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Lafayette awarded 532 degrees to 524 graduating seniors and honorary doctorates to five distinguished leaders, including Tom Ridge, former U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security and former Governor of Pennsylvania, at the College’s 170th Commencement Saturday, May 21.

See below for Ridge’s address. View Commencement Scrapbook.

President Arthur J. Rothkopf ’55 awarded Ridge the honorary degree of Doctor of Laws. Brian P. Lamb, president and chief executive officer of C-SPAN, was awarded an honorary Doctor of Letters, and Dorothy Gulbenkian Blaney, president of Cedar Crest College, received an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters.

The College also conferred honorary degrees upon Rothkopf and Barbara S. Rothkopf, First Lady of the College, in recognition of their contributions to Lafayette. Arthur Rothkopf will conclude his service as the College’s 15th president next month after 12 years in the position, during which he has led a far-reaching transformation of Lafayette. He was awarded an honorary Doctor of Laws. Barbara Rothkopf received an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters. (Read the honorary degree citations and President Rothkopf’s farewell remarks.)

At its final meeting of the academic year Friday the faculty adopted a resolution expressing profound appreciation of Arthur Rothkopf “for unwaveringly and courageously advancing the College’s educational mission.” (Read the resolution.)

Oliver Bowen ’05 delivered farewell remarks for the class of 2005. He is the recipient of the George Wharton Pepper Prize, awarded to the senior who “most closely represents the Lafayette ideal.” Bowen, of Johannesburg, South Africa, graduated with a bachelor of science (B.S.) degree in electrical and computer engineering.

The first student to receive her diploma was Veronica Hart ’05, who achieved the highest cumulative grade-point average in the class of 2005. Hart, of Sewanee, Tenn., received a bachelor of arts (A.B.) degree with majors in economics & business and Spanish.

Erin McKan ’05, Mitchell Feld ’05, and Catherine Hobby ’05, cochairs of the Class of 2005 Gift Committee, presented the class gift. McKan, of Bowie, Md., graduated with an A.B. with a major in government and law. Feld, of Randolph, N.J., received an A.B. with a major in economics in business. Hobby, of Chatham, N.J., graduated with an A.B. with a major in psychology.

Rothkopf congratulated recipients of annual Lafayette awards for distinguished teaching, research, and service to the College and recognized four retiring members of the faculty who have been elected to emeritus status, Brenda J. Latka, associate professor of mathematics; William E. Melin, professor of music; Michael A. Paolino, Charles A. Dana Professor of Mechanical Engineering; and B. Vincent Viscomi, Simon Cameron Long Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering.

Rothkopf conferred degrees upon the graduates. Assisting in presenting diplomas were James Woolley, Smith Professor of English and clerk of the faculty, and Gladstone A. Hutchinson, dean of studies.

A moment of silence was observed to pray for the recovery of Matt Taverna, a member of the graduating class who was injured in an accidental fall last month, and to honor the memory of Jonathan Valentine, who entered Lafayette as a member of the class of 2005 and lost his life in an automobile accident following his first year on campus.

Viscomi, the senior member of the faculty, led the academic procession as Bearer of the Mace. James F. Krivoski, vice president for student affairs and dean of students, marshaled the class of 2005.

Provost June Schlueter marched at the head of the faculty. Trustee emeritus Edward A. Jesser Jr. ’39 led the trustees and the platform party.

John P. Colatch, director of religious live and College chaplain, delivered the invocation and gave the benediction. Nina Gilbert, Lafayette’s director of choral activities, led the singing of “America the Beautiful.” Members of the Lafayette Choir, led by Gilbert, led the singing of “The Alma Mater.”

Address by Tom Ridge
170th Commencement
Lafayette College
May 21, 2005

Thank you, Arthur [Lafayette President Arthur J. Rothkopf], for that very generous introduction. Chairman Griffith [Alan R. Griffith, chair of the Board of Trustees], members of the Board of Trustees; fellow honorees, Dorothy [Dorothy Gulbenkian Blaney, president of Cedar Crest College] and Brian [Brian P. Lamb, president and CEO of C-SPAN]; faculty; staff; students; proud family members and friends: thank you all for this wonderful invitation to join you on such a special day and for this wonderful honorary degree.

Let me add to family and friends my personal congratulations to the mighty class of 2005. Well done. Congratulations to each and every one of you. Well done!

I would like to join the faculty and students and everyone here who has gotten to know Arthur and Barbara here during the past decade-plus. It’s easy to recognize the impact that this much-admired couple has had, not only on this school, but on the community. Your contributions are lasting and plentiful, and many of them sit before us at this great celebration and ceremony today. So, Arthur and Barbara, together you have served your country, your community, and this college so very, very well – so ably, with a great deal of integrity, leadership, and much affection, I know. And so I join your many admirers to wish you the very best as you begin whatever will be the next great adventure of your lives. I think you’ve got a couple more adventures left! As partners you’ve enjoyed them in the past, and I’m sure you’re going to enjoy them in the future as well.

