July 7, 2004: From the Editor
Much has been made of the similarities between this year’s Commencement and the Commencement of 1970, from the humming of the cicadas to the fact that today, as in 1970, students marched through FitzRandolph Gate into a world divided by a war.
Yet Princeton today is a very different place than it was in 1970, with different graduates. This year’s Class Day keynoter was a comedian, Jon Stewart; in 1970, it was antiwar senator George McGovern. This year, the entire Class of 2004 joined the P-rade, its rowdy rite of passage into alumni-hood; in 1970, most seniors abstained, sending instead their class president, Stewart Dill, to deliver “a dramatic symbol of our conviction that time-honored practices must yield to more urgent business,” as he explained then.
Instead of the traditional Latin salutatory address at Commencement, two 1970 seniors, Michael Jeffrey Calhoun and Alvin H. Strelnick, offered a “Senior Dialogue” that sought to explain students’ actions against the widening war, including a student strike that replaced classes with activities against U.S. policy in Southeast Asia. “We have been asked why ‘business as usual’ and time-calloused traditions are no longer an adequately human or dignified response to these times,” Strelnick explained at the ceremony, and together, the two seniors sought to provide a response. This year, of course, Princeton did have a Latin salutatory address, delivered by a senior wearing a polka-dot hat, not an armband with the words “Together for Peace.”
On our Web site, PAW offers documents from the Commencement season 34 years ago (click each to read more):
the Commencement dialogue and
the thought-provoking address given by President Goheen at Baccalaureate.
Seniors at this year’s Commencement adhered to old traditions, but that should not suggest that they are oblivious to the world beyond Fitz-Randolph Gate. This year’s valedictorian, Ruth Tennen, discussed what is perhaps the most important quality of young people hoping to repair the world: the ability, and willingness, to question the common wisdom and those deemed to be “intellectual superiors.” She thanked Princeton for giving students the confidence to “challenge the status quo and find solutions that defy traditional thinking.” That’s something we all could use these days.