Reich '68 speaks at Commencement

by Amanda A. Amann And Christopher Kao | 6/22/94 5:00am

Forced indoors by rain, the College's 224th Commencement ceremonies featured speeches on the merits of the "Dartmouth experience" by Labor Secretary Robert Reich '68, College President James Freedman and valedictorian Kamala Dansinghani '94.

The College awarded 1,086 undergraduate degrees on June 12 in Thompson Arena. The five most popular majors were Government, with 178 students; History, 122; English, 105; Biology, 98; and Psychology, 88.

There were 105 Phi Beta Kappa members in the Class of 1994.

In his address to the class, Reich said the job market looks good.

"Almost all of you will end up spending most of your working lives in good jobs -- jobs that challenge your intellect, jobs that satisfy your need for meaningful work in the world and jobs that pay you enough to live without fear."

But, he noted that many other Americans -- especially those who do not graduate from college -- were not in the same position.

"I wish I could be as upbeat about the fates of most other young Americans, especially the majority who will not graduate from college," he said. "They face the worst odds of getting a good job of any time in the last quarter century."

Although today a college education provides little "of any practical use," Reich said college students gain the necessary skills of knowing how to learn and to handle problems.

"Without the degree ... a young person today is behind with a handicap so large as to be almost insurmountable," Reich said.

He said the "cultural and economic gap that is widening between" the well-educated and the uneducated "is probably the greatest threat to the security and stability of this society in the coming century and the greatest challenge to its moral authority."

Reich said Dartmouth students should try to use their education to combat this growing gap.

"That's where you come in. Because you have both a stake in confronting this great widening gap and the capacity to do so," he said. "Your years here at Dartmouth have given you not only the tools with which to have a satisfying job, but insights into how these same tools can be used to improve other peoples' working lives. Herein lies the true measure of Dartmouth's achievement, and yours."

In his address to the graduating seniors, President James Freedman spoke of the important role a liberal arts education has played in his battle with cancer, and he implored the graduates to discover the true value of their own education.

Freedman said that in wrestling with the idea of his own mortality he discovered that his liberal arts foundation had given him the means to make sense of his thoughts during his illness.

"Although liberal education isn't perfect, it is the best preparation there is for life and its exigencies," he said. "It does enable us to make sense of the events that either break over us, like a wave, or quietly envelop us before we know it, like a drifting fog."

Freedman said it is up to each individual to hold on to the perspective that a liberal arts education fosters.

"Life, like liberal education, continues to speak to us -- if we have the stillness and courage to listen ... In the years ahead, I hope that each of you will nurture the new-born child that is your liberal education."

Freedman's speech was punctuated by a one-minute standing ovation.

Dansinghani also commented on the need for each individual to draw their own meanings from their education and their experiences.

"I once read ... 'There is not one big cosmic meaning for all, there is only the meaning we each give to our life.' I would argue that this is true of what people call the 'Dartmouth experience' as well," she said.

"For in these four years, each of us has given our own meaning to, and created our own unique, 'Dartmouth experience,'" she said.