image description
Graduation was held on the Paresky Lawn at Williams College.
image description
image description
image description
image description
image description
image description

Williams Grads Pushed Toward 'Thoughtful Engagement'

By Stephen DravisiBerkshires Staff
Print Story | Email Story
Environmental Defense Fund President Fred Krupp addresses Williams College's Class of 2023.
WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. Williams College's Class of 2023 Sunday was told to be an agent of change in the world, even when the world's problems seem insurmountable.
"Sometimes it feels like the world pushes us toward righteous indignation," Fred Krupp told the graduates during commencement exercises on the Paresky Lawn. "You can't look at news on your phone and not feel it.
"But our responsibility is to act in ways that help bring progress. Thoughtful engagement requires creativity, planning and strategic thinking."
Krupp, who has led the Environmental Defense Fund since 1984, was one of three recipients of honorary degrees from the college on Sunday and the principal speaker of Williams' 234th commencement.
He told the graduates that, in part by virtue of their diploma from the elite college, they have agency and should be thoughtful about how they use it.
"Don't underestimate your agency," he said. "Maximize it. And be grateful that you have a lifetime of choices ahead. How liberating, and in some ways, how rare in this world, that you have the agency to author the life ahead of you."
Krupp shared anecdotes from his experience as president of a world-renown non-profit with a $225 million budget to show how obstacles can be overcome and change can be achieved in the face of overwhelming odds.
"It's fair to ask yourself if you can have a meaningful impact on seemingly impossible challenges," he said. "Is it even reasonable to have hope? David Orr, an historian at Oberlin, teaches the difference between optimism and hope: 'Optimism is a prediction that everything will be OK. While hope is a verb with its sleeves rolled up.'
"Hope is about committing yourself to action, to making a difference. You will not be surprised that I believe working for change is a rational choice. And it is deeply gratifying when you succeed at something that matters."
In introducing Krupp, Williams College President Maud Mandel talked about how he worked for change even at the Environmental Defense Fund itself, where he brought a new strategy to succeed in its mission to, "cut climate pollution and strengthen the ability of people and nature to thrive."
Mandel said Krupp expanded EDF's focus to include not just lawsuits against polluters and protests against pollution.
"Your preferred tools include science, markets, persuasion and profits," Mandel said, addressing Krupp. "When you convert dumpers and dischargers into conservationists, you do it by addressing their age-old question, 'What's in it for me?'
"You believe if all we do is enact rules in Congress and enforce them in court, we fail to entice corporate polluters beyond mere compliance. So you point those polluters down the path to profit, encouraging them to innovate in ways that will both protect the planet and make money. You negotiate. To be sure, sometimes you strike a deal without getting everything you want, but, 'We're all about winning,' you once told a reporter. 'If we can't win everything, we work to win as much as we can.' "
Mandel and her faculty Sunday graduated 572 new holders of bachelor of arts degrees, including 11 Berkshire County residents:Clarksburg's Ruth Bristol, Lanesborough's Nicole Jones, Lee's Homer Winston, Stockbridge's Robin Lamb, West Stockbridge's Soffia Smedvig and Williamstown's Aidan Duncan, Jacob Fink, Brady Foehl, Josephine Gollin, Simon Kent, and Leah Majumder.
Three members of that graduating class addressed the rest of the group during Sunday's exercises.
In a precursor to Krupp's remarks about "righteous indignation" and "impossible challenges," the speaker chosen by the graduates to speak on their behalf talked about not fearing life's dark moments.
"We make safe choices in an attempt to minimize our suffering," Taylor G. Braswell told her fellow graduates. "And it makes sense. Something that is painful, at times, is excruciating. It is not always perfect. … And yet, a life with no suffering is not only impossible, it is incomplete. Dare I say, it is imperfect."
Braswell said that the newly minted Williams alumni will sometimes have to lose in order to win. And they should sit with darkness and mourn what they have lost.
"And Williams is an imperfect place," Braswell said. "We've encountered a lot of darkness here. We have fallen in love and then fallen out. We have failed people, exams, both. We have hurt people and been hurt. We have lost loved ones. We have lost precious time with them.
"Williams is imperfect, so it just may have been the perfect place for us to start our adult lives."
Krupp, who Mandel introduced as a crusader who accepts imperfect deals to get the win, told the graduates that those wins are possible.
"I've learned that with hope and hard work, we can succeed – even on climate change," Krupp said. "But it can take some persistence. In 2010, U.S. environmentalists and our allies couldn't rally enough votes in Congress to pass a climate change law. We could have called it quits, but instead we redoubled our efforts. And just this past summer, Congress passed the Inflation Reduction Act, the biggest climate law in American history.
"It will deploy some $370 billion to move the U.S. to a clean energy economy. And now, EPA Administrator Michael Regan has proposed a rule that means two-thirds of our new cars and millions of new trucks will be electric in less than 10 years. Cleaner air in our cities means thousands of lives will be saved. Millions will have healthier futures. We will be a more just, more equitable country, because countless people with different and vital roles to play chose to make it so."

Tags: graduation,   Williams College,   

If you would like to contribute information on this article, contact us at

Williams Women's Soccer Tops Bowdoin

WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. -- Jaquelin Nordhoff scored one goal and assisted on another to lead the Williams College women's soccer team to a 2-0 win over Bowdoin on Sunday.
Margaret Huelin and Ana Bozzi-Mackay split time in goal for Williams, stopping five shots.
Williams (6-0-1, 3-0-1 NESCAC) goes to Amherst on Saturday.
Men's Soccer
WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. -- Tyler Huck scored a pair of goals in the second half to lead Bowdoin to a 2-0 win over Williams.
Ben Diffley made four saves for Williams (5-1-1, 2-1-1), which goes to Amherst on Saturday.
Field Hockey
WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. -- Maddie Mrva scored a goal and assisted on another to lead Bowdoin to a 2-1 win over Williams.
View Full Story

More Williamstown Stories