Gee urges Class of 2005 to reknit our shared culture  printer 

Vanderbilt Graduate Olako Agburu with the A&S school (center) throws her hands in the air as they are recognized by Chancellor Gee.

by Jim Patterson

Vanderbilts Class of 2005 was urged by Chancellor Gordon Gee to reject politicians, profiteers and pundits intent on polarization and be a source of loving kindness that helps bring people together.

Continue to defy category, Gee exhorted. Continue to surprise those who would put you in a neat demographic. Be insistently curious.

Gee delivered the commencement address on May 13 to Vanderbilts 130th class of graduates. A total of 2,468 graduates attended, 1,423 undergraduates and 1,045 recipients of graduate or professional degrees. Gee addressed the entire class on Alumni Lawn before the graduate and professional degree students went on to receive their degrees in separate ceremonies.

Noting that the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks occurred shortly after the 130th class started its freshman year, Gee said that the hateful and divisive culture that followed was exceedingly strange. He offered as a solution the Buddhist concept of metta, an attitude of loving kindness toward the other side in a conflict.

You are the ones whom it falls upon to reknit our shared culture, to reweave it back into whole cloth, Gee said. It becomes your task to set things right. And the way which you find to do that will be the way you show the merit of your Vanderbilt diploma.

 Gee singled out some students for good-natured chiding, including a campus publication editor who reported his death as a joke and a student who dressed as Gee -- in a rat costume during a protest.

I am so grateful to have had him as an annoyance, and the fact that hes out of here, Gee said of David Barzelay, who reported Gees demise in a satirical story in Slant magazine. So I wish him well today.

The Chancellor praised two campus groups the anti-abortion Vanderbilt Students for Life and the pro-choice Vanderbilt Feminists who worked together to educate students on reproductive options.

Their accomplishment was a practice of metta, Gee said. They came together to support women in need, and their coming together for the Pregnancy Resource Forum was an absolutely shining moment in the universitys history.

Laura Folse of Vanderbilt Students for Life and Katharyn Christian of Vanderbilt Feminists are part of the 130th Vanderbilt class.

As one who holds a Vanderbilt degree, you are not allowed to burn with hatred that goes nowhere, and that does no one any good, but only deals severance and pain, Gee said. Ladies and gentleman, the good news is you do not even have to adapt or change. All you have to do is continue as you have done here, with a little extra emphasis because, in an ideologically divided culture, the spirit can get ragged more rapidly than it can at a university.

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Posted 5/13/05

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