Baccalaureate readings from Dean Marvin Chun: Franklin, Murray, and Hopper
At the Baccalaureate ceremony, it is customary for the president to give an address, and for the Yale College dean to offer readings. Here are the readings by Dean Marvin Chun in 2018.
This is a historic year for Yale. It's the first time in its history that the graduating class — by which I mean you — includes members of 14 residential colleges, two of them new and one newly rededicated. The namesakes of those three new colleges, almost as though they had anticipated this moment, had words for you all.
Benjamin Franklin we all know as a polymath whose accomplishments spanned the arts, the sciences, government and public service. Among his prolific writings, he introduced what may be one of the first self-help books in American history, an autobiography listing the virtues that he wanted to perfect in himself for a better life. Here are my favorites, which I offer to the 10 of you who did not take Professor Laurie Santos’s class, “Psychology and the Good Life.”
Temperance. Eat not to dullness; drink not to elevation.
Order. Let all your things have their places; let each part of your business have its time.
Resolution. Resolve to perform what you ought; perform without fail what you resolve.
Frugality. Make no expense but to do good to others or yourself; waste nothing.
Industry. Lose no time; be always employ'd in something useful; cut off all unnecessary actions.
Sincerity. Use no hurtful deceit; think innocently and justly, and, if you speak, speak accordingly.
Moderation. Avoid extremes; forbear resenting injuries so much as you think they deserve.
Justice. Wrong none by doing injuries, or by omitting the benefits that are your duty.
Pauli Murray distinguished herself as a leader for civil rights and the advancement of women. President Salovey will say more about her, but here I will share a quote reported by Yale History Professor Glenda Gilmore, who documented Pauli Murray's purposeful struggles. Murray was rejected from the University of North Carolina because of her race, she was denied admission to Harvard Law School because of her sex, and she was arrested in Virginia because she refused to move to the back of a Greyhound bus. Well after receiving a J.S.D. degree from Yale Law School, in