A Start to Life-Long Learning
Grads Honored at GWs 2004 Commencement Celebration
on the Ellipse
As if on cue as the fanfare signaled the start of GWs 180th Commencement,
early morning showers gave way to a brilliant sunny day as the University
conferred 5,500 degrees during the May 16 ceremony on the Ellipse. The
crowd of roughly 20,000 graduates, friends and family listened attentively
as noted oncologist Dr. Luther W. Brady, Director of the Folger Shakespeare
Library Gail Paster, Nobel Prize winning physicist Leon Lederman, and
the former Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff retired Army Gen. John Shalikashvili
offered their counsel for the future.
Brady (BA 46, MD 48), among the foremost oncologists, received
an honorary Doctor of Fine Arts degree. In his remarks Brady welcomed
the graduates into the fellowship of GW alumni and described the intangible
gains he received during his time at the University.
It gave me direction at a very critical time in my youth,
said Brady. It embedded in me the sense of responsible action. It
gave me the sense of morals and ethics. It gave me a lifetime interest
in ongoing inquiry, not being satisfied with rote events of one sort or
another. It imbued in me the sense to innovate and to participate in research
and to be a teacher. I think those were the platforms that made it possible
for me to do what I have been able to do, plus all the really very good
friends that I have throughout the world whove contributed to my
Following the presentation of an honorary Doctor of Public Service, Nobel
physicist Lederman reminded the audience that education is a life-long
He recalled that at one time Americans could spend the first 20 years
of their lives learning, studying and then relying almost solely on that
training for the rest of their lives.
But using the education you have for the rest of your life doesnt
work any more. Theres a nice-sounding phrase called lifelong
learning. Thats no longer a slogan; its a necessity.
Whether youre getting a bachelors a degree, a masters
degree, or a PhD, it is absolutely essential that you keep learning.
Many of the graduates groaned as Lederman cited statistics suggesting
the average electrical engineering degree is obsolete after only three
or four years.
The world is changing with incredible rapidity, Lederman added.
You have to keep learning. Thats an essential feature, I think,
of our future.
Paster, who accepted an honorary Doctor of Letters, praised the supportive
and nurturing environment she found at GW during her tenure in the Department
of English. That helped stretch her boundaries as an educator and researcher
and eventually led to the position at the Folger Shakespeare Library.
Without that support, Paster told the crowd, without
that encouragement, without that interest for my scholarship and for my
teaching, I could not have been awarded the opportunity, the great gift,
of becoming the director of one of the worlds great libraries.
For his part, retired Army Gen. John M. Shalikashvili (MS 70), joked
about the Universitys decision to grant him an honorary Doctor of
Im sure that you recognize and will agree with me that to
receive an honorary degree is by any measure an extraordinarily high honor,
Shalikashvili said. But I tell you, to receive one from your alma
mater is surely doubly so, because they not only know your shortcomings,
in fact they have documented them.
In a break from University tradition, GW selected two students as Commencement
speakers Adam Greenman and L. Trenton Marsh.
Greenman, who graduated summa cum laude and received his Bachelor of Arts
degree in political communication, spoke first. He described a chance
encounter with a University Web site listing 101 things students should
do while at GW. Last winter, as he and friends accomplished one of 101
climb to the top of the Washington Monument Greenman realized
that the list was not merely an itinerary to be marked off one-by-one.
Instead, each item carried a lesson.
The moral I took from this story: The Washington Monument isnt
about the view; its about who you take in the view with.
This fall Greenman will head off to Camden, NJ, where he will serve a
two-year term teaching in the public school system as part of Teach for
Marsh, who earned a Master of Arts in human resource development from
the Graduate School of Education and Human Development, became the first
African American male student to present the student address at GW Commencement.
I was honored to be chosen, beamed Marsh following the ceremony.
When I got here I had two goals, the first was to achieve a 4.0
grade point average [he missed that by just three one hundredths of a
point]. The second was to be a Commencement speaker. I feel truly honored
and blessed to speak at GW. It was only by Gods grace that I was
In his remarks Marsh noted that in addition to their training to become
leaders in industry, the arts or public service, they also have been prepared
and educated to be personal leaders, leaders of our communities,
leaders of our thinking and leaders of our individual destinies.
There are both voices and echoes in this world. Please do not only
be an echo. Speak out and speak up. Let your own voice be that of a leader,
said Marsh. I charge each and every graduate to exhibit integrity,
character and excellence as you strive to make a difference in the world,
a difference that can be successfully realized by seeking the opportunities
to exert the leadership skills you have developed and enveloped at The
George Washington University.
President Trachtenberg turned his attention toward the impact recent terrorist
actions have had on the world at large and on the GW community in particular,
focusing on two lessons he learned from the train bombings in Madrid on
When I heard about the bombings, my blood ran cold. My first thought,
my first reaction, was GW has 36 students in a program in Madrid. Are
they all right?
The first lesson, said Trachtenberg, was how tangible the sense of community
is at GW. It is not an empty phrase or just convenient shorthand
for referring to all the men and women who work and study here.
The second lesson was how the tragic events in Madrid are a signal to
look at the world from a new point of view.
The late statesman and former GW professor, Abba Eban, said, There
wont be peace in the world until we love our children more than
we hate our enemies. We have not yet learned to do that it
too has proved challenging, Trachtenberg said. But maybe not
for you and your generation.
The GW Law School closed the week of graduation celebrations May 23 with
International Court of Justice Judge Thomas Buergenthal, the former Lobingier
Professor of Comparative Law and Jurisprudence and director of the International
and Comparative Law Program at GW, giving the keynote address.
He took the opportunity to reflect on the demands a changing world is
placing on the legal profession and on the American citizenry. Buergenthal
noted that average citizens can no longer hide from the realities of globalization.
The dividing line between international law and national law is
becoming ever more blurred. The practice of law you are entering is no
longer all local or national; it is increasingly more transnational or
global in character, and this is regardless of what you plan to do with
your law degree.
He added that the globalization of the practice of law requires practitioners
to sharpen their awareness of the significant impact international legal
and political developments have on our law.
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