Emory Report
May 18, 2009
Volume 61, Number 31


The sound of bagpipes echoed throughout the quad at Commencement on May 11.

The 9 miuntes of light rain failed to dampen this day for graduates.

A proud parent.


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May 18
, 2009
Class of 2009 ready to reshape world

By Carol Clark

Members of the Class of 2009 awoke to the patter of rain early on Commencement Day. Despite forecasts of more rain — and a dismal economic climate — they arrived on campus bearing the happy, triumphant spirit that buoys the shared experience of graduation.

The sound of bagpipes signaled a break in the clouds. Shafts of sunlight gilded the faces of the robed graduates as they flowed into the Quad. They took their places amid rows of white plastic chairs that had been freshly washed by nature and lovingly dried by Emory staff volunteers, cheerful and dapper beneath their straw boaters.

A passing shower during the ceremony hardly ruffled a feather. It was civility that reigned that day — and every day for the class of 2009.

“Each class seems to carve out a distinctive identity for itself,” President Jim Wagner told the graduates. “You folks have understood earlier than most the value of civility. You have shown concern for those who are victims of incivility — incivility of a contrived and sophisticated sort, as well as incivility born of poverty.”

Wagner noted that many of the graduates became leaders of the Transforming Community Project when it was launched during their freshmen year, to open up difficult conversations about race. They continued to provide forums for civil conversations, including the heated politics leading up to the election of Barack Obama.

“As you go forward, may you be builders of civil society, even as you have worked toward that end in this community,” he said. “It will be the legacy of the Class of 2009, and I look forward to watching you in action.”

Vicente Fox, former president of Mexico, delivered the keynote. He urged the students to take on the economic crisis and other challenges rocking the globe. “You need to reshape the world, to reinvent it,” he said. “You have to have high, very high, aspirations. Leaders don’t go for less.”

Inspired by the work of former President Jimmy Carter and The Carter Center, Fox founded Centro Fox, a presidential museum and library that also does humanitarian work.

By helping our neighbors, our communities and reshaping our world “we will find our own joy, our own ecstasies, our own happiness,” Fox said. “That’s the power we carry within ourselves. So, please, exercise your leadership, every day of your life.”

His thoughts echoed those of the Class Day speakers — the founders of Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream. Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield explained how they built their business by poking fun at the corporate establishment that tried to block their entry into the marketplace. They started a foundation to fund community-oriented projects.

“What we’re learning at Ben and Jerry’s is that there is a spiritual component to business, just as there is to individuals,” Greenfield told the seniors. “As you give, you receive. As you help others, you are helped in return. For people, for nations, for businesses — it’s all the same.”

By the end of Commencement, the sun had burned through most of the clouds. The grass on the Quad looked greener than usual, still wet with rain. The birds seemed to chirp louder. The sky looked bluer. It had turned into a good day for ice cream.