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Lafayette awarded 518 bachelor’s degrees to 509 graduating seniors and honorary doctorates to five distinguished leaders, including the Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Doris Kearns Goodwin, at the College’s 166th Commencement May 19.

In her commencement address, Goodwin urged the graduates to include equal time for work, love, and play in their lives.

“To pursue one of these spheres to the disregard of the others is to open oneself to ultimate sadness in older age, whereas to pursue all three with equal dedication is to make possible an old age filled with serenity, peace, and fulfillment,” she said. She challenged the students to “find work imbued with meaning, work that provides fulfillment on a daily basis. If you choose a career for money or prestige or power or security, but dislike going to work more days than not, it will never be worth it in the long run.”

See below for more of Doris Kearns Goodwin’s remarks.

Lafayette President Arthur J. Rothkopf awarded Goodwin the honorary degree of Doctor of Letters. Rabbi Leonard I. Beerman, the founding rabbi of Leo Baeck Temple, Los Angeles, Calif., delivered an address at the morning’s baccalaureate service in and was awarded an honorary Doctor of Divinity.

Other honorands were Alan R. Griffith, the vice chairman of the Bank of New York and a member of Lafayette’s Class of 1964 (Doctor of Laws); Franklin D. Raines, the chairman and CEO of Fannie Mae Corporation and former director of the U.S. Office of Management and Budget (Doctor of Laws); and Charles Coulston Gillispie, the Dayton-Stocker Professor Emeritus of History and professor emeritus of the history of science at Princeton University (Doctor of Science).

Lafayette trustee Wilbur W. Oaks, Class of 1951, was presented the College’s highest honor, the Lafayette Medal for Distinguished Service, by Lawrence J. Ramer, Class of 1950, the chairman of the board of trustees. Oaks is a professor of medicine at MPC Hahnemann Medical School.

Bora Tokyay of Roanoke, Va., delivered farewell remarks for the class of 2001. The recipient of the George Wharton Pepper Prize, awarded to the senior who most closely represents the “Lafayette Ideal,” Tokyay received a B.S. degree in civil engineering and an A.B. degree in international economics and commerce, summa cum laude.

The first student to receive his diploma was Douglas Fish of Londonderry, Vt., who earned the highest cumulative grade point average in the class. He received a B.S. degree in mechanical engineering, summa cum laude.

Meredith H. Kirsch of Oceanside, N.Y., the chair of the Class of 2001 gift committee, presented the class gift of $8,743, the largest gift in the history of the annual senior-class fund drive.

Rothkopf recognized two retiring faculty members who have been elected to emeritus status, Joseph A. Sherma, John D. and Frances H. Larkin Professor of Chemistry, and James P. Schwar ’57, professor of computer science.

Rothkopf recognized Ramer, who is retiring from the board of trustees after 26 years of service, the last nine as chair. Ramer has been elected an emeritus trustee.

Rothkopf; Christopher W. Gray, the dean of studies; and James Woolley, the Smith Professor of English and clerk of the faculty, conferred the degrees upon the graduates.

166th Commencement, May 19, 2001

Address by Doris Kearns Goodwin

(Speaker begins with brief introductory remarks not transcribed.)

. . . So I did end up working for [Lyndon Johnson] in the White House the last year of his presidency and then accompanying him to his ranch the last four years of his life to help him on his memoirs.

Now on the surface he should have had everything in the world to be grateful for in those last years.

His career in politics had reached its peak in becoming president of the United States. He had all the money he needed to pursue any leisure activity he wanted. He owned a spacious ranch in the country, a penthouse apartment in the city, a half-dozen cars equipped with traveling bars, a sailboat, a speedboat, a movie theater in his own home, and this amazing swimming pool that was equipped with floating rafts, on top of which were floating desks and floating notepads and floating sandwiches, so that you could work at every moment. And he had servants to answer every whim and the opportunity to travel anywhere in the world.