Now as many of you know, I’m also easing my way in to my next great adventure, too. I admit, though, I am still adjusting to private life. After 27 years in public service, some things are a bit new to me. I’m very excited though. You should know I got my driver’s license updated. It’s a big thing for me. I had to, because for a couple weeks after I resigned I kept getting in the back seat, and the car didn’t move. So I figured I’d have to start moving myself around.

Unfortunately I don’t have a car yet, so I’ve had to borrow my wife’s mini-van. My son says, “That’s a mommy car, Dad. When are you going to get a dad car?” And I’ve had to ask my son if I can borrow his wheels. Actually, I don’t like doing that. As soon as I bring my son’s car back to the house, he goes outside, checks for dings and scratches, and makes sure I filled up the gas tank.

Nevertheless, since I left my last job, I really do enjoy driving around myself. I particularly like traffic lights, ladies and gentlemen, because they’re color-coded. You can understand how I appreciate those things. Green is good! I like that, you just go right through. Yellow – ah, be cautious, be alert, be aware, be careful! And red – the first couple of red lights I hit, I had to resist the impulse to pick up the phone and call the president.

But as you know, one day a few weeks after September 11, I took the president’s call. And though it meant a great deal of change, challenge, and hard work, I will forever be grateful and honored for the opportunity the president gave me to serve my country.

Teddy Roosevelt once said, “Far and away the best prize that life offers is the chance to work hard at work worth doing.” Now, “work worth doing” has a broad definition but a meaning with a common thread.

The best prize in life, to our 26th president, meant service to a cause greater than self, no matter what your chosen field or endeavor.

Then, as now, I think, the prize is a passion. It is a pursuit, it is an unyielding desire to place your thumbprint on a piece of history and shape it for the betterment of the future. The prize is not about setting yourself apart through celebrity and fame, but rather in holding your families, your communities, your country, your world together, particularly when it needs it most.

Adversity challenges every generation. And yet, far sooner than your parents or I would have liked, you learned that lesson during your years at Lafayette the hard way – by experience.

Now, for my mom and dad, adversity came with the attack on Pearl Harbor. That challenge was the test of will and patience and sacrifice that defined World War II. On a day of infamy, a nation was shaken and shocked by its vulnerability and quickly stirred to extraordinary effort, bringing new workers to assembly lines and new weaponry to the battlefield.

For the next few generations adversity came with the advent of the Cold War, and the challenge was the sustained commitment of free nations that unraveled the oppression of communism, as it took its last collective breath in the rubble of the Berlin Wall.

The adversity of 9/11 and the challenge of the war against terrorism is a test unlike any other, unspeakable, unimaginable to any of us before that tragic day. Many of you watched the news with pain and anxiety on televisions at that beautiful college center you have. You gathered to console one another here on the Quad.

And as the Twin Towers fell and the Pentagon burned and the passengers of Flight 93 made heroic goodbyes, we all watched and heard and ached. And, then, for a moment, the world stood still.

In the minutes and months after September 11 it was difficult to understand all that had occurred. How could we in this country, who value liberty, wrap our minds around one of the greatest shames of civilization? How could we grasp an act of sweeping inhumanity, embedded in the deepest ignorance and dismissal of the sanctity of life, communion, diversity, and freedom?

It is characteristic of a free people that, even to this day, we find still it difficult to comprehend the motivation behind the means. But it was never difficult for this country to find the strength and collective resolve to take action. After 9/11, hard work was ahead, but we took on that hard work together.

Great tragedies and challenges ask many things of our country and our leaders, and our leaders have responded with commitment and compassion, confidence, political courage, and faith. In the earliest days following the attacks, the president grasped the gravity of the moment and laid out the magnitude of the task.

The nation needed to be consoled, and with great emotion and compassion, the National Cathedral echoed with the great words and full heart of a man who summoned his faith and steadied an entire nation in grief.

In the days ahead, our political, social, and religious leaders reminded us of who we are, an open, welcoming, diverse nation of immigrants that would and did offer an outstretched hand of reassurance to Muslim Americans, to one fifth of all humanity, the Muslim community around the world. Our enemy, ladies and gentlemen, is not the peaceful religion of Islam. Terrorists speak for no one but evil.

Also very important in those early days after the attacks, our leaders gave us that gentle nudge I think we so desperately needed, the message that it was okay, indeed necessary, to get back to living our lives as Americans. And what’s more American than the October classic, baseball? I think many of you remember the World Series was in New York City, and with Todd Beamer’s “Let’s roll!” still fresh in our national heart, we heard a nation wisely say, “Let’s play ball!”

And it was then that an opening pitch became much more than it ever was, a message to friend and foe alike that a way of life so unquestionably bound to freedom and progress and hope cannot be derailed by anyone, not in this country.

