Economist Jeffrey Sachs Exhorts Graduates to “Change the World”
WALLA WALLA, Wash.— President George Bridges presided over Whitman College Commencement Ceremonies Sunday that honored a graduating class of 367 seniors. They were praised by speaker Jeffrey Sachs for the leadership they have already exhibited in such ways as creating Projects for Peace, joining the Peace Corps, studying environmental problems in the Caribbean and winning “countless” Fulbrights.
Sachs, widely considered the leading international economic adviser of his generation, is the director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University as well as Quetelet Professor of Sustainable Development and professor of health policy and management at Columbia. He serves as special adviser to United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, and from 2002-2006 he served as director of the United Nations Millennium Project as well as special adviser to U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan on the Millennium Development Goals, the internationally agreed-upon goals to reduce extreme poverty, disease and hunger by the year 2015.
Sachs quoted from a speech given by President John F. Kennedy at American University in June of 1963. “It changed the world,” said Sachs, because it urged Americans to look inward to find the path to peace, and not just look to the Soviet Union to change. Sachs credited this historic call for peace with ending the Cold War. “Your generation’s challenge,” he said, “will be living in peace on a crowded planet. Our generation has left you a bit of a mess.”
The generation now coming of age, said Sachs, has three major challenges: the extreme gap between rich and poor in the world; the threat of global degradation; and
the acceptance by the United States that it must live in peace with China, India and other rising powers as one nation among many, and not as a self-appointed superpower. The good news, he said, is that the resources are available and “Whitman has trained you for this.”
President George Bridges presented Paula England ’71 and Sachs each an Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree. England, professor of sociology at Stanford University, is a respected and influential expert on gender stratification.
Distinguished teaching awards were presented by President George Bridges to:
- Barry Balof, assistant professor of mathematics, the A.E. Lange Award for Distinguished Science Teaching;
- Halefom Belay, associate professor of economics, the Suzanne L. Martin Award for Excellence in Mentoring;
- Robert Bode, professor of music and the Alma Meisnest Endowed Chair of Humanities,the Thomas D. Howells Award for Distinguished Teaching in the Humanities;
- Melissa Clearfield, assistant professor of psychology, the G. Thomas Edwards Award for Excellence in Teaching and Scholarship.
- Kay Fenimore-Smith, assistant professor of education, the Robert Y. Fluno Award for Distinguished Teaching in the Social Science; and
- Jim Russo, associate professor of chemistry, the George Ball Award for Excellence in Advising;
The college awarded distinguished high-school and middle-school teaching awards to Kris Daughters ’93 from Liberty High School, Renton, Wash. and James Vaughn, Kopachuck Middle School, Gig Harbor, Wash. Each year Whitman recognizes two teachers nominated by Whitman College seniors who feel the teachers had a very positive impact on them.
At Saturday’s Baccalaureate program in Cordiner Hall, a crowd of several hundred students and their families joined Whitman faculty and staff for a series of short speeches and a musical interlude featuring current and former students Mollie Price ’08, Nathan Shiu ’05 and Lisa Taylor ’08.President Bridges welcomed the crowd and asked students to be mindful of “the opportunities that are afforded you” by four years of learning at Whitman.
Stuart Religious Counselor Adam Kirtley recalled a personal experience that found him caught in a hurricane in St. Croix as a metaphor for “centering” one’s life. Sharon Alker, assistant professor of English and general studies, talked about poetry as a metaphor for passion in life. Clare Carson, associate dean of students, spoke eloquently about separating truth from fiction in a world of political manipulation and immorality.Professor of Classics Dana Burgess reminded his audience that intellectual humility is “the protection against being sophomoric.”
CONTACT: Lenel Parish, Whitman College News Service, (509) 529-6228