Graduates urged to take risks

by Sarah Burch | 6/19/96 5:00am

Commencement speaker David Halberstam urged the Class of 1996 to take risks in their career choices at Dartmouth's 226th graduation ceremony June 9, where the threat of rain prevented diplomas from being awarded.

Halberstam, a winner of the Pulitzer prize for his coverage of the war in Vietnam and the author of more than 12 books, was awarded an honorary Doctor of Letters degree.

Halberstam, who said he was rejected when he applied to Dartmouth 46 years ago, said he is glad he was given a second chance at a Dartmouth degree.

"You have made me particularly happy today," he said. "You not only honor me but at the same time you have made me feel forever youthful."

"For instead of being Dartmouth '55, I am Dartmouth '96," he said.

"You have not only been given an exceptional education but perhaps more importantly, you have been part of a rare intellectual community where the intellectual process is profoundly valued ... as an end in itself," Halberstam said.

He said learning serves not to maximize one's earning potential, but to make lives happier.

"You are fortunate enough to live in an affluent, blessed society, not merely the strongest but the freest society in the world," he said. "We have the right to choose: to choose if we so want, any profession, any venue, any name."

Halberstam said graduates now face the burden of controlling their destinies.

"This is a critical decision for you," he said. "For other than the choice of a lifetime partner, nothing determines happiness so much as choosing the right kind of work."

Halberstam said some graduates are lured into high-paying jobs when they might be happier elsewhere.

He described a graduate of another school who was offered a $75,000 annual salary. Halberstam said graduates who accept jobs for the wrong reasons are being manipulated by recruiters, and it is smarter to take risks than to choose instant stability.

"And I am suggesting as well, that you not defer your lives," he said. Halberstam said learning should be done for its own sake and not as a means to an end.

Marc Ginsburg '96 delivered the valedictory address for his class.

Ginsburg described his life philosophy, which he distilled from his favorite films, Caddyshack, The Empire Strikes Back and The Jungle Book.

"Set goals, go after them with all you've got and take time out to relax," he said. "I've tested this philosophy here at Dartmouth and it worked for me."

Ginsburg, a biology and Asian studies double major, earned a grade point average of 3.97.

Following the awarding of degrees, College President James Freedman spoke briefly.

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