Hobart and William Smith Colleges - Bishop Curry: Dream and Dare to Ask “Why Not”
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Bishop Curry: Dream and Dare to Ask “Why Not”

On Sunday, May 17, Hobart and William Smith Colleges recognized the Classes of 2020 with a online celebration including dozens of video messages from HWS faculty, staff and alums, and remarks from the Most Rev. Bishop Michael B. Curry ’75, Presiding Bishop and Primate of the Episcopal Church, who had been scheduled as the Commencement speaker.

“Some men see things as they are and ask why. I dream things that never were and ask why not,” said Curry, quoting playwright George Bernard Shaw in remarks revived by Robert F. Kennedy in his 1964 Senate campaign.

As a high school student volunteering for that campaign, Curry heard Kennedy imbue Shaw’s words with “a new meaning and a new context, a context in which a nation was at war…the cities of our country were burning…the racial divide was widening…poverty was nowhere near history but a bitter reality.”

As Curry told this year’s Hobart and William Smith graduates, people who have had a positive impact on their communities and the world “have dared to live the question ‘why not’ and turn it into an exclamation. They have been people who have not settled for the way things are…who have dared to ask the question: why not a different world, why not a different life.”

Graduates were also commended by each of the HWS Presidents who served during their four years — Joyce P. Jacobsen, Patrick A. McGuire L.H.D. ’12, Gregory J. Vincent ’83 and Mark D. Gearan L.H.D. ’17 — as well as Board Chair Thomas S. Bozzuto ’68, L.H.D. ’18 and Vice Chair Cynthia Gelsthorope Fish ’82; U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY); U.S. Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY); U.S. Congressman Tom Reed (R-23); State Senator Pam Helming (R-Canandaigua); and many others.

View the Classes of 2020 celebration page.

Although the pandemic prevented on-campus festivities this month, the in-person Commencement ceremony for the Classes of 2020 will be held at a future date in honor of the 464 graduating seniors, eight MAT candidates and two College Experience Certificate candidates. Details on the in-person Commencement will be announced in early June.

Reflecting on the personal and communal challenges of the pandemic, Curry recalled the lingering impact of polio on his father — and the impact of the vaccine that has since eradicated the disease.

“Why not a world where children are not crippled by polio. Why not a world where diseases that are preventable can be prevented,” Curry said. “My brothers, my sisters, my siblings, my friends, I invite you, I implore you, I beseech you that this commencement, commence your commitment to be why not people, to dare lives that dare to dream dreams, that dare to hope against hope, that dare to stand for ideals and values and principles like love and justice and compassion and kindness, to dare to ask why not and dare to live it.”