“Prove this time of crisis is also a time of opportunity,” University President Richard Levin urged members of the class of 2009 at this afternoon’s Baccalaureate Service, which was held in Woolsey Hall. (See the full text of Levin’s prepared remarks here.)

Gathered in what Yale College Dean Mary Miller called a “room of such majesty and history,” at the service, seniors graduating from Branford, Jonathan Edwards, Silliman and Trumbull colleges and their guests received parting words of wisdom from various University leaders. The service is repeated twice on Sunday for seniors and guests of the other eight colleges.

[ydn-legacy-photo-inline id=”10486″ ]

The tone of the event, while hopeful, was decidedly bittersweet.

“The world around you was flourishing; Yale was flourishing,” Levin recalled of the circumstances surrounding his first address to the class of 2009 in the fall of 2005. “Who could have imagined four years ago that the world economy would collapse your senior year?”

Citing the drop in the United States’ gross domestic product and its soaring unemployment rate — which would likely surpass ten percent, he said, before the recession is through — Levin gave a brief summary of the downturn before placing the present situation in a historical context.

He told his audience to have faith in the market and market principles, adding that the cause of today’s crisis is not a problem with the market but rather the acquisition of “too much debt.”

“This is where we are now,” he said. “Virtually every family in this hall has felt the effects of this.”

Levin said he realized that many members of the class of 2009 do not have definite plans for the future and that he understood the job market is unlike anything their immediate predecessors faced. Still, he offered them encouragement and assured them that the investment — of work, of time, of money — into Yale was worth it.

The class of 2009, Levin said, is not just four years older than it was when he first addressed them in fall 2005. The class is also “immensely more capable of tackling” the problems that come its way, he said.

For in times of uncertainty and crisis, there are great opportunities, he said. At a time when the national agenda is changing significantly, Levin encouraged the class of 2009 to pursue its passions because “now is the time to get involved.”

Levin, who successfully underwent surgery for prostate cancer in late April, looked healthy at the service and spoke well.

Before Levin’s speech, Miller addressed the class of 2009 and spoke of the great joy she had taken getting to know them, as a professor, as a college master and as a dean.

Remarked Miller: “May the clarity of light be yours.”