Newsman Bob Schieffer urges the graduates to put their talents to good use by becoming involved in politics for altruistic reasons. See more photos here.
WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — Williams College's Class of 2018 Sunday was encouraged to make the world their classroom and use the ideals that they learn in service to the world.
Commencement speaker Bob Schieffer exhorted the grads to dive into public service and reverse what he described as a troubling trend of professionalization in the political class.
After telling the story of his first brush with politicians in his Texas hometown in 1948, Schieffer explained that the Lyndon B. Johnson rally he attended as a youth was organized and staged by volunteers.
"Every single person who had a role in getting Lyndon Johnson to that vacant lot where we played baseball in Fort Worth did it for free," Schieffer said. "They had real jobs. Some of them worked at the bomber plant out on the west side. Some of them were members of labor unions. Some of them were bankers. They were just people who liked politics or thought it was in their interest to become involved in politics.
"Today, we have outsourced all of the things that those people did for free to a group of consultants and gurus and commercial makers and I don't know what else. As a result, the cottage industry that has grown up around our politics -- that group of people has become more important than the election itself."
The solution, Schieffer said, was sitting before him on Williams' Library Quad.
After painting a dark picture of an America more divided than at any point since the summer of 1968, Schieffer told the soon-to-be graduates that a new spirit of volunteerism is needed.
"The first step in political reform is political courage, and that, I think, is where all of you come in," the broadcast journalism legend said. "I urge each and every person leaving Williams College today to think seriously about running for office.
"And I'm serious. Whatever your political preference is or your political affiliation. That's not important. What is important is values. What our system needs is an influx of smart, serious young people who understand the point of holding office is not to get re-elected but to improve the lives of those you represent."
Schieffer was one of four individuals to receive honorary degrees from the college at its 229th Commencement Exercises.
In addition to honoring the Edward R. Murrow Award-winning longtime host of CBS News' "Face the Nation," Williams recognized: public health advocate Mona Hanna-Attisha, who did the ground-breaking research that exposed the Flint, Mich., water crisis; author John Irving, winner of three National Book Awards; and Janet Murguia, longtime president and CEO of UnidosUS, the advocacy group formerly known as La Raza.
The theme of values-driven service that Schieffer explored came up at several points during the ceremony.
Williams' Jewish Chaplain Rabbi Seth M Wax opened the festivities with an invocation that asked for divine guidance to help steer the grads toward a life dedicated to making the world a better place.
"We pray that as they exercise their formidable intellects in their chosen fields of work and study in the following months and years ahead, that they cultivate an open heart -- seeking to do good and striving to be of service to others and to our planet with creativity, with courage, with a sense of purpose, acting with patience, generosity and kindness," Wax said.
While most of the class' prizes and awards were awarded prior to Sunday morning's ceremony, the one honor bestowed during the commencement was one that recognizes service. Isabel Andrade, a philosophy major from Quito, Ecuador, was given the college's William Bradford Turner Citizenship Prize.
Interim President Protik "Tiku" Majumder described Andrade as a "positive and creative force at Williams and beyond," who worked in local elementary school classrooms, made a video to complement the college's Bioeyes education curriculum for third-graders and serves on the board of Images Cinema on Spring Street in Williamstown.
Four Williamstown residents and one Pittsfield resident were among the 540 recipients of bachelor's degrees on Sunday.
Pittsfield's Keiana Ruby West majored in psychology with a concentration in Africana studies; she was co-president of the student group Converging Worlds and co-director of the Justice League Mentoring Program in Pittsfield.
Williamstown's Mohibullah Amin and Seema Amin majored in Asian studies and biology, respectively. Geff Halligan Fisher, a music major, was a member of the Williams College Chinese Music Ensemble. And Evelyn Mahon majored in statistics and theater while serving as co-artistic director of the student theater group Cap and Bells the last two years.
The college recognized 13 retiring members of its faculty at the ceremony: Henry Art (biology), Robert Bell (English), David Dethier (geosciences), David Eppel (theater), Zirka Filipczak (art), Robert Jackall (anthropology and sociology), Lawrence Kaplan (chemistry), Charles Lovett (chemistry), George Marcus (political science), Lawrence Raab (English), David Smith (biology), Paul Solomon (psychology) and Barbara Takenaga (art).
The graduates and their family and friends heard from three members of the Class of 2018, class speaker Brian Benitez, Phi Beta Kappa speaker Jackson Barber and valedictorian Anna L. DeLoi.
DeLoi, a music and psychology major from Plaistow, N.H., shared that Sunday was the first time she had worn a cap and gown at any level, having been reared as a home-school student through the 12th grade.
"School was what happened whenever I wasn't doing something else," DeLoi said. "School didn't have hours, and it didn't have grades. It was finding the things I loved and pursuing them."
She chose Williams, she said, because she felt the school was not just about "classes, and grades, and stressed-out students."
And now that her time at the school is coming to a close, DeLoi told her classmates to take a page from her book and keep finding the things they love and pursue them.
"No matter where you go after today, keep looking for 'schools' in the places and in the people around you," DeLoi said. "Find the things you love and pursue them with everything you have. And keep becoming more of the brave, intelligent, inspiring people you are."
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