And yet the man I saw in his retirement had spent so many years in pursuit of work, power, and individual success that he had absolutely no psychic or emotional resources left to commit himself to anything once the presidency was taken from him.

Years of concentration solely on work meant that in his retirement he could find no solace in recreation, sports, or hobbies. At baseball or football games, he would wait impatiently for the action to stop so he could talk politics. At dances he would seek out the wife of a congressman to persuade her to persuade her husband to go along with him on some issue. At movies, unless they were documentaries about Lyndon Johnson and the Middle East, he would invariably fall asleep.

And as his spirit sagged, his body deteriorated, until I believe he slowly brought about his own death, spending his last days literally counting how many people were coming to visit his library, hoping against hope that more people would come to his library in Austin than were going to the John F. Kennedy Library in Boston – that rivalry never ended. So much so that he gave an order to serve free coffee, free doughnuts, anything to get them in there.

A month before he died, he spoke to me with immense sadness in his voice. He said he was watching the American people absorbed in a new president, forgetting him, forgetting, he feared, even the great civil rights laws that he had passed, and was beginning to think that his quest for immortality had been in vain. Perhaps, he said, he would have been better off focusing more time and attention on his family, for then he could have had a different form of immortality, through his children and their children, in turn.

But it was too late. Four weeks later he was dead. Despite all that money and power he was completely alone when he died, his ultimate terror realized.

As I understand the implication of this story it reinforces a central wisdom that I think I learned years ago in a seminar at Harvard, taught by the great psychologist Erik Erikson. And that is that the richest and fullest lives attain an inner balance comprised of work, love, and play in equal order. And that to pursue one of these spheres to the disregard of the others is to open oneself to ultimate sadness in older age, whereas to pursue all three with equal dedication is to make possible an old age filled with serenity, peace, and fulfillment.

As for the first sphere of work, I have come to realize the older I get that the key is the enjoyment of the process itself, notwithstanding the end result. Perhaps Johnson’s retirement might have been less difficult if all of his life he had enjoyed the process of politics for its own sake, meeting all sorts of people, inspiring them to common action, for that process could have continued, even in his own hometown. But for him, sadly, it was too often the end result that mattered, the victories won, the power achieved, and once that was taken away, everything was lost.

Eleanor Roosevelt’s last days I believe provide a sharp contrast. All of her life she took great pleasure in her daily work, in using her power and celebrity to help others less fortunate than she. As First Lady she provided a voice for people who did not have access to power, poor people, migrant workers, tenant farmers, coal miners, blacks, and women.

At her weekly press conferences she invited only female reporters, which meant that stuffy newspapers all over the country had to hire their first female reporter to have access to the first lady. An entire generation of female journalists got their start simply because of Eleanor Roosevelt’s press conferences. And after her husband’s death she remained a powerful inspiration to activists in the civil rights movement and the international human rights movement. As a consequence, at the very end of her life, she was neither haunted nor saddened by what might have been. On the contrary she sustained an active engagement with the world until her very last hours.

So as you figure out the kind of work you want to do, the challenge is to find work imbued with meaning, work that provides fulfillment on a daily basis. If you choose a career for money or prestige or power or security, but dislike going to work more days than not, it will never be worth it in the long run.

As for the second sphere, of love and friendship, I can only say that maintaining friendships and lasting relationships gets harder once the natural communities of college and hometown are gone. It takes work and commitment, it demands toleration for human frailties, forgiveness for the inevitable disappointments and the betrayals that come even with the best of relationships.

For me the most moving moment in the story of Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt’s lives was Eleanor’s ability to forgive Franklin in the months after his death for the deep hurt she had endured upon discovering that he had been with Lucy Mercer, a young woman he had once loved, when he died. Though it seemed at first as if the hurt would be too much for her to bear, she was eventually able to come to terms with the combination of flaws, frailties, and enormous strengths that her husband had possessed. With a strength of will that never faltered, she deliberately chose to remember only the best of times that they had shared, never the estrangement and pain, which allowed her to go forward in life without bitterness, to build on the foundation of love, respect, and affection that they had shared for nearly half a century.

