Commencement, 2009

 W. Taylor Reveley, III
May 17, 2009

Since the inception of our nation men and women from the College of William and Mary have served with distinction in the United States armed forces. That tradition today is represented by our Army ROTC program. Yesterday the United States Army commissioned 8 William and Mary students. One of our students was also commissioned into the Marine Corps. And, yesterday, we celebrated the first graduate of our new Coast Guard Auxiliary detachment, the first such Coast Guard unit in the country. Would you all please stand?

William and Mary has a long tradition of preparing public school teachers, K through 12, to serve Virginia and the nation. Please stand if you have received teaching certification.    

To recognize the global reach of William and Mary, I ask all of our graduates who have studied, worked, or served abroad during their careers at the College, to stand and be recognized.

Finally, there is the generosity of our graduates. The undergraduates have broken their prior record with 76 percent participation. The law school's graduates had 83 percent participation. Together, members of our graduating classes have pledged nearly $200,000 to the university, with the undergraduates leading the way. This investment in William and Mary bodes well for the College's future.

At William & Mary graduations, the President gets the last word. We have sat long enough. This will be brief.
Academic year 2008/09 has been good to William & Mary despite the economic flapdoodle in which we, along with the rest of the galaxy, are all mired. Let me cite just a few examples of why this academic year has gone so well. 

During 2008/09, the university made amazingly quick and meaningful progress in strategic planning. The greatest building boom in our history continued to transform the campus. We searched for, and found, three marvelous new leaders for the university - a new provost, a new law school dean, and a new vice president for student affairs. Our Committee on Sustainability, created last fall, got in gear with remarkable speed and is even now having a very positive impact on the campus environment. And our 2009 graduates began "giving back" to their alma mater in very heartening fashion, as we've just heard.

I could go on and on but the picture is clear.

Now Graduates, let me end by singing a song of praise to you and your tribe - well actually, I'll spare you hearing me sing. Let me belt out praise in tuneless but heart-felt prose.

In the few years most of you have had, so far, to make something of yourselves, you have already moved mountains. Your academic excellence and athletic prowess, your sweeping commitment to serve others and your vibrant interest in the world at large, your grasp of the reality that embracing diversity, not shrinking from it, is key to success in the 21st century - all this and more make you very promising people.

It's going to be fascinating for your alma mater to follow your progress, to see what you've accomplished in a decade, by 2019, and then again to see where you are in life in a quarter century, in 2034, when you come back to this exquisite campus for your 25th reunion, to move again along its red brick walks running as far the eye can see, amid verdant lawns and legions of boxwood, with countless trees in every vista. Your university - your beautiful, ancient, august College of William & Mary - is enormously proud of you, and it expects a lot of you going forward because it knows what you can do.

2009 graduates, you in turn are entitled to expect a lot of your alma mater, going forward. You are entitled to the pleasure and satisfaction of seeing William & Mary move powerfully into the 21st century, your century. As you know, William & Mary has lived already in all or parts of five centuries, with millennia yet to go. The 21st century can easily prove to be our university's most productive - and glorious - to date, eclipsing even the century when George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Monroe and John Marshall walked William & Mary's precincts.

William & Mary is a university of compelling academic distinction. It has roots in America of unsurpassed depth and strength. It is on the move to become one of the greatest liberal arts universities in the world.

So, graduates, just as William & Mary expects a lot from you, you expect a lot from it. Once you leave the campus, look back in love but with a demanding, indeed relentless, eye at your alma mater, to be sure it keeps growing in excellence, in service, and in stature. And don't just look back with affection and a burning eye, do your part to ensure your alma mater keeps moving powerfully into this, your, century, growing in excellence, in service, in stature. Do your part!

William & Mary is for life, not simply for a few years on campus. Those of us linked to it are stewards of a great inheritance. Until we shuffle off our mortal coils and who knows - maybe thereafter - we are part of this marvelous place and stewards of all it has meant and can mean for the greater good.

So, 2009 graduates, wherever you end up on the globe, seek out the other William & Mary graduates and form a mutually supportive tribe. That is the beauty of William & Mary's concept of the tribe. As a member of the Board of Visitors has explained, "The Tribe is not just a personal or group identity. It describes a relationship. You can't be a tribe of one. If you are a member of a tribe, you are connected to everyone else in the tribe - this connectedness is what puts the muscle in Tribe Pride and puts the heart in the Tribe community."

2009 graduates, just as William & Mary cannot contain its pride in you, do not contain your pride in William & Mary.

When he accepted the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1962, the American author John Steinbeck said: "I am impelled, not to squeak like a grateful or apologetic mouse, but to roar like a lion out of pride in my profession." Graduates, roar like lions out of pride in your Tribe, the College of William & Mary, and out of pride in yourselves!  Both the College and you, in my judgment, deserve sustained roaring. Enough from me!  Now it's time for everyone, each of us, all of us together, to burst into robust roaring in salute to our royal progenitors and to our 2009 graduates. Then we will sing the alma mater and move out of this hall.

Here's the drill. It's time to cheer King William and Queen Mary - without them, we wouldn't be there. And then it's time to cheer the 2009 graduates. If they had not made their way through the academic wilds with their fur intact, we wouldn't be here either. These salutes will be call & response - I'll call, you respond. I will call for a salute to William, and all the men in the hall will shout William three times, then I will call Mary, and all the women will do her justice. Then I'll call for a salute to 2009 graduates, and we will all roar 09 three times. Let's practice. Men - William!  Women - Mary!  Everyone -09.