“Your Future Depends
on Their Future”

Commencement | Strains of Elgar’s magisterial “Pomp and Circumstance” drifted across the stadium on the warm air. Medieval black robes and red-and-blue satin hoods fluttered in the breeze. And the dazzle of the sun on the bleachers was rivaled only by the smiles of proud parents as Penn’s Class of 2005 filed onto the field for the University’s 249th Commencement.

For Dr. Amy Gutmann, the day had a special significance. “You are my first Penn graduating class as president,” she told the 6,000 graduates assembled before her. (Those numbers included graduate and professional students as well as undergraduates.) “Our time together, I regret, was too brief—but apparently it was long enough for me to make it onto the Senior Crush Matchmaking List.”

All joking aside, Gutmann told the graduates that they were “about to enter a world that your fellow alumni from the Class of 1955 or the Class of 1980 could not have foreseen,” adding, “New ideas, technological breakthroughs, and cultural trends travel at the speed of light without passing through customs.”

Global engagement is the key to this new world, Gutmann stressed. “The past several years have proved beyond a reasonable doubt that we cannot seal ourselves off from the world’s blessings or the world’s curses.”

In order to thrive on such an interconnected planet, she said, graduates need to “acknowledge and act upon two fundamental truths,” the first being that constructive global engagement “always, always occurs locally among individuals who know how to make a positive difference in people’s lives.” It’s not only large organizations and governments that can affect the world, she said.

Second, “constructive global engagement is a two-way street” to which “our approach must be the opposite of noblesse oblige, where governments and major institutions bestowed their largesse and enlightenments on communities and countries,” Gutmann added.

The theme of global engagement was echoed by Kofi Annan Hon’05, the secretary-general of the United Nations and recipient of the 2001 Nobel Peace Prize, who gave this year’s Commencement Address.

Annan, who received an honorary Doctor of Laws degree at the ceremony, stressed that “we live on a small planet, and our safety, our prosperity, our rights, indeed, our freedoms are indivisible.” He spoke of the U.N.’s role in pursuing and preserving these freedoms for all, exhorting the graduating class to “put into practice” the ideas they had gained from their time at Penn—“ideas about what is true and what is false, what is right and what is wrong, what works and what does not.” The story of their lives, he said, “will be the story of your struggle to be true to the ideas you believe in.”

Annan’s appointment as Commencement speaker initially met mixed opinions from some members of the University, including a group called Kofi Off Campus, which formed a petition to protest his selection. Although the petition garnered over 200 online and 500 paper signatures, according to the group’s website, Annan’s speech regarding the role of the U.N. in world politics—and his reform agenda for the organization, which he recently presented to the U.N. General Assembly—was warmly applauded.

“The reform agenda includes a clear stand against terrorism, a tighter regime to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons, more support for democracies, and better peacekeeping and humanitarian capacities,” he said. “If [world leaders] can work together to make these far-reaching reforms, they will help bequeath to your generation a U.N. that can carry forth the ideals for which your grandparents sacrificed so much …

“And I trust that when it comes to your turn to lead, you will improve on what my generation has done,” Annan added. “Do not think you can look away from the injustice, the suffering, or the lack of true freedoms that is the lot of so many people in the world today. Your future depends on their future. The cause of larger freedom should be your cause. As I look at you today, with all your talent, your diversity, and your optimism, I have no doubt that you will do your part to make it come about.”

Gutmann also saluted the graduates on their accomplishments and promising futures. “Who better to lead than you, the graduating class of 2005?” she asked rhetorically. “This is not the world you anticipated when you arrived at Penn, nor the future you bargained for. Instead, I hope that you and your future will be so much better and brighter, as good and bright as this fair day.”—Alison Stoltzfus C’05

©2005 The Pennsylvania Gazette
Last modified 07/01/05

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Honorary Degree Recipients

Kofi Annan, Doctor of Laws | As leader of the world’s most recognized organization devoted to the pursuit of global peace, human rights, and human dignity, you have successfully guided and revitalized the United Nations through one of its most challenging periods. Since becoming the seventh secretary-general in 1997, you have fulfilled your stated mission to bring the United Nations “closer to its people.”

A native of Ghana … you began your storied career with the United Nations more than 40 years ago as an administrative and budget officer with the World Health Organization in Geneva …

In 1990, world events brought you more prominently before the public eye: following the invasion of Kuwait by Iraq, you were asked by the secretary-general to help repatriate more than 900 members of the international staff and to negotiate the release of Western hostages ...

Through your office, you have also sought to end poverty and inequality, to improve education, to reduce the high toll of HIV/AIDS, and to safeguard the environment ...

For your unstinting efforts on behalf of the nations of the world, you received the 2001 Nobel Peace Prize.

Quincy Jones, Doctor of Music | As a teenager in the suburbs of Seattle, you formed a combo with another musical legend-to-be, Ray Charles. In this decade, you became a best-selling author for your autobiography, and you were honored by the Kennedy Center for your incomparable contributions to American culture. In between, you have performed, composed, arranged, and produced music in almost every genre ...

For your entire career, you have defied all convenient categorizing … In the early 1960s, you produced Lesley Gore’s “It’s My Party.” You also produced Michael Jackson’s Thriller, which remains the best-selling album of all time.

Saul A. Kripke, Doctor of Humane Letters | At the age of 18, you published your first major essay in philosophy, “A Completeness Theorem in Modal Logic,” in The Journal of Symbolic Logic. Thus began a spectacular career that has brought you to the pinnacle of your chosen field. But in fact your mind has been too restless and searching to be confined to a single field, and you integrate knowledge from philosophy, mathematics, linguistics, and computer and information science.

Ralph J. Roberts W’41, Doctor of Laws | You have been one of our city’s staunchest supporters. As the founder of the Comcast Corporation and current chairman of its executive and finance committee, you are responsible for many of the sounds and images that inform our daily sense of ourselves and our surroundings.

When you bought a single cable-television system in Tupelo, Mississippi, in 1963, you were among a small minority of visionaries who could foresee the medium’s enormous potential. You went on to create the largest cable-television company in the United States. Your company has gone on to own or play a dominant role in numerous businesses that provide content for cable television [including] ownership of [Philadelphia’s] 76ers and the Flyers; E! Entertainment Television, the Style network … and MGM Studios.

Judy Woodruff, Doctor of Laws | You are highly respected by your peers and widely recognized by millions of Americans as one of the most trusted and hard-working broadcast journalists in the nation … As anchor of CNN’s daily show Judy Woodruff’s Inside Politics, the nation’s first program devoted exclusively to politics ... An unwavering foot soldier in the fight against birth defects … your passionate concern for others knows no bounds. You [also] co-founded the International Women’s Media Foundation to encourage and empower women in communication industries worldwide.

Nancy Fugate Woods, Doctor of Science | You are praised throughout the world for your role in helping define women’s health research … Your achievements have advanced the image of nursing far beyond the antiquated view of semi-skilled paramedical support personnel. Focusing on the relationship between women’s social environments and their health, you have pioneered innovative research on menstrual disorders, infertility, chronic illness and stress, and more recently, menopause … Currently dean of the School of Nursing at the University of Washington … you have been president of the American Academy of Nursing and of the North American Menopause Society … Most of the leaders in women’s health in the United States today have been recipients of your guidance, either directly or indirectly.