“Everybody wants to be a success, but no one wants to stop to understand what it takes to be a success -and what it takes to succeed is to understand that failure is part of the process,” said James Carville, one of America’s best-known political commentators and a leading citizen in the revitalization of post-Katrina New Orleans, as he delivered the 2013 Commencement Address at Hobart and William Smith Colleges on Sunday. “There’s no success without failure. There’s no success without multiple failures. I promise you that.”
Carville opened his address by pointing out the cap he wore – a baseball cap with the fleur-de-lis that is the symbol of New Orleans, adorned with a tassel for Hobart and a tassel for William Smith. He said he wore it in appreciation of the bond between the Colleges and the City of New Orleans, noting the many community service trips HWS students have taken to New Orleans since Hurricane Katrina.
Commencement 2013 marked the 188th graduation for Hobart and the 102nd for William Smith. The Classes of 2013 included 289 William Smith and 206 Hobart undergraduates, as well as eight MAT students and two Ontario ARC College Experience Certificates.
Carville shared a story about a time he was preparing to give a talk to young people, and he wanted to give them some inspiration. He recalled his daughters had watched “Winnie the Pooh,” and he quoted the advice Christopher Robin gave to Winnie the Pooh when he was afraid of something: “You know, you’re stronger than you seem, you’re braver than you believe and you’re smarter than you think.”
Carville advised graduates: “In your life … you’re going to be doing things and you’re going to be scared. It’s natural. Everybody is. And when that happens…do me a favor, go back to the days of your childhood. Go in the Hundred Acre Wood and take a deep breath and just say, ‘I’m stronger than I seem, braver than I believe and smarter than I think,’ and go do it; that’s what it is.'”
Telling graduates he was confident they were going to do remarkable things in their lives, he urged them to remember to thank those who helped them along the way and then “mentor others and bring them along and show them recognition so they can grow too.”
Carville concluded by telling the graduates, “You’re going to do it; you’re going to do the great stuff, I have total confidence in that. You’re going to get beat up along the way – total confidence in that, but always remember there’s only one definition of a champion -only one -and the true champion is the one who gets up one more time than they get knocked down.”
In his Valedictory Address, President Mark D. Gearan commented on the “importance of listening,” noting, “If we are to truly build communities of trust and inclusion – we must listen to one another and to other viewpoints in meaningful ways.”
He then pointed to the Honorary Degree recipients as good examples of active, successful listeners. The Colleges presented honorary Doctor of Laws degrees to Carville and Maureen Curley, president of Campus Compact; an honorary Doctor of Science was presented to John Grotzinger ’79, mission leader and project scientist for the Mars Science Laboratory; and an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters to Mara O’Laughlin ’66, who recently retired from the Colleges as assistant vice president for the performing arts initiative.
Gearan concluded the Commencement ceremony by urging graduates “to go forth. Go forth to serve. Go forth to be active, engaged global citizens. Go forth to bring credit to yourselves, honor to your families and pride to your alma mater. Go forth to lead lives of consequence. And listen – truly listen – along the way.”
Student speakers Renee Jensen ’13 and Drew Oliveira ’13 also addressed the crowd of students, family and friends on the Hobart Quad.
Jensen noted how proud she was “to be a William Smith woman graduating with this class.” She then shared what she thought was most special about the Colleges.
“We have been fortunate in our education. We did not attend some huge university where we were just one of the many. We can look around and celebrate each other’s successes. I can look to the members of my class, and know who you are and what you’ve done,” she said. “We know each other here. To be able to look around and know almost all of your class is one of the things that makes Hobart and William Smith so great.”
Oliveira recalled words spoken by Associate Professor of Religious Studies Richard Salter ’86, P’15 during his first year seminar: “You have to give a part of yourself to a place before you can call it your home.”
“Now, these years later on this stage looking out toward all of you, I see the home we built here every day,” said Oliveira. He urged his classmates to “Keep finding new homes, new worlds, new places. Keep positive; love, nurture, appreciate. Keep giving a part of yourself. Like a home, life is only as rewarding as what you put into it. Keep yourself intoxicated with life; give life your trust, your joy, your attention, concern, and wonder. Give it your love.”
Also during the ceremony, Chair of the Board of Trustees Maureen Collins Zupan ’72, P’09 honored two educators who have dedicated their lives to the service of others by presenting them with the 2013 Touching the Future Awards. Southside High School Retired Spanish Teacher Susan Tryon Rogers P’05 was nominated by Krissy B. Stoner ’13. Raymond Long, associate director of admission at Governor’s Academy, in Newbury, Mass., was nominated by Raphael Durand ’13.