The first American commencement occurred in 1642 at Harvard. The nine graduates in attendance heard three addresses, one in Latin, one in Greek, and one in Hebrew. The ceremony concluded with a lengthy discussion of philosophy conducted entirely in Latin.
This spring, according to the National Center for Educational Statistics, some 965,000 seniors continued this college passage rite. (We know of none given in Latin.)
The following excerpts from selected commencement addresses look at the personal advice offered graduates. Tomorrow's Monitor will focus on some of the national and international issues they face.m Carolyn Louise Kitch Graduating senior Boston Universitym
The most difficult lesson each of us has tried to master here has not been how to design a computer program, how to analyze the Industrial Revolution, how to cover a city council meeting, or how to market a product. It has been, rather , how to sort out our personal confusions and replace them with a stronger identity. The hardest task many of us have faced is understanding that the pictures of self-confidence we have created to give to others - on our resumes and application forms - must also be given back to ourselves. Dr. George C. Roche President, Hillsdale College %IHillsdale College, Hillsdale, Mich.
Understand that ideas rule the world - not armies, not economics, not politics, not any of those other things to which we usually give our allegiance, but ideas. All those Napoleons and all the mighty of the earth are usually dancing to the tune provided by the dominant ideas of the leadership community in which they happen to find themselves. Understanding that fact saves us, I think, from going off on quite a few false tangents of one kind or another.
Also, I'd ask you if you're serious about being a leader to consider the American success story - to think about our own past. Most of us here today, certainly myself included, had ancestors who came here primarily from the continent of Europe, primarily in the 19th century. They came from societies and countries that were strangulated by an excess of government regulation with little or no upward mobility - rigidly enforced class structure and very little economic activity. In place after place, your forebears and mine had to leave that stifling atmosphere to come here to a country which they called ''the land of opportunity.'' Because here in America, coming at great difficulty and great risk to an absolutely new experience - tearing up all the family roots, risking everything in the process - these people were coming to a new beginning in freedom and prosperity. Millions of them came to do something - to have the chance to do something about the condition of their own existence.
This view of man as an individual and in possession of a God-given soul, rather than a mere creature of society, is put very nicely in one sentence by St. Paul in his Second Letter to the Corinthians: ''Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.'' Dr. Isaac Asimov Science fiction writer Ithaca College, Ithaca, N.Y.m
It was in 1939, I was 19 at the time; I had made my great contribution to society and I didn't know it. . . .
Actually, I had changed the world, . . . because in 1950 someone took my first nine robot stories and put them together into a book called ''I Robot.'' And a gentleman named Joseph Engleburger read the book and was inspired with a lifelong longing to build robots, and in the late '50s he founded Unimation Inc. , and since then he has become the leading manufacturer, installer, maintainer of robots in the world. He operated at a loss until the microchip was invented and then rapidly went into the black. He now makes $70 million a year at the last I heard of it. And he gives me all the credit. He keeps the money. 'Robot Redford' Programmed automaton Anne Arundel Community College, Arnold, Md.m
Today when you receive your AA degrees, you will be one step closer to being in the center of this controversy, because tomorrow is the future. And you, and what I represent, will be there together. I am merely the personification of an idea that became reality through the use of technological knowledge. To some, I appear to be state-of-the-art technology. To others, I am just a toy. But whatever you see, it took many people with a dream of the future and their diverse skills to create me. It took individuals from many different career fields, working as a team, using their knowledge to make me a representation of all their talents.
It would be like having each and every one of you in this graduating class donating a portion of your learned experiences; be it from one of the 90,000 books in your library, a teacher's lecture, or perhaps the creative portion of your imagination. And then sharing that knowledge with me so I can become a tool to aid you in your goals.
(''Robot Redford'' is a four-foot-high, 175-pound robot made of fiber glass, with red vertical eyes and a camera snout to monitor the audience while delivering its commencement address.)m George Bush Vice-president of the United States Coast Guard Academy, New London, Conn.m
Even so notorious a skeptic and ironist as H. L. Mencken once said: ''If a sense of duty tortures a man, it also enables him to achieve prodigies.'' But I don't think that in the long run that duty is a torture. I think it's a comfort, because if you know your duty, you will always know yourself, no matter what the fashions or trends of the moment are. I've noticed in the newspapers lately that they've been running interviews with college seniors and the one thing these students are most worried about is what they are going to do after graduation. Many of them tell the reporters that they envy the cadets in the military academies their sense of direction and purpose. Well, many of you may have felt that you weren't making the most popular decision when you decided to enter the Coast Guard. But you stood by your principles; you persisted - even though there were probably many times when you must have thought that there had to be an easier way. Still, you stuck it out.
The antimilitary fashions of a few years ago have almost completely been swept away by a resurgence of traditional American values - duty, honor, patriotism - the values that have been instilled in you at this academy. Jehan Sadat (Mrs. Anwar Sadat) Egyptian literacy, family planning, and women's rights reformer University of Vermont, Burlingtonm
From my earliest youth I have pursued the ideal of academic distinction, thinking of it, planning for it, keeping it well to the fore of my mind, right through the experiences of love, marriage, and bringing up a fairly large family. It was only as a mature woman that I was able to give substance to my dream, and respond willingly to the challenges of a secondary school certificate , an undergraduate, and then a postgraduate career.
