Johns Hopkins Gazette: May 28, 1996

U.N.'s Ogata
Encourages Class
of 1996 To Go
Forth With

George Bush: Former
president tells
grads to be
don't neglect
University chaplin Sharon Kugler called commencement day, "a bittersweet crossroads of past and future. A fragile day in which each moment is precious to students and their families and friends."

It was also an absolutely glorious day. The record-setting mid-May heat wave of just the day before was replaced by a pleasant, warm breeze as Johns Hopkins celebrated more than 4,500 new graduates.

During all the pomp and circumstance, the university also paused to thank interim-President Daniel Nathans and longtime board of trustees chairman Morris W. Offit for jobs well done.

During the university-wide commencement ceremony Wednesday, chairman-emeritus Offit--who will remain on the board under new chairman Michael Bloomberg--surprised Nathans with an honorary degree.

"Accepting the trustees' call to step temporarily out of your laboratory and into the president's office was a major sacrifice," read Offit from the citation conferring on Nathans the Degree of Doctor of Humane Letters. "You have been a model of able leadership ... calm and compassionate in time of crisis, an effective voice for Johns Hopkins both on campus and off."

Nathans, a Nobel laureate in microbiology, returns to his School of Medicine lab later this summer when William R. Brody-- who attended the ceremony--takes office as Hopkins' 13th president.

Then, saying turnaround is fair play, Nathans surprised Offit with an honorary degree.

In his citation, Nathans said, "A trustee doesn't lead a seminar. A trustee doesn't shepherd medical students through rounds or help a young poet find her voice. A trustee doesn't discover black holes, or identify a critical gene, or unearth and interpret the past.

"But, more than anyone else, a trustee makes these things possible."

What is possible was very much on the minds of those marking the occasion.

Sadako Ogata, the commencement's principal speaker--and honorary degree recipient--made a low-key but poignant plea for graduates "to make our planet more peaceful, livable and humane." The United Nations' high commissioner for refugees told her audience that in a world that seems beset by contradictory trends of economic prosperity and abject poverty, we should never forget that many members of our society were refugees. "Einstein was a refugee," she said.

As the international advocate for more than 27 million people displaced by war from their homelands and often persecuted for their political beliefs, she urged graduates to "resist the temptation to close your eyes and ears and to concentrate on immediate domestic concerns. Rather, we can and must all contribute to the search for progress and stability in forming a global neighborhood based on fundamental common values."

Former President George Bush echoed Ogata's theme of neighborliness in his speech to the undergraduates later that day. Looking relaxed and tanned, the 72-year-old Bush smiled broadly as mounting cheers and applause seemed to carry him through the processional and onto the dais. Although he took a light and often self-deprecating approach in his remarks, his message was pointed and consistent with ideas identified with his presidency.

There is not one single problem in the country today that cannot be solved by "the neighbor-helping-neighbor spirit that made this country the kindest, gentlest and the strongest in the entire world," Bush said. "For each of you, Johns Hopkins has been a wonderful place of possibilities. This standard of excellence has been for each of you a place of possibilities. ... Now the time has come for you to put in the hard work and the sacrifice and dedication that transforms these possibilities into reality. Do it all. But do it without neglect of family.

"A Yale teacher once said, 'Whatever you can dream you can do.' Begin it, for today has power, boldness and magic in it. ... Be bold in your dreaming, be bold in your living, be bold in your caring, your compassion, your humanity. Then, when you sit at your grandchild's commencement half a century from now, you'll look back at the tapestry of your life and find it good. And that will be the greatest success of all."

The texts of speeches made by Sadako Ogata and George Bush, as well as other commencement-related information, can be located on the World Wide Web by pointing your browser to

Go back to Previous Page

Go to Gazette Homepage