Two days before conferring degrees to the class of 2012, University President Richard Levin called on graduating seniors to remember the importance of their communities as they strive for a better world after leaving Yale.
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At the Saturday afternoon Baccalaureate service — the first official event of Commencement weekend — roughly one third of the graduating class gathered in Woolsey Hall to hear addresses from Levin and Yale College Dean Mary Miller. Both administrators invoked the words of Abraham Lincoln for inspiration, and Levin discussed the need to transcend the current degradation of political dialogue with focused, public investment in education, science and infrastructure.
“I’m urging you to engage with the future by helping to raise the sights of your communities, as Yale graduates traditionally have,” Levin said.
Levin pointed to Lincoln’s success at increasing prosperity through legislative efforts such as the Homestead Act and the Transcontinental Railroad. He spoke of the world seniors will enter after leaving the comfort of the communities that have shaped them at Yale, claiming that the issues that are truly significant for the nation and world today — including health care, climate change and income inequality — have gone unaddressed due to the lack of serious political deliberation.
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While it is customary for the University president to give a formal address at Baccalaureate, the Yale College dean generally delivers selected readings instead. Miller quoted a speech Lincoln gave during the Civil War in which he called for lasting peace, and she reminded gathered seniors of the names of Yale graduates who had died in war inscribed outside Woolsey Hall.
In keeping with the Baccalaureate tradition of reciting a passage by the English poet John Milton, Miller finished her address with the final lines of his poem “Paradise Lost,” which depict Adam and Eve exiting the Garden of Eden hand in hand.
The rest of the class of 2012 will attend one of two services tomorrow morning. Class Day will also be held tomorrow, beginning at 2:00 p.m. on Old Campus.