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Photo: Carson Kahoe / The Daily Pennsylvanian

For the 261st time, the University of Pennsylvania commissioned a new graduating class into the world. Here are the highlights from Monday's Commencement ceremony at Franklin Field:

Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), whose role as Commencement speaker has not come without controversy, invoked our "common struggle," discussed his veganism and urged students to be morally imaginative and creatively compassionate.

  • "The beautiful thing I've realized is that we're all in this struggle together," he said near the opening of his speech.
  • Booker, a notorious critic of President Donald Trump, did not directly mention Trump or alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 election, which has surfaced recently in the media.
  • After telling a story about Mahatma Gandhi's "creative compassion," Booker talked about being vegan and mentioned his love of French fries. "These French fries should be a Schedule 1 or Schedule 2 narcotic," he said.
  • Booker urged graduates to not let the homeless or vulnerable among us be "invisible." He said, "There are so many people we encounter every day that we just don't see."
  • During a detour about politics, Booker asked, "Can we be a nation that can disagree but still find common ground?" Booker later asked graduates if they could see someone with a "Make America Great Again" hat and "have a conversation"? 
  • "May your vision and your love not just change the world but make a world of change for everyone that you can," he said, and signed off. 

Penn President Amy Gutmann, while addressing graduates and their families during Commencement, discussed the importance of choices, one's purpose and "the sublime."

  • Gutmann, whose father fled Nazi Germany in 1934, said of her parents: "Their freedom of choice was radically constrained compared to yours and mine."
  • After telling stories of refugees and the heroics of Booker, who saved the life of a woman in a burning house while he was mayor of Newark, N.J., Gutmann said, "Above saving a life, there can be no greater good on earth."
  • Speaking of her father's experience as an exile in India, she urged students to "seek the sublime," or “those moments of mountain peaks, of musical and literary magic, of working together as a team, of creating art, of humor reducing an audience to tears of laughter."
  • "Save a life, serve a cause, seek the sublime," Gutmann concluded.

Provost Vincent Price, who will depart Penn soon to assume the presidency of Duke University, introduced Booker. 

  • Expectations were high for the provost — his speech at last year's commencement was delivered entirely in rhyme, as a thematic tribute to speaker Lin-Manuel Miranda. 
  • Detailing Booker's biography, Price mentioned his arrival at Stanford University on a football scholarship and his eventual stop at Oxford University as a Rhodes Scholar.
  • "He has been one of our most outspoken advocates for fairness," Price said of Booker.

Executive Editor Dan Spinelli contributed reporting to this article

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