Service takes spotlight in this year's speeches


General Colin Powell can rest easy: Penn's graduation speakers this year did his work for him.

Besides former President Jimmy Carter's Commencement call to service, at least four other graduation speakers urged students to consider public service as they make their way in the world.

Three of those speakers have followed their own advice. William D. Novelli (ASC'64), president of the National Center for Tobacco-Free Kids, told Annenberg School for Communication graduates that of all the jobs he has held since graduating, none have been as satisfying as his current one.

Independent Sector President Sara E. Meléndez praised the work done by non-profit service and advocacy organizations in her speech to School of Social Work graduates, and Attorney General Janet Reno urged Law School graduates to include the public interest in their work [see related story].

President Judith Rodin also stressed the importance of public service in her speech at the Baccalaureate ceremony May 17.

And even though she did not explicitly speak of public service, American Veterinary Association past president Mary Beth Leininger, D.V.M., stressed the service veterinarians perform to their communities and to mankind in her remarks to School of Veterinary Medicine graduates.

Service, however, was not the only message delivered to Penn graduates this year.

Medical School graduates heard a different message from opening speaker Francis Collins, M.D., Ph.D. Pursue knowledge, he said, but also nurture your spirituality, leave room in your life for love, and most important, have fun. Collins then proceeded to illustrate that last point by accompanying himself on guitar as he poked fun at medical education and his own Human Genome Project research in a variation on Frank Sinatra's "My Way."

And Wharton MBAs heard some against-the-grain advice from Blyth Industries chairman Robert B. Goergen (WG'62). To be a successful entrepreneur, he said, make your choices well, think small, and "save, save, save" -- it's important not to live up to your income level.

Originally published on May 28, 1998