Before embarking on the rest of their lives, Penn's Class of 2003 entered Franklin Field Monday morning and listened to advice from seasoned leaders, most notably Archbishop Desmond Tutu.
The commencement procession began in Hamilton Village and concluded with students circling the track into their seats, many of them calling their parents on cell phones and waving, and one Dental School student brandishing a giant toothbrush.
University Judith Rodin's address began on a humorous note -- "You have learned that it's not who you know, but whom you know," she joked -- but ultimately offered sincere guidance. "As you go the way of life, you will see a great chasm," Rodin said, quoting a Native American adage. "Jump: it is not as wide as you think."
"Your education at Penn has prepared you to pursue any dream, no matter how ambitious," she continued. "Graduates, you are fit to make the right decisions.You are the next generation of leaders."
Similarly, after Provost Robert Barchi presented the senior and leadership awards, Faculty Senate Chairman Lance Donaldson-Evans aimed to instill in the graduates a sense of civil duty.
"If you practice humility, docility and responsibility, you can make a difference," Donaldson-Evans said. "Indeed, as [graduates] of the University of Pennsylvania, you must make a difference."
But it was Tutu's words that truly made an impression on the audience. Tutu stressed that leaders should achieve goals peacefully rather than through violent means, using as an example the United States' diplomatic aid to end apartheid in South Africa.
"You didn't bomb us into liberation," Tutu said.
While Tutu's speech was met with mostly applause and cheers, a few boos echoed throughout the stadium when Tutu said that Israel will be a peaceful sovereign state "only when there is a viable Palestinian state."
And others walked out before the speech even began.
"He should not be honored," said College graduate Naomi Cohn, who sent out an e-mail to roughly 100 graduates asking them to walk out on Tutu's address.
A handful of parents and other guests joined Cohn in the wings of Franklin Field until Tutu's remarks were complete.
"We're all appalled at this," said Herb Victor, an alumnus who was at the ceremony to watch his grandson graduate. "There are enough worthwhile speakers in this country that are not controversial. This is an insult."
Representatives from the Greater Philadelphia branch of the Zionist Organization of America voiced their dissent before Commencement even began, distributing copies of an advertisement condemning Tutu that the Daily Pennsylvanian declined to publish.
"We're very upset that the University of Pennsylvania sees fit to honor a man who has made such unabashedly anti-Semitic and anti-Israeli sentiments," said Steve Feldman, the group's executive director.
Yet the main focus of Tutu's speech was solidarity repeating that "all, all, all" people belong in the world's family. "It is possible for enemies to become friends," Tutu said.
John Koethen, a family member of one of the graduates said he was "very impressed" with the ceremony. "I enjoyed Desmond Tutu's speech," Koethen said. "I enjoyed his philosophy of liberalism that seemed to agree with that of the whole school."
Tutu, as well as U.S. Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer, sociologist Herbert Gans, diplomat Sadako Ogata, civil rights leader Mamphela Ramphele and author Philip Roth, received honorary degrees from Penn.
After Rodin gave her blessing to the graduates of each of Penn's 12 schools, the University's newest alumni exited Franklin Field to locate their proud families and friends.
"Honestly, it hasn't hit yet," College graduate Deepti Doshi said. "And I'm not sure when it will."Comments powered by Disqus
Please note All comments are eligible for publication in The Daily Pennsylvanian.