Uploaded: Sunday, June 17, 2012, 3:15 PM
'Reject cynicism, stay faithful,' Stanford grads told
In university's 121st commencement, Hennessy confers 5,088 degrees
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|Newark, N.J., Mayor Cory Booker Sunday urged Stanford University graduates to "join a conspiracy of love" to create justice in the world, reject cynicism and "stay faithful" to their ideals.
The 1991 Stanford political science graduate, football player and Rhodes scholar relayed what he said were lessons from his father and grandfather, who continually reminded him his opportunities and successes were made possible by the earlier sacrifices of others.
Stanford President John Hennessy conferred 5,088 degrees in the university's 121st commencement ceremony, held in the sun-drenched stadium.
Of the undergraduate class of 1,763, 113 came from 50 countries outside the United States, Hennessy said. Of the 3,325 masters and doctoral recipients, 1,066 came from 70 countries outside the U.S.
In the traditional "Wacky Walk," graduating seniors strolled into the stadium with props, costumes and messages -- balloons, inflatable palm trees, representations of beer pong cups and the "Stanford bubble" and posters that included "thanks Mom and Dad," "Happy Father's Day," "Still Daddy'$ Little Girl" and "the only way from here is up."
Booker portrayed his efforts to improve conditions in Newark as a continuation of the civil rights and other struggles of his father's and grandfather's generations.
He said his father used to tell him, "You need to understand who you are now: you're the physical manifestation of a conspiracy of love -- people whose names you don't even know who struggled for you, sweated for you.
"If my parents saw me looking too big for my britches they'd say, 'Boy, don't you dare walk around this house like you hit a triple when you were born on third base,'" he said.
The son of African-American IBM executives, Booker grew up in the mostly white New Jersey suburb of Harrington Park but moved to crime-ridden Newark during his last year at Yale Law School.
"I was looking to be the man my father raised me to be," he said, relating stories of heroism by fellow tenants in the Newark housing project where he chose to live, and other extraordinary efforts by ordinary citizens. Those included an 80-year-old woman who swept her entire city block and a man who carried paint in his car to cover graffiti whenever he encountered it.
Rather than succumbing to "sedentary agitation," Booker said, "many people in my city know you do not go through life comfortable," he said.
"Democracy is not a spectator sport -- it's a difficult, hard, challenging, full-contact, competitive participatory endeavor."
Booker told of cradling a young gunshot victim as he died in his arms in 2004, saying the experience broke his spirit.
"I was broken. I was done. I went back to my apartment and tried to scrub the blood of this boy ... and felt my heart fill up with anger and darkness. What kind of world do we live in where everyone knows the name of JonBenet Ramsey and Natalee Holloway but they cannot name one black child killed in my city?
"What's going on that dozens of kids, of boys, of men are murdered every week?"
He was comforted by Virginia Jones, a tenant leader in his housing project, who had lost her own son to gun violence.
"She said, 'Come give me a hug.' I held this woman and wept in her arms. All she said was, 'Stay faithful, stay faithful,'" Booker said.
He urged the Stanford graduates to stay faithful to their ideals and "take the more difficult road" in life to fight injustice and to help unify people across party, religious and racial lines.
Hennessy reflected on the life of Richard Lyman, Stanford's seventh president who died May 27 at 88.
Provost from 1967 to 1970 and president from 1970 to 1980, Lyman "guided Stanford through some of the most difficult years in its history," Hennessy said, including protests, fires, various shutdowns and difficult financial challenges.
"Dick Lyman was a man of great strength, integrity, common sense and good humor," Hennessy said.
Provost John Etchemendy presented the Walter Gores Faculty Achievement awards to political science professor Stephen Haber, geological and environmental sciences professor George Hilley and economics doctoral student Luke Stein.
The Lloyd Dinkelspiel Awards for Outstanding Service to Undergraduate Education went to biology professor Carol Boggs, psychology course coordinator Brigitte Hard and graduating seniors Otis Reid and Michael Tubbs.
The Kenneth Cuthbertson Awards for service to the Stanford community went to Sally Dickson, associate vice-provost for student affairs and John Pearson, director of the Bechtel International Center.
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