Welcome, everybody. Mr. President, Mr. Provost, Madam Secretary, college deans,
colleagues, friends, families, move all, members of the class of 2023.
Welcome to this day and congratulations. [Cheers and Applause]
I call on the University Chaplain. » SHARON KUGLER: With deep
gratitude to the Quinnipiac ople for this land on ich stand, my beloved Yale Family, I
invite you to join me in the spirit of prayer. Almighty and loving God, you are
the One who gives us this day and all our days, in the majesty of this life moment, we, your
beloved children of different colors, creeds, generations, stories and tongues are gathered
in this place as one human family united in jubilant celebration.
We are filled with gratitude for our families, friends, teachers and guides.
Their arms have sheltered us, their shoulders have boosted us, and today their hearts soar for
us. Eternal God, it is you who calls us to our full humanity.
As we celebrate our accomplishments, we are humbled and overwhelmed by what lies
ahead. We live in a world fraught with heartache and our time at Yale
uncertainty, discovery and reconnection.
Steady us so that we may find ways to caress the beauty of your creation and let our souls
know true delight as we awaken to the wonder and mystery of our own unfolding lives.
Through the unity of mind and spirit, hold us ever close as we seek to leaven your world wisely
in the steadfast pursuit of your light and your truth. For this we say, Amen.
Om. That which pervades earth, sky, and heaven, which is worthy of
worship, that has no beginning, that which is the light of wisdom and truth, let us
meditate on the radiance of that divinity. May that brilliance help inspire
and illuminate our minds. That One which represents water, light, and is the quintessence
in all things. May that almighty spirit pervading the earth, atmosphere,
and heaven bless us with enlightenment. » Send forth Your light and
Your truth, they will lead me, they will bring me to Your holy mountain, to Your
dwelling-place, that I may come to the altar of God, God, my delight, my joy, that I may
praise You with thharp O God, my God. » You are the light of the
world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid.
No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it
gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light ine fore others, so that
they may see your good works and give glory to your God in heaven.
God is the Light of the heavens and earth. The likeness of His light is
that of a niche, in which there is a lamp. The lamp is in a glass.
The glass is, as it were, a brilliant star, lit from a blessed tree, an olive tree
neither theast nor of the West, whose oil seems to glow even though no fire has touched
it. Light upon Light! God guides whom He wills to His
light. God makes parables for humanity, and God has knowledge of
♪ Joyful, joyful, we adore thee, God of glory, Lord of love ♪ ♪ Hearts unfold like flowers
before thee, opening to the sun above ♪ ♪ Melt the clouds of sin and
sadness, drive the dark of doubt away ♪ ♪ Giver of immortal gladness,
fill us with the light of day ♪ ♪ All thy works with joy surround thee, earth and heaven
reflect thy rays ♪ ♪ Stars and angels sing around thee, center of unbroken
praise ♪ ♪ Field and forest, vale and mountain, flowery meadow,
flashing sea ♪ ♪ Chanting bird and flowing fountain, call us to rejoice in
thee ♪ ♪ Mortals, join the mighty chorus which the morning stars
began ♪ ♪ Love divine is reigning o’er us, binding all within its
span ♪ ♪ Ever singing, march we onward, Vick victors in the midst of
strife ♪ ♪ Joyful music leads us sun ward in the triumph song of life ♪
DEAN LEWIS: Graduates, parents, friends, President Salovey, Chaplain
Kugler, ancolleagues on the faculty and staff, on this occasion, Baccalaureate, it is
customary for the President to deliver an address and for the Dean of Yale College to offer a
reading. Although this is only my first year as dean, I’ve been teaching
at Yale for a quarter of a century, and I find the opportunity to watch the class
of 2023 over the past few years. Most of you came here in 2019 and experienced the pandemic as
a disruption to your first year and sophomore year. hers arrived elier a too
some time off from your studies. Only recently have we had the opportunity to reestablish many
Yale traditions in person. It has been a challenging time to be a college student, but you
have overcome obstacles and have thrived here at Yale. I am reminded of some lines from
one of my favorite bands, the Grateful Dead. Sometimes the light’s all
shining on me, Other times I can barely see. Lately it occurs to me What a
long, strange trip it’s been. [Cheers and Applause] I wasn’t going to sing it,
Peter. But even though the last four or five years have been a
remarkable journey, I am delighted to see you all set out on an even longer and perhaps
stranger journey ahead, and I have no doubt that you will thrive in the world beyond the
college gates. So I have chosen a poem about a journey for today’readg.
