Stanford classes of ’20 and ’22 gather for Baccalaureate ceremonies
This year’s two Baccalaureate speakers called on graduates to see the interconnectedness of the world and to diversify their lives in the face of adversity.
Students of the Stanford classes of 2020 and 2022 gathered for dual Baccalaureate ceremonies Friday at Frost Amphitheater. The events marked the start of Stanford’s Commencement Weekend celebrations for both classes.
Baccalaureate is a celebratory gathering that takes place each year ahead of Commencement. Organized by the Office of Religious & Spiritual Life, the ceremony convenes graduating seniors, graduate and professional students, as well as their families and friends, to acknowledge the spiritual contribution to the education of the whole person.
The Baccalaureate ceremony for the Class of 2022 took place at 10 a.m. The ceremonial address was delivered by Dr. Simran Jeet Singh, a professor, author, and advocate.
The Class of 2020 – which has returned to Stanford following a two-year delay of their Commencement celebrations due to the pandemic – gathered at 4 p.m. for their Baccalaureate ceremony. The address was delivered by Rev. Yvette Flunder, pastor of the City of Refuge United Church of Christ in Oakland, California.
Both ceremonies opened with processionals, followed by welcome remarks from Rev. Dr. Tiffany Steinwert, dean for religious and spiritual life, who reflected on the importance of gathering for Baccalaureate following the challenges of the past two years. She told both classes, “We are more than the sum of our pandemic experiences,” and reminded graduates that Stanford is not itself without each of them.
The ceremonies included an acknowledgment of the indigenous land on which Stanford lies, as well as musical performances and poetic reflections by students. Dr. Amina Darwish, associate dean and advisor for Muslim life, also led moments of silence, accompanied by the ringing of a Buddhist singing bowl, to honor the Stanford students who passed away in recent years: John Taylor Chipman, Jacob Meisel, Kathryn Diane Meyer, Dylan Alexander Simmons, Eitan Michael Weiner, Langston Bruce Wesley, and Mischa Nee.
2022 Baccalaureate speaker: oneness, love, and service
In his address to the Class of 2022, Singh, a follower of Sikhism, recalled racist incidents from his youth and how he wished he’d responded to them differently. But in the following years, three principles of Sikh philosophy would transform his life by helping him better understand himself and his relationship to other people, and he encouraged graduates to apply them to their own lives.
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The first is oneness, or Ik oankar, which is the interconnectedness of our world and the belief that there is a single divine force that binds us all together. “It’s the capacity to see ourselves in one another, rather than seeing ourselves in opposition to one another,” he said, adding that Sikh teachings assert that once we engage in a practice of seeing connectedness, we can then begin feeling it.
“This state of constant connection, tasting the daily sweetness of life – we all know that feeling because we’ve all felt it before,” he said. “That feeling is love.”
Singh said that we are most alive when we feel connected, and we’re most afflicted when we’re apart. “When we love, we live. When we don’t love, we die.”
And finally, love, he said, inspires the third principle of service, or seva in the Sikh tradition. Great love for humanity, he said, will show itself by acting for the good of others.
“Imagine what our world could be if all of our social movements [and] social structures were infused with these principles – oneness, love, and seva,” he said.
2020 Baccalaureate speaker: prepare for a ‘paradigm shift’
In her address to the Class of 2020, Rev. Yvette Flunder recalled the difficulties of the past two years of the COVID-19 pandemic, which she called a “paradigm shift” that forced graduates and the world to change plans. To manage such devastating and unexpected challenges, she urged graduates to broaden the scope of their lives.
Go to the web site to view the video.
“Don’t put all of your gifts on any one thing and any one idea. Diversify,” she said, noting the importance of viewing the possibilities of life panoramically. “When one thing fails – when you have mastered a diversified life – other things will pick up the slack.”
She also urged them to learn from their past mistakes, just as she has. “My mistakes were the things that honed me, shifted my attitude, [and] gave me strength for the next thing,” she said.
Flunder assured graduates that they are better today because of the challenges they’ve faced over the last two years and throughout their lives. And while the world today may feel like a “perfect storm” of challenges – such as global health crises, environmental destruction, and discrimination against marginalized communities – Flunder told graduates that they were meant for this moment.
“You were actually called to this peculiar time,” she said, urging them to use their skills to create meaningful change in the world. “It just takes a few determined, focused people to move the world and there is enough ability, intelligence, and education and spit and fire in this graduating class to move the world.”
Read the Baccalaureate address to the Class of 2022 from Dr. Simran Jeet Singh.