John King, chief national correspondent for CNN, offered HWS graduates lessons learned during his career as one of the country’s most influential and highly respected journalists. At the May 14 Commencement, he said, “I have been lucky to cross paths with many extraordinary people in my work, and I hope some of what I learned from them can be of some help to you as you begin this exciting new chapter. Most of all, though, I simply wish each and every one of you has my good fortune: to find a career you love with genuine passion.”
King then shared conclusions drawn from his uniquely immediate, long-term observations of Presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton, General Colin Powell, Michael Dukakis and several others.
Bush taught him the value of realizing the role of faith in public life and in political choices, leading King to advise, “respect those who might think a little differently than you, and … spend a little time trying to understand them.” A similar lesson came from his work with HWS President Mark D. Gearan, who demonstrated during his years in Washington that “politics can be passionate without being polarized and personal.”
Dukakis taught King that it is essential to not hide who you are. King described Dukakis’ decision in the later stages of his 1988 campaign to proudly acknowledge being a liberal. After that point, he observed, Dukakis was a much better candidate. The most important lesson King learned from Clinton is that “success requires steely determination … An ounce of [Clinton’s] determination would serve you well.” However, he believes that flexibility also is essential. Powell taught him to “place a premium on training and preparation, but also understand everything can change overnight.”
King closed by commending the students for choosing “to learn at the Colleges with a conscience, a place that values tradition, the classics, community and public service.” He pointed out that some people believe “narrow specialization is the key to success in a world moving so fast; to them, the traditional liberal arts education is a dinosaur. I believe, and I know you believe, they are wrong. Beginning today, you get to prove it.”
In the ceremonies on the Quad, which began with the procession at 10 a.m., King received an honorary doctor of humane letters degree recognizing his exceptional career. Three others were awarded honorary doctorates: Thomas B. Poole ’61, P’91, a member of the HWS Board of Trustees for 17 years and chair and CEO of The Hallen Construction Co. Inc. on Long Island; Dr. Clarence E. Butler, dean of Hobart College and professor of German who is retiring after 27 years of service; and Mary Patterson McPherson, president emerita of Bryn Mawr College and vice president of The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
The Colleges also presented Touching the Future Awards to three influential high school and middle school educators nominated by members of the graduating class: Elizabeth Batchelor from Greater Johnstown High School in Johnstown, NY; Peter Mann of the Brewster Academy in Wolfesboro, New Hampshire; and Joseph Priola from Twelve Corners Middle School in Brighton, NY.
In his valedictory address, Gearan paid tribute to “three well-lived lives” of individuals who died in the past year. He pointed out inspiring lessons to be learned from each person, and said “How I wish they could be here today.” He praised Rosa Parks, “The Mother of the Civil Rights Movement,” William F. Scandling ’49, founder of Saga Corporation, whose vision for campus dining led to an enhancement of community, and Tracey Spates, an art teacher in Geneva, NY who taught children to respect and celebrate other peoples and cultures.
During the ceremony, bachelor’s degrees were presented to 189 Hobart graduates and 241 William Smith graduates. The Colleges’ Master of Arts in Teaching degrees were awarded to 13 students.