Constantine Cavafy, a modern Greek poet born in Alexandria, Egypt, often rewrote stories
from the ancient world. In his poem Ithaka, he addresses a person setting out on a
journey. Although the addressee is not named, it seems to be Homer’s
Odysseus, one of the most famous Travelers in literature, who is setting out on a journey to his
home on the Greek island of Ithaka. But as Cavafy addresses his
traveler, I think each of you can imagine that he is speaking directly to you in this
transla. Ithaka. As you set out for Ithaka Hope
your road is a long one, Full of adventure, full of discovery. Laistrygonians, Cyclops, Angry
Poseidon – don’t be afraid of them: You’ll never find things like
that on your way As long as you keep your thoughts raised high, As long as a rare excitement
Stirs your spirit and your body. Laistrygonia, Cyclops, Wild Poseidon – you won’t encounter
them Unless you bring them along inside your soul, Unless your soul sets them up in front of
you. Hope your road is a long one. May there be many summer
mornings when, With what pleasure, what joy, You enter harbors you’re seeing for the
first time, May you stop at Phoenician trading stations To buy fine things, Mother-of-pearl
and coral, amber and ebony, Sensual perfume of every kind – As many sensual perfumes as you
can, And may you visit many Egyptian cities To learn and go on learning from their scholars.
Keep Ithaka always in your mind. Arriving there is what you’re destined for.
But don’t hurry the journey at all. Better if it lasts for years, So
you’re old by the time you reach the island, Wealthy with all you’ve gained on the way, Not
expecting Ithaka to make you rich. Ithaka gave you the marvelous
journey. Without her you wouldn’t have set out.
She hanothg left to givu now. And if you find her poor, Ithaka
won’t have fooled you. Wise as you will have become, so full of experience, You’ll have
understood by then what these Ithakas mean. Graduates of the class of 2023,
I wish you success and self-discovery on the journey ahead of you.
Thank you, and congratulations! [Applause]
♪ Alleluia ♪
[Cheers and Applause]
PRESIDENT SALOVEY: Graduates of the class of 2023, family members, and friends, it gives
me great pleasure to welcome you and to offer you a few words this morning.
First, there is a wonderful Yale tradition that I would like to honor right now.
May I ask all the families and friends here today to rise and recognize the outstanding – and
graduating – members of the class of 2023. [Cheers and Applause]
And now, may I ask the class of 2023 to consider all those who have supported your arrival at
this milestone, and to please rise and recognize them. [Cheers and Applause]
That concludes the aerobic exercise portion of our program. Today, as we assemble at an
inflection point in your lives – between “the shortest, gladdest years of life” and
exciting new chapters that lie beyondhem – I want discu the importance of community
engagement here in New Haven and in your future. Raise your hand if you
participated in a service organization on campus or in the local community during your time
at Yale. That’s a lot of hands. It’s a lot of hands, but I’m not
surprised,ecause I know that nearly all of you have immersed yourselves in the work
of civic betterment in one form or another over the past four years.
Despite the rigors of your studies, you have promoted literacy with New Haven Reads,
brought the basics of computer science to public school classrooms through Code Haven,
and tutored immigrants for whom English is not a first language as Bridges ESL volunteers.
You have likewise helped to alleviate housing and food insecurity through the Yale
Hunger and Homelessness Action Projec suprted your student neighbors as Walden peer
counselors, and engaged in remedial climate action with the Urban Resources Initiative.
Even on the heels of final exams last week, many of you volunteered in Yale Day of
Service activities. You have, collectively, pursued unfinished work in our
society – and affirmed what Coretta Scott King observed on this campus in 1969, that
“students want to start today on the world of tomorrow.” Although not necessarily learned
in the classroom, this spirit of service is every bit part of what makes a Yale education
distinctive. And in all, we estimate that you and your classmates contributed
a remarkable 150,000 hours each year you were here to community-based causes.
