Coleman salutes fellow 'freshmen'now the Class of '06
When members of the Class of 2006 entered the University four years ago, they came with a bit of nervousness and great expectations. Another newcomer arrived on campus at the same time with great hopes for her future at U-M13th president Mary Sue Coleman.
"You, the Class of 2006, are special to me," she said to a group of graduates more than 10,000 strong during Spring Commencement April 29 at Michigan Stadium. "We started together at the University in the fall of '02 and we have shared four memorable years.
"You may remember how at New Student Convocation I confessed to being unsure about exactly where the Diag was, but I knew that its different pathways represented the countless directions of a Michigan education. Since then we've all learned our way around, from the Arb to Bursley to the Fish Bowl. We've deciphered the special language of Michiganthe UGLi, the Dude, Mojo and the Big House.
"We've watched our life sciences complex come to fruition and the construction barrels disappear. We've seen the Walgreen Drama Center rise, along with a distinctive home for the Ford School and a beautiful new look for Hill Auditorium.
"We've rallied to help the victims of Hurricane Katrina and the Asian tsunami. We've worn blue wristbands for a new children's hospital and yellow T-shirts for the Maize Rage."
Although walking away from the comfort and security of a campus they have known for years, Coleman said something exciting awaits this year's graduates"what Shakespeare called, 'life's uncertain voyage.'"
Coleman presented honorary degrees to five recipients, including CNN Chief International Correspondent Christiane Amanpour, who then delivered the main address. With cranes framing the stage and a large portion of the west side of the stadium reduced to dirt due to ongoing construction, Amanpour joked that the sight was strangely familiar.
"I thought I might be a little intimidated coming into this stadium, a little nervous. But I actually feel quite at home, not just because of the warmth of everybody's welcome, but because of this," she said. "I'm so used to this kind of scenery ... a little bombed-out, a little devastated, a little bit of reconstruction. I feel great."
Amanpour said she hoped the Class of '06 would find something to be passionate about, recalling the passion she found when she discovered journalism.
"My most fervent hope for you is that you find something that sets you on fire, that gives you passion and joy; something that you love and believe in so much that it makes you want to work all day and all night; something that will make you willing to sacrifice; something that instills in you a deep sense of commitment and a sense of mission; something that will eventually demand your courage, your physical, your moral, your emotional courage.
"And you won't know when and you don't yet know how, but you will be called upon to take a stand, to be very brave at least once, maybe several times, on the road that you take ahead."
Amanpour encouraged graduates to lose the ability to hear the word "no," and to go a little deaf as she did when people said her name was too unpronounceable for television, and that she had to be blonde to make it on TV in the United States.
"Go ahead and take a chance and if you ever fall pick yourselves up, dust yourself off and get going again," she said. "Just as I found that journalism can make a difference, I know that all of you can make a difference and whatever you do, do not sit on the sidelines of life. Such a luxury is simply not proper for Americans or any of us anymore, especially not now.
"Ladies and gentlemen of the class of 2006, self-absorbed is so 'yesterday.' It's out," she said. "'Cool" is now to be a citizen of our world, not just an inhabitant."
Amartya Sen, a Nobel Prize-winning economist who also received an honorary doctorate from the University, said the adage that "tomorrow is just another day" did not apply to this year's graduates.
"The particular tomorrow that is about to come is really a very special day," said Sen, the Lamont University Professor at Harvard University. "You will wake up in the morning and have your first breakfast as a holder of a higher degree from one of the most distinguished universities in the world."
Sen said the world the graduates will enter is "a bit of a mess."
"The world in which we live is both remarkably comfortable and thoroughly miserable," said Sen, who received the 1998 Nobel Prize in Economics. "There is unprecedented prosperity in the world, which is incomparably richer than ever before U+00E2U+0080U+00A6 but ours is also a world of extraordinary deprivation and of astonishing inequality."
Sen concluded that education is a wonderful thing, not only for the person who is educated, but for others as well.
"That may be too serious a thought at this carefree, joyous moment, but there is a life to be led even when the joys of the moment end," he said.
Commencement activities will continue through June. The Medical School will hold is graduation ceremony at 3 p.m. June 2 in Hill Auditorium. The School of Pharmacy ceremony will be at 2 p.m. June 3 in Rackham Auditorium.
Video and transcripts of addresses by Amanpour and Coleman are available at www.umich.edu/news/index.html?videos#sc06.