Drew Faust delivered the Baccalaureate address to Harvard’s graduating seniors yesterday. Her theme? Living life without a script.
…came your junior year, and suddenly there was no script. The world had shifted. It was the year of Obama. Who could have anticipated that? It was the year of entropy [Blogger: the year of entropy and the year of Obama ], with catastrophic floods and fires, an imminent flu pandemic, and the biggest meltdown of world financial systems since the Great Depression. Jobs you had counted on evaporated. Opportunities vanished. Phrases like “bailout” and “too big to fail” were suddenly being applied to companies you had hoped would someday recruit you. And the University was not immune. We didn’t have to melt down the roof of Harvard Hall into bullets — as we did in 1775. But we did curtail plans, and you watched, unsettled, as last year’s seniors felt their way onto a shaky economic landscape they had in no way anticipated.
The lessons to be learned from such events? Be humble. Embrace risk. The world needs you. [Blogger: Potential tension with lesson #1 here.] Be creative.
Unfortunately, Faust went on to quote David Brooks—Faust does have this conventional NPR streak in her that is sort of lame—and Louis Menand, whom she draws on for quotes like a hankie in the pocket. (See This Republic of Suffering.) It gets a little embarrassing.
On the whole, though, a perfectly nice speech; Faust is strongest when she challenges the culture of competition uber alles and traditional definitions of success at Harvard. Her efforts may be like trying to empty the ocean with a spoon, but her message is an important one in the 02138 world.
Meanwhile, down in Virginia, Christy Romer addressed her alma mater, William & Mary, in a speech which explained and defended the Administration’s economic policy. This prompted a flurry of snarky comments from people who feel that the speech was a) political (this is bad, apparently), and b) generic (this is bad).
As one commenter put it,
I’m sure she’s brilliant and nice and certainly has an impressive position. But I have to say, that was the worst graduation speech I’ve ever heard. As noted, she barely mentioned the school; she could give the same speech, word for word, to another school, and they’d never know the difference. Equal parts political posturing, wallowing personal self-aggrandizement, some thin economic history….
Interesting. If she’d given this speech at Harvard’s commencement, it’d be completely appropriate. I can’t help but wonder if this W&M newspaper headline—Samantha Casey ‘10 Places Third at Miss USA—doesn’t tell you more of what W&M is looking for.
To prepare for the Miss Virginia pageant, Casey took the Fall 2009 semester off from the College….
Or, as one commenter put it, “Congratulations, Samantha! What a tremendous achievement.”
Samantha Casey, Miss Virginia Teen USA, with Bootie Chewning, first vice president of the Miss Virginia Pageant.*
Ah, well. It’s a big country.
* The Miss Virginia Pageant has a first vice-president? (Who, I wonder, is the second?)