Rather than reflect on how your work in this community will reverberate long after you exit
Phelps Gate, though, I want to implore you to replicate it no matter where you go next.
For several years now, even before the Covid-19 pandemic, this country has seen a decline
in social capital and the value we derive from positive connections among people.
litil scientist Robert Putnam diagnosed this decay through something that used to
be pretty common in my time as a teenager in Buffalo, New York – bowling leagues.
Putnam, an eminent Yale alumnus, observed that more Americans are bowling, but fewer in organized
leagues. So, he used the vivid metaphor of “bowling alone” to represent
the breakdown of traditional social networks in contemporary society.
As a touchstone of his thesis, Putnam pointed to a reduction in membership among organizations
like PTAs, the Red Cross, and Lions Clubs from mid-20th century peaks.
He found, in short, that we are “dropping out in droves … from organized community life.”
In the two decades since “Bowling Alone”’s publication,
depicted a sharp decrease in community involvement. The hours donated annually by
volunteers, for example, halved between the start of the century and your first year at Yale.
And the national volunteering rate dropped an additional 7 percentage points by the time
you were a junior. So, what happens when social ties weaken?
Certainly, something is lost in our communities. We also retreat into ourselves.
We become isolated. And we feel lonely. Surveys indicate the alarming
prevalence of these feelings. 60% of Americans, including a full 75% of younger people like
yourselves, now struggle with loneliness. Some weeks ago, this frayed
social fabric compelled U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, also a Yale alumnus, to declare
a loneliness epidemic in America. The ramifications for our health
and wellbeing are wide-ranging, he says, but an antidote is within reach.
As Dr. Murthy remarked last semester at Yale, community service activities “connect [us]
with somebody deeply on something that matters … but also reaffirm to us that we have
value to bring to the world. And they help [to] rebuild that esteem which gets shredded when
we are lonely.” Of course, service activities are as salutary for society as
they are for ourselves. Social capital can contribute to positive outcomes in education,
children’s welfare, the safety of our neighborhoods, economic prosperity, and even democracy
itself. Our civic and social lives form the mortar of American
society – and a pillar of public health. We must, therefore, redouble our
resolve to rescue them. In doing so, we should be mindful of a distinction
articulated by philosopher John Dewey, on whom Yale bestowed an honorary degree in 1951.
Many social reformers, he lamented, however noble their intentions, have failed to meet
their ambitions “because they were committed to doing good for rather than with others.”
So, for our part, we aspire to make Yale the most civically engaged university by
strengthening the ties that bind us to our host city, New Haven. Like most of you, I arrived in
New Haven as a visitor. I remember my first days at Yale as an entering graduate student
in 1981, blown away by the beauty of the stone ildings and by the tastiness of the
local pizza. Over the next four decades, I discovered that New Haven is a
fascinating and vibrant community in which to live. The Elm City quickly became my
and Marta’s home, and an integral part of our identities. Your time here may well be
shorter than ours, although I urge you to consider adding your talents to the rich mix of what
makes this a great place to work anlive. But whether you remain in New
Haven or not after graduation, we all experience a distinct bond between Yale and our home
city. And the depth of that relationship was reflected most
recently by the historic pledge to extend our lead as the institution that makes the
largest annual voluntary financial contribution of any U.S. college or university to
its home city. [Applause] But a university’s
responsibility to its host city goes beyond financial contributions – what Dewey
might have deemed “worthwhile ends.” It should be intellectual.
It should be innovative. And it should be human. It should be with as well as
for. The metaphor of the ivory tower walled off from its
surroundings – and, at Yale, protected by moats and gates – is no longer apt.
What is real, instead, is a social contract in which we willingly and readily obligate
ourselves to the welfare of one another. So, our task – even as we
increase our voluntary payments – is to reinforce our culture of engagement.
Alum such exemplify this ideal. A native of Cleveland, Ohio,
1983 graduate of Yale College, and, as with about 20% of you, the first in her family to
attend college, Patricia has dedicated her career to helping young people in our community.
For over a decade, she has led New Haven Promise, a Yale-funded scholarship and career
development ogram that is one of our most treasured collaborations.
Patricia’s inspired work delivers the dream of college for scores of young people who
otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford it. Importantly, the Promise program
encourages college students to return to New Haven following graduation just as she did.