Emerging into Egyptian public life at a time when national liberation was coinciding with social development, I had to shoulder my responsibilities as a woman, a Muslim woman attempting to preserve a delicate balance between the imperatives of tradition and the newfound vision of modernity imposed upon us by the time. Simultaneously, I began an academic career and plunged into social service. All this while I remained fully aware that cohesion in my family depended to a large degree on my own sense of duty as a wife and mother. As I look back I see a very happy family life which has survived the years and the terrible tragedy of my bereavement. My house still rings to the laughter and chatter of children and grandchildren, and is there a sound more pleasant to the ears? Lynn Ashby Columnist with the Houston Post Texas A&M University, College Stationm
You see, you are not some luxury of a wealthy state, you are not the recipient of goodies from some patron of the arts. Not at all. You are an investment - a solid financial investment in the future of Texas. We paid our money and we want something in return. You are expected to produce more than you cost. You didn't get something for nothing, for I will now give you the first and foremost law of the outside world: There is no free lunch.
You have been given a lot here, and we expect a lot back. You gives and you gets. That is the case in any college or university, but here, here at Texas A&M , it is especially true, because you must do more. Being just good enough is not good enough. . . . If you want to stick out in the world, you'd better be better. Elizabeth Janeway Author Sweet Briar College, Sweet Briar, Pa.m
The ceremonies that surround a graduation add up to what anthropologists call a rite of passage. Such rites mark a step from one period of life to another, from one status to another. There aren't a lot of them left today, but even our fluid society takes note of the entrance by the young into the condition of being adult.
If you've been trained to think beyond your selfish daily needs (and I suspect that your parents and teachers had some such purpose in mind), then you can be seen - must be seen - as fitted to think for others as well as yourselves. A good, resounding cliche fits in here: From those to whom much has been given, much will be asked. True, no one goes on to say what the response to this asking will be, but the moral implication is clear. The privileged owe something to the rest of the human race.
I don't think you have any choice. There is going to be a future, good or bad , long or short; and it will not just happen, it will be made. If we are overtaken by holocaust, and we may be, it will come as the product of human action, human decision, human blindness - or lack of decision and action. Dr. Simon Ramo Cofounder and the ''R'' of TRW Inc. California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, Calif.m
The world is loaded with all manner of unsolved problems, that's true. And you are talented and ready, that's true, too. But the world isn't ready for you to grab the reins. It will take a while before you really will.
Ours is a highly technological society, becoming more so every day. This is frightening to the generation now in power, because the overwhelming impact on the society of scientific discovery and technological advance has come so rapidly. The establishment was not born to it. But you were. It should be less awesome to you.
I propose that when you are called upon you propose that there be a technological regulation investigatory agency, a well-equipped, single government unit, with scientists and engineers and economists and statisticians and biologists and toxicologists and laboratories and measurement instruments to track down evey hazard to safety, health, and environment, measure it, evaluate it, make recommendations on how to minimize it, and provide this information to all. The decisionmaking - that's another subject. That involves value judgments, helped by cost-effectiveness analysis and technological and economic trade-offs. Julie Tindall Graduating senior University of Texas, Austinm
You accept some institutions and reject others. You may find business quite challenging, but religion superficial. Or you may find religion the only truth in your lives, with all other worldly institutions lacking the vigor of your faith. Your basic attitude conveys the recognition that institutions occupy a strategic position in our society. They provide stability, direction, and meaning to our lives, but they also have many weak points that need attention. They provide orderly ways to progress through life, but also, because of their power and visibility, make obvious our hidden prejudices so that others may admonish us to correct them.
We are not waving flags or holding demonstrations as was done in the '60s, and most of us are preoccupied with finding work and carving out a secure niche in an economically and politically troubled world, but we still must keep in mind that we have the power and energy to change institutions which have not yet been perfected by the human race. No matter which institutions you choose to support and celebrate, whether the University of Texas, the professions, the performing arts, or the family, to name a few, the fact that you remember your individual importance in shaping these institutions - and amending their flaws - will provide you meaning and purpose for the rest of your lives. Lady Bird Johnson (Mrs. Lyndon B. Johnson) Beautification project of America University of Texas, Austinm
The main essence of what I discovered was that education was not a neat, wrapped-up package, but the beginning of a quest that lasts. It indoctrinates one with the excitement of learning.
And what survives the years is a greater capacity to enjoy the world that my courses in the arts and humanities gave me . . . an elasticity for exploring new ideas . . . a daring to doubt . . . to cherish unchanging inner truths while being willing to consider new ones.
If I had one wish for every incoming student, it would be that whatever profession or career is undertaken, a wide knowledge of the arts and humanities would be incorporated into the course of study, that knowledge is a constant source of enrichment - a celebration of man's humanity - an enticement to travel and enjoy new intellectual avenues - and it is yours for a lifetime. Your generation will make a living in a world of new technology, but life is most worth living, I think, by an understanding of history, art, and our environment. Mario M. Cuomo Governor of New York Barnard College, New York Citym
The nature of recent events and the sheer volume of bad news make it impossible for anyone except an unreconstructed optimist to speak of the wonders of the world at all.
It would probably be more realistic to spend some time reading the depressingly long list of the world's disasters - wars in Asia, the Mideast, Central America; long, dreary unemployment lines; increased racial and class tensions; a spiraling arms race; a worldwide sense of insecurity and danger - and, inevitably, a loss of love.
Fatalists perhaps can comfort themselves this way.
But we optimists cannot.
And that, as I said at the outset, is, I'm afraid, what you and I are - optimists.
We must be.
Yet you should know that all these grave-looking, berobed people on this platform, all the proud parents and relatives around you - all of them, in the deepest recesses of their hearts, share the same simple human hope:
That you will be wiser than we are, kinder, gentler, more caring; that you will learn to trust more than we have, to give more, to do more, to create more, to love more; that the world you pass on will be better than the one we pass to you.
This is the recurring hope of our species.
It echoes in the teachings of all the world's great religions - in the Talmud , the Koran, the Sermon on the Mount.