Too often today it seems that marital arguments and problems lead to permanent breakups, instead of being seen as rough passages in a long-time commitment. Enduring marriages were the rule in the 1950s, the world in which I grew up, a world of close-knit neighborhoods and corner stores.

Though that fabled decade was never as innocent as it has been portrayed, it did provide a more stable foundation for children. With more than a dozen kids exactly my age on our block, we were free to race into one another’s homes every morning to round up the kids for the day’s play on the streets, our common playground. In those days before television and video games we somehow managed to entertain ourselves from morning to night playing tag, ring-o-levio, potsy, and roller skating with the keys around our neck, games that sound positively medieval to my own sons.

But childhood then was separated from the adult world of violence, sexuality, and divorce in a way that it no longer is. With reading a primary form of activity, whether sitting beneath the big sugar maple tree on our lawn or curled up in bed at night with a book, we were gradually exposed to the adult world by moving step-by-step from children’s books to the young adult books, from the children’s reading room in the library to the excitement of a regular card allowing access to the entire building.

In contrast, the medium of television today allows undifferentiated access to all sorts of information and entertainment. It will be the great challenge of your generation to restore childhood to our children – without losing the liberating impulses which have brought women into the world of work, perhaps the most important social trend of the past century. Which will mean what is happening to so many young couples today, both men and women alike will need to struggle with how to balance love for family and love of work when their kids are young.

And as for the third and final sphere of play, I’ve learned over the years that even with sports, recreation, and hobbies and volunteer work, there is a need for a level of commitment of time and energy deep enough to really enjoy something and be able to derive true relaxation from it. I will always be grateful to my father for that irrational passion for baseball so deep that it remains a large part of my life today and gives me a field of play that, embarrassingly, occupies me for half the year.

I can still remember as if it were yesterday sitting on our porch when I was six years old having preserved play-by-play every afternoon the innings of that afternoon’s Brooklyn Dodger game in that red scorebook that was mentioned. No doubt my love of history was planted in those nightly sessions with my father, when he sat by my side in seemingly rapt attention, as I now realize that I in excruciating detail recounted every single play of every inning of the game that had taken place that afternoon. My father never made me know that he had actually probably known how it had all turned out.

Little wonder that history became a magical thing for me. Indeed it still continues so to this day.

And in those days before the players were free to move from one team to the other at the clink of the highest coin, loyalty was a two-way street. When our favorite players were in a slump, as the Dodger first baseman Gil Hodges was, entire parishes in Brooklyn prayed for him. I even went one step further and gave him St. Christopher medal, blessed by the Pope, that I had won in catechism class by knowing the seven deadly sins. And the next day – miracle of miracles – his slump was broken! I, at seven, was certain I had made it happen.

Indeed so fervent was my love of the old Brooklyn Dodgers that I had to confess in my first holy confession that when I said my prayers at night I wished harm to others. Namely I wished various New York Yankee players would break arms, legs, and ankles so that the Brooklyn Dodgers could win their first World Series. I remember the priest asked me, “How often do you make these horrible wishes?” and I had to admit it was every night when I said my prayers. And then, talking too much in the confessional as I still talk too much everywhere today, I explained that if God were powerful enough to spread these injuries around surely he could cure everyone the moment we won the World Series, so it wouldn’t be that bad.

The priest said to me, “Look, let me tell you a secret. I love the Brooklyn Dodgers too, but I promise you someday they will win fairly and squarely. You do not need to wish harm on others to make it happen. Do you understand what I’m saying?” Oh yes, I said, but as I left the confessional he said, “Say a special prayer for OUR Brooklyn Dodgers!”

How lucky that my first confession was to a baseball-loving preist.