The results have been superb. By the end of this decade, we expect to have welcomed back
thounds of Promiselumni o will accelerate the renaissance well under way in our city
alongside many other Yale initiatives, such as the recently established Pennington
Fellowship and the Center for Inclusive Growth. And soon we also look forward to
joining the Mayor’s recently announced tutoring program for New Haven schoolchildren.
It is heartening to consider these extraordinary community partnerships that alumni like
Patricia unleash – and, as Yale’s newest graduates, you can soon enrich.
Before we say farewell, I wish to hearken back to when we first met.
You may recall that four years ago, I penned an open letter to welcome the class of 2023.
In it, I asked you to consider a series of questions, among them, why are we here?
Why is Yale here? What is our purpose? Of course, improving the world
through research and education is Yale’s mission. The crises that surround us –
pressing in nature and often planetary in scale – compel the class of 2023 to mobilize its
unique gifts for a world in need. And the liberal education you
have acquired at Yale has prepared you well to do so. Look closely, though, and you
will see that in a pithy mission statement dedicated to articulating our university’s
entire purpose, Yale puts equal emphasis on where we hope to achieve it.
Indeed, as we devote ourselves to improving the world, we retain our focus on the
“interdependent community” in which this work is advanced, ever attuned to our immediate
social surroundings. As Justice Sonia Sotomayor said to Yale Day of Service
participants some years ago, our tradition of civic work “is expressed in many ways,
including in City Halls, in Statehouses, in Congress, in the cabinet – and yes, even on the
Supreme Court. But this tradition of service,” she continued, “is also
powerfully expressed daily by countless Yale graduates fired by spirit of generosity.
By relief workers amidst disasters. Mentors in urban schools.
Volunteers in parks, libraries, and museums, and in so many other roles.”
I think, for instance, of a former student of mine, Caroline Tanbee Smith, whose love for
this city was catalyzed by her President’s Public Service Fellowship.
Caroline stayed in New Haven after graduating from Yale College.
And in 2017, she co-founded a nonprofit community accelerator dedicated to making
entrepreneurship more accessible, particularly for low-income community members,
women, and people of color, helping them to create new jobs and generate millions of dollars
in revenue for this region. “Those efforts, your efforts,” Justice Sotomayor said, “may not
suly make a difference.” most Indeed, your efforts as students engaged in service showcase why
the “where” of Yale’s mission statement matters. Your efforts show that the
transformative is within reach. That there is marvelous grandeur in the constellation of
seemingly small acts of service with and for each other that together constitute a thriving
civic life on this campus. The sum of your contributions has brought immense pride to
Yale, and an equal measure of progress to our community. Here you have heeded Bob Dylan
and “strapped yourself to a tree with roots,” and nourished them. Of course, we hope some of you
will consider his next refrain, also – “you ain’t going nowhere” – and join us right
here in New Haven. But for those of you who will soon disperse around the
globe – also a fine outcome – we hope, too, that you will reprise what you have done here.
We hope that you will be known as much for your curiosity of mind as your generosity of
spirit. We hope that wherever it is upon life’s sea you sail, you will
arrive there not only as proud alumni of this university but as emissaries of its ethos, ready,
once again, to raise your hand and engage. Congratulations, class of 2023!
[Cheers and Applause]
♪ God of all people, whose almighty hand ♪ ♪ Leads us forth in beauty all
the starry band ♪ ♪ Of shining worlds in splendor through the skies ♪
♪ Our grateful songs before thy throne arise ♪ ♪ Thy love divine hath led us in
the past ♪ ♪ In this free land by thee our lot is cast ♪
♪ Be thou our ruler, guardian, guide, and stay ♪ ♪ Thy word our law, thy paths
our chosen way ♪ ♪ Refresh thy people in their toilsome way ♪
♪ Lead us from night to never-ending day ♪ ♪ Fill our lives with love and
grace divine ♪ ♪ And glory, laud, and praise be ever thine ♪
MAYTAL SALTIEL: May God bless you and keep you. May the Eternal show you favor
and be gracious to you. May the Holy One cause light to shine upon you, and grant you
peace. And let us say, Amen.