That was the suggestion made to graduating seniors this June by Kevin Klose, the president and chief executive officer of National Public Radio (NPR).”You stand at a threshold, the very opening moments of a convergence of technology and society that is revolutionary in its potential,” he told the 600-plus students and thousands of guests.
With that promise, however, comes a question: “If society and technology obtain the knowledge to fully comprehend and play with human life at the level of genetic creation, what role can a single individual — far from the laboratory, far from the supercomputer — have in making decisions that will affect us all?”
For guidance, he suggested we look to the past, specifically, to Thomas Jefferson and his extraordinary collection of books that formed the basis of the Library of Congress. Jefferson believed that the promise of knowledge would embody the promise of democracy; if we could find the knowledge and devote ourselves to it, we could alter our lives and alter the lives of society.
“What I draw from this is the majesty of the individual search for knowledge, of information gained and then transformed through learning and through civil debate so that society may act in a civilized and enlightened way,” Klose said. “Embodied in you is the same thirst for knowledge. Keep learning, keep listening, keep thinking — and move this democracy to a place of civil dialogue and of common good for all who live here and who will live here.”
Klose received an honorary doctor of humane letters degree. A graduate of Harvard University, he was a reporter and editor at The Washington Post for twenty-five years, including stints as Moscow bureau chief and deputy national editor. He then moved to radio, serving as president of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Inc., and president of U.S. International Broadcasting, overseeing the U.S. government's radio and television news service. He has been president and chief executive officer of NPR for a little more than a year.
Klose's theme was echoed by the student speaker, Michelle Tham, a biology/visual arts major who is participating in the College's accelerated program with Albany Medical College.
Despite living in a time when the economy is flourishing, she said, there still are blatant separations between the “haves” and have nots.”
“We have been given an awesome responsibility — to enter the world and, without fear, to do the best we can to enhance the character and vibrance of the life that breathes around us,” she said.
The College awarded two Ph.D.s, 100 master's degrees, and a total of 543 undergraduate degrees — 294 bachelors of arts, 190 bachelors of science, 19 bachelors of civil engineering, 8 bachelors of science in computer systems engineering, 17 bachelors of science in electrical engineering, and 19 bachelors of science in mechanical engineering. One person received two degrees (a B.S. and a B.S.E.E.), and two received their commissions in the Armed Forces. Twenty-one students graduated summa cum laude (a grade point average of 3.80 or better), forty-one graduated magna cum laude (3.6 or better), and ninety-six graduated cum laude (3.35 or better).
The valedictorian was Jonathan Chung, of Glenview, Ill. An interdepartmental major in economics and biology, he was a member of Phi Beta Kappa, the Asian Student Union, and the Idol, the College's literary magazine. The salutatorian was Henry Michtalik, of Middletown, N.Y., who is enrolled in the College's accelerated joint-degree program with Albany Medical College (he also plans to earn a law degree).Read More