Well it took a lot of prayers, for it seemed that the Dodgers found a way to lose at the last minute year after year. Until finally, when I was 12 years old, our dreams came true as the Brooklyn Dodgers won their only World Series, beating the Yankees in a dramatic seven-game series.

That night there was an unforgettable celebration in Brooklyn – people dancing in the streets. I remember a bus driver, unable to get through the crowd, simply abandoned his bus and joined us on the streets. Well, I would remember that magical night it seemed for years to come, for soon after the elements of my childhood world began to crumble.

Two years later, the Dodger owner announced the unthinkable, that he was ripping our team away from us and moving it to Los Angeles, the New York Giants moving to San Francisco at the same time. Somehow the loss of those two teams tore the heart of our community life in New York apart. But the same year the Dodgers left, our family endured a far greater loss, when my mother, though having fought so valiantly for so long against an illness that had left an invalid all her life, suffered a fatal heart attack in her sleep and died. I had just turned 15 years old.

And somehow after she died our house seemed to shrink around us, as my father found himself unwilling to eat in the breakfast room where their day had begun, incapable of sleeping in the bedroom where she had died. His depression left him no choice but to sell our house as quickly as possible, and move us to an apartment way on the other side of town.

I found it impossible to understand leaving the only house, the only neighborhood, the only block I had ever known, and found it difficult to talk to my father about his decision. Until one day shortly before we moved he came and sat by my side in our attic as I sorted through all the stuff I had saved over the years – old baseball cards, report cards, and scorebooks – and for the first time we began to talk.

He promised me then that moving would not mean forgetting my mother, my real fear, since she was so connected to every room in that house. It was just, he said, that he had to try to pick up the pieces of his life and start over again. And then I did indeed understand.

And in the years that followed his internal strength reasserted itself once more. Seven long years later he met and married a wonderful, warm woman, took pleasure in life again, and with the Dodgers gone, became a passionate New York Mets fan.

That same year, while I was a student at Harvard, my boyfriend took me to Fenway Park. I had not followed baseball for those same seven years, but the moment I stepped into Fenway, with its impossibly green grass and odd angles so reminiscent of Ebbetts Field, I sadly became an irrational Red Sox fan. (Nor could I have found a team more reminiscent of the old Brooklyn Dodgers than the Boston Red Sox.)

But my renewed love of baseball allowed continuing nightly conversations with my father, until he died of a sudden heart attack when I was still in my 20s. Not long after his death, when I got married and had three sons, my love of baseball seemed to assume an even more intense form, as I felt almost driven to cycle back to my childhood. Even now when I sit at Fenway with our season tickets with our boys I can close my eyes against the sun and imagine myself back at Ebbetts Field with my father, watching the players of my youth on the grassy fields below – Jackie Robinson, Peewee Reese, Duke Snider. I must say there is magic in these moments. When I open my eyes and see my sons in the place where my father once sat I feel an invisible loyalty and love linking our three generations, linking my sons to the grandfather whose face they never had a chance to see, but whose heart and soul they have come to know through the countless stories I have told.

Which is why in the end I shall always be grateful for these curiously intertwined loves of history and baseball, which have led me to spend a lifetime looking back into the past, allowing me to believe that the past remains within every single one of us, that the private people we have loved in our families and the public figures we have respected in our history really can live on so long as we continue to tell and retell the stories of their lives.

So in closing I would like to leave each of you with the hope that on this day of celebration, which is customarily shared with family and friends, you take the time to tell stories of parents, grandparents, and relations who are no longer present but who can live on through the stories you share with your children and their children in turn, creating a cord of historical memory that will link the generations forever.

It is that wish, along with the wish that when you choose, you choose in such a way that allows your drive for achievement to be balance by an equal commitment to love and to play, to family and friends and community, that I leave you with today – along with my heartiest congratulations to the Class of 2001.

Thank you for letting me share it.

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