University President Peter Salovey kicked off the official festivities of Commencement Weekend by bidding farewell to the graduating class of 2014 in the first Baccalaureate Service of the weekend in Woolsey Hall this afternoon.
At the service, Salovey and Yale College Dean Mary Miller urged students and their families to remember that the journey is more important than the destination and not to forget the importance of gratitude.
Salovey connected the importance of gratitude to his academic work with human emotion. Salovey then continued the tradition of calling upon graduates to raise their hands and express their thanks to those who helped them become who they are today.
Salovey said he focused on gratitude because of its connection to happiness and overall well-being.
“There is no doubt that when we experience gratitude it is difficult to feel negative emotions like hatred, anger or envy at the same time,” Salovey said. “Grateful people seem to be more resilient because they find the good in difficult circumstances and other people seem to like them better.”
After informing the attendees of the service the importance of gratitude both to society and to individual happiness, he left his personal message, that the greatest acts of kindness are those that are difficult to express appreciation for.
As an example, he talked about a child that grew up to think about all his mother had did for him — from giving him life to taking care of his every need — and all he gave her in return was a lanyard he had made at camp one summer.
This type of kindness, he said, cannot be reciprocated, but instead is something that people can pay forward to future generations.
Miller, in her address, moved backward in time and reminded students of a Mayan paper she spoke about when they arrived on campus for their freshman convocation. She then proceeded to read an Aztec poem titled “Stand up, Beat your drum,” and emphasized the importance of life’s pleasures.
Miller urged students to remember what brings them joy as they depart from Yale, and she also encouraged students to keep these ideals close as they pursue their goals.