your contributions to psychologys
long past and its tremendous future, for which you will be remembered
in its great history.
a naval aviator, as U.S. congressman and senator from Arizona, and as
a leading national advocate for campaign-finance reform, you have set
an inspirational standard for courage, integrity, and patriotism in service
to your country.
1967, you were shot down over North Vietnam and held as a prisoner of
war in Hanoi for five-and-a-half years. As one of the most defiant captives
of the infamous Hanoi Hilton, you endured the cruelest physical and
psychological torture, became a source of strength to your fellow POWs,
and, in your own words, fell in love with my country.
the Silver Star, Bronze Star, Legion of Merit, Purple Heart, and Distinguished
Flying Cross, you retired from the Navy in 1982 to run for public office.
Your election to Congress launched a political career that would be distinguished
by your willingness to champion noble causes, like campaign-finance reform;
tackle tough issues, like pork-barrel spending; and take on powerful interests,
like the tobacco industry.
Ruth J. Simmons
an accomplished scholar, gifted teacher, and visionary leader, you have
won national acclaim for your efforts to rejuvenate higher education in
1995, you became the president of Smith College, where you launched the
nations first engineering program at a womens college and nearly doubled
the schools endowment. You boosted minority enrollment, going far beyond
the circle of feeder schools to recruit promising students from inner-city
neighborhoods. In July, you will bring your distinctively inspirational
brand of leadership to Brown University, where you will become the first
African-American president of an Ivy League institution.