The College of Saint Elizabeth celebrated the arrival of the Class of 2016 at the annual Academic Convocation on September 12, 2012. The day began with the new class being led in procession by the faculty in their academic robes. Once seated in Dolan Performance Hall, the group was greeted by CSE President Sister Francis Raftery.
Then Amanda Mercado, ’13, president of the CSE Student Government Association, stepped up to the podium. Addressing the crowd, she welcomed them, saying, “Today we celebrate the arrival of new students with a coming together of the campus community.”
This year’s speaker was Jon Meacham, award-winning author and former editor of Newsweek, who centered his remarks on promoting healing in the aftermath of what will more than likely be a divisive election.
In his speech, Healing a Nation Post Election 2012, Meacham began with a quote from St. Augustine, saying, “A nation should be defined by the common objects of a people’s love.” What Americans prize most, he says, is liberty; i.e., the freedom of movement, to study, to think, and to become the best they can be. “America has always been at its best when we opened our arms wider, when we made room for the stranger, when we cared for the sick,” he observed. He further commented that the country has become more polarized in the last two decades, helped by a media seemingly more interested in perpetuating the conflicts than presenting the issues.
In his remarks, he called for greater civility in political discourse and the development of respect for the opinions of others. “The campaigns are unfolding, the debates that will unfold after the campaign will be ferocious and divisive,” he says. “Every day will seem like Armageddon because both sides often have an investment in keeping the sense of constant conflict.
“Remember, as you watch the news and keep an eye on things and as you engage in a study of the past, we have met obstacles and overcame them. We have done it by opening our arms wider and have included, instead of excluded. And always, always, remember, the other guys may just have a point.”
His message rang true to an academic community that has dedicated itself to scholarship and critical inquiry, fostered in an environment of service, social responsibility, and respect for others. Afterwards, the new class gathered with other students, faculty, and staff members for group discussions. As the class of 2016 votes in their first presidential election, they will hopefully weigh the advice they heard today to make responsible and heart-felt choices.
Convocation ended with a campus-wide picnic where students, faculty, and staff came together to launch academic year 2012-2013.