Graduation ceremonies kicked off Friday at UC Berkeley's Greek Theatre with words of wisdom for the Class of 2002 from professors, alumni and an Olympic gold medalist. Thousands of parents, alumni, faculty and friends watched and cheered as a portion of the university's 6,000 graduating seniors donned caps and gowns and participated in the commencement convocation.
Olympic gold medalist Jonny Moseley was selected by the Class of 2002 to give the keynote address. Though many questioned Moseley's selection, noting past keynote speakers such as Janet Reno and Madeline Albright, Moseley delivered an open and straightforward speech to the delight of many.
“When I first got the call about speaking at the commencement, I thought 'What, me speak? Is Maya Angelou speaking at the X Games? What's happening here?” said Moseley.
Moseley, named the U.S. Olympic Committee Sportsman of the Year in 1998, both explained the technicalities of his famed 720 degree ski jump, AKA “the dinner roll,” and followed with a message for the Class of 2002 about determination and achieving personal happiness.
“The experts will give you your diploma today, but be free in the way you measure your success. Turn your competition inward and you will own your own happiness,” advised Moseley.
Attendees of the ceremony commented that among the speakers, UC Professor of Anthropology and Folklore, Alan Dundes provided the most entertaining speech though Moseley was not far behind.
“I think everyone who attended today's ceremony gained a great deal of respect for Moseley. He struck all the right cords. He was entertaining but he also had a message,” said Chris Brown, a graduating senior with a degree in Arabic language and literature.
UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert Berdahl addressed the graduating seniors, who will have to wait about six months before they can pick up their real diplomas in Sproul Hall, and congratulated the class for its many accomplishments.
“My hat is off for all the achievements represented in this class. You've got a Cal education, there's no greater achievement than that starting out in life,” said Berdahl. “You're leaving here wiser, poorer, but wonderful people.”
Berdahl also noted that Moseley was not so different from last year's keynote speaker Janet Reno, as each had previously been selected as hosts for “Saturday Night Live.”
Dundes entertained attendees with his explanation of our cultures obsession with threes, citing the three social classes, three branches of government, the three divisions of the metamorphic continuum and even the division of the small intestine into the duodenum, the jejunum and the ileum.
Dundes also urged Cal's graduating class not to forget finding pleasure in the present and to try not to be blinded by the future. He explained that today's society places too great an emphasis on future goals, degrees and advances, preventing one from enjoying the moment.
Shayna Parekh was named University Medalist at the ceremony and opened her speech by turning to Moseley and claiming “mine is bigger than yours.”
Parekh, who hopes to pursue a career in social planning in developing countries, dedicated her speech to “the 800,000 human beings who lost their lives one sordid summer in Rwanda; to the 3,000 souls whose heinous deaths on Sept. 11 were penetrating indications of an even more heinous foreign policy.”
Parekh challenged attendees of the commencement to begin to understand the perspectives and sufferings of others here and around the world.
According to Meg Masquelier, a graduating senior, the day's ceremony included a strong and well-organized group of speakers. “I liked the variety of speakers. I thought it was neat that they included people from different backgrounds, different interests and world perspectives,” said Masquelier.
Early in the day many were skeptical concerning Moseley's selection.
“When I first heard he was giving the speech I was a little disappointed but it hasn't stopped me from coming out today, there's a lot of excitement anyway,” said Ben Garosi, a graduating senior with a degree in economics. “I would have liked to seen someone who graduated from college though.”
“I heard they chose him because he was uncontroversial. Personally, I don't really care. I just hope he gives a good speech,” said Eugene Juan, a senior graduating with a political science degree.
After the ceremony, however, many were pleased with Moseley's performance.
“I thought it was cool that Moseley had a good sense of humor. He was very honest and straightforward,” commented Masquelier.
Joyce Nussbaum attended the ceremony to watch her daughter, Charlotte, a Molecular Cell Biology major, pass from student to graduate but commented that the ceremony was set up differently than she had expected.
“Other schools have one day with a huge graduation with all the students,” said Nussbaum.
Ceremonies at UC Berkeley run for three weeks as each department holds an individual ceremony.
Most attendees expressed approval with the day's ceremonies though, as Jenny Vega noted, some of the speeches could have been condensed.
“Everything was great but I think some of speeches needed to be shorter,” said Vega.