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Oak trees and speeches frame Class Day in Kennedy Grove
STANFORD -- Hold on to your memories as an "outsider," your seemingly unattainable ideals and your vision of a "glass half full" of hope for the environment, seniors and their families were advised Saturday, June 13, in Senior Class Day ceremonies in the newly named Kennedy Grove.
The traditional box lunch event was held between Bowman Alumni House and the Faculty Club in a grove of oaks named last month for outgoing President Donald Kennedy. It included one last lecture from each of three speakers chosen by students: Estelle Freedman, professor of history and feminist studies; Gil Masters, teaching professor of civil engineering; and the Rev. Floyd Thompkins Jr., associate dean of Memorial Church.
The event also included presentations of the class gift and the J.E. Wallace Sterling Award for public service (see separate story).
The Class of 1992 chose a "practical" gift, one befitting a year of university budget cuts, class presidents said. The Stanford Disability Resource Center will receive $2,000 for FM receivers for hearing impaired students, a braille tape eraser and a portable wheelchair ramp.
Kennedy addressed the graduates, promising they would become nostalgic about their Stanford years. When he tries to tell people elsewhere about the tule fog in the Quad on a winter morning, the band playing free to surprise a student who needs cheering up or alumni hugging football players after a loss in the stadium parking lots, "they all look bewildered and so I simply say, " 'You had to be there.' "
Masters on environment
Masters, who teaches popular courses on environmental science and technology, listed a dozen reasons to feel encouraged about the world's ability to tackle environmental problems.
"I could easily make a list 10 times as long of reasons to be discouraged about the future of planet Earth, but I certainly won't for an occasion like this," Masters said. "Discouragement leads to cynicism, and cynicism leads to inaction."
The encouraging list included "creative, innovative schemes" under discussion in California and the nation to improve energy efficiency as well as curricular and enrollment trends on campus.
The Business School now offers "one of the best environment courses at Stanford," Masters said. The new Earth Systems program in the schools of Earth Sciences and of Humanities and Sciences, graduated its first earth systems major in the Class of '92; civil engineering majors increased 50 percent in the first year of that department's offering an environmental engineering track.
Creative schemes include a proposed "feebate" program in California that would either provide a rebate or charge a fee for new cars, depending on their fuel efficiency and emissions. They include discussions of auto insurance paid at the gas pump. "The more you drive, the more insurance you pay," he said.
"There is no question in my mind that 100 mpg, four- passenger cars that are far safer than anything we have on the road now are technically possible," Masters said.
Freedman on outsider values
Freedman, the co-author of Intimate Matters: A History of Sexuality in America, said she was surprised to be invited to speak because she thought of herself as an "outsider" on the faculty. She then urged those graduating to hold on to their own memories of what it is like to be an outsider.
"A Stanford degree is supposed to be your ticket in, your assurance of entree to job, career, graduate school, profession, to social, economic and intellectual privilege," she said. "My point is not that you should give up your hard-earned entree, but that you remember to hold the doors open for others. One way to do so is to hold on to a memory of what it is like to feel different."
Whether based on their own experience or that of someone who shared their feelings of being outside the Stanford mainstream, Freedman said, outsider feelings "can serve as a reference point that affects your future choices."
"You can promise not to close your eyes to sexual harassment, racist or homophobic jokes, and exclusive practices around you. You don't have to be a target yourself to stand up against these practices, for in some way, each of you can identify with and have compassion for those who have been hurt as outsiders, and you can choose to become their allies."
Being an outsider "can give you critical distance on institutions that tend to overwhelm the individual, it can expose you to other outsiders who can support your efforts, and it can keep you in touch with the unique parts of yourself that our mass culture might otherwise devalue," Freedman said.
Thompkins on dreams, ideals
Thompkins urged individuals to hang on to their dreams and ideals as affirmations of humanity. Describing the past year as one in which optimists of more than one generation became cynical, he listed some of the precipitating events: the treatment of Anita Hill during the confirmation hearings for Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, the verdicts and aftermath in the Rodney King beating case and the nation's unenthusiastic reaction to this year's political candidates.
"If we dream, if we have an ideal because we thought it was going to win, it would preclude the possibility of conviction and perseverance," he said.
"If we held the dream or ideal because it was the dream or ideal that everyone held, it would preclude the possibility of brilliance, of creativity, without which nothing ever gets done of any good measure on earth.
"If we held an ideal or dream simply because it made us feel good, it would preclude the possibility of self-sacrifice," he said.
"I do not tell you that everything you work for is possible. I do not tell you that every ideal that you hold, everyone will hold. But I tell you if you wish to become human and if you wish to make the human family greater and richer, then you need to keep on working, keep on struggling, keep on believing beyond belief, because it is only when you yell for your own humanity that we can affirm our common humanity."
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