We defend freedom, we cherish freedom, and we will continue to enjoy the liberties and opportunities our freedoms provide.

While terrorism is not a new phenomenon, we must recognize that in the 21st century, it is a different one.

We have witnessed the brutality of people whose arms are crossed tightly in defiance, anger, and hatred. They will not free themselves from the hatred that could instead be the hope of a better life. They will not free themselves from the intolerance that could instead be an invitation to a diverse and global community. They will not free themselves of fear of change that could instead be the first footsteps toward economic opportunity, social equality, and a brighter future.

Such entrenched and irrational ideology resides figuratively, and in some cases literally, in a cave, and is difficult to change, as centuries of terrorism have shown. But in our century, in our time, the message to terrorists has changed.

America is resolved and resilient and unrelenting when it comes to the security of our people and our nation, just as the great founders of freedom had hoped we would be. America will not abdicate that freedom to anyone, ever. For Americans do not live in fear, we live in freedom, and we will never let that freedom go.

Instead, to terrorists we send a message, sure and clear: We will meet your threats in the fullest throttle of response wherever you seek to hide, wherever you seek to operate, wherever you threaten our families, our friends, our fellow citizens, be it on foreign soil, or on our own.

This coming Memorial Day, ladies and gentlemen, our nation will honor those lost in many wars. But today let us honor those who, at this very hour, are fighting around the world in a war against terror. Some of us here today are former soldiers who know the high cost of freedom. All of us here today are citizens who know and enjoy the high reward of another’s sacrifice. Our brave soldiers must know: America supports them and prays for their safekeeping.

Now, here at home, images of 9/11 still chill the spine and heat the passion of our nation. They are the force that motivates us to work every single day to protect our country from those who would do us harm. Nowhere is that more evident than in the daily tasks carried out by the men and women with whom I was privileged to work in the Department of Homeland Security.

It’s been just more than two years since 180,000 men and women all united under a single mission – to make the fullest protection of our people the highest charge of our nation.

Since then our country has made great progress in widening a base of protective measures to make the nation safer, safer than it’s ever been before – all thanks to “hard work worth doing” done not only by men and women in the department, but by an entire nation, perhaps by some of you in this audience, community leaders, volunteers, law enforcement personnel, firefighters – actually the list is endless.

Everyone has played a role, and we need everyone to continue to help keep our great nation moving ever forward. After all, each of us as a citizen cherishes our freedom. Everyone in this country is freedom’s beneficiary. It just makes sense that everyone must accept the role of freedom’s protector. Whether it’s the customs officer improving our ports’ security or an FBI agent pioneering DNA forensics, we see that people throughout public service make vital contributions every day. And so even in my new private life, I must make a plug for public service.

Let underscore that public service doesn’t always mean that you receive a government paycheck. In this day and age, “work worth doing” can mean that you are contributing in ways that say “let’s roll” or “play ball” – ways that economically, socially, and culturally keep our country moving forward.

When I took on the position at Homeland Security, the endeavor was new, but the future was certain and remains so. For from crisis to conflict, from security issues to social dilemmas, America has always led the peace without ever changing the free republic of our founders more than 229 years ago or the values in keeping with 10 generations of history, the values of freedom, diversity, and tolerance. And with your help, together we will continue to advance our country as we always have, through the hard work of incorrigible pioneers, persistent visionaries, impassioned patriots – through the stubborn goodness of a people who, generation to generation, continue to give all that is good and just and, yes, even astonishing to their country, a people who embrace the most abiding of American principles, the notion that we are all called to serve as long as we call ourselves free.

It’s been said that the only way to predict the future is to invent it. When you leave here, you’ll have the opportunity to do just that.

Members of the Class of 2005, you are about to bring vast knowledge from a wonderful institution of learning into a world of new frontiers. And though you may soon forget the Socratic method, the names of 15th century kings, the hallmarks of iambic pentameter, or how to solve for x and y, you will always remember your time here at Lafayette. And when you think of those days, many fond memories will come to mind. But here’s something else to think about.

We sit here today at this proud school’s 170th commencement ceremony. Let your mind fast-forward 10, 25, 50 years from now. Future generations of Lafayette grads will be making their way through the world, a world defined in part by your contributions, a future you are about to invent.

So I say go ahead, marvel at yourselves now for all you are about to set out to do, for the children you will nurture, the business trends you will evoke, the creativity you will inspire, and the many channels of science and communication and discovery you will hold open for generations that follow.

And years from now may you look back on those contributions and enjoy a collective pride for the way in which you kept your country moving forward amid challenging times, the commitment and compassion and hard work that you gave to it all, and the blessings that it most surely will return to you. It will be the best prize in your life.

I thank you again for inviting me to share this wonderful day of celebration with you and your families. My heartfelt congratulation go to all. May God bless you as you go forward. Thank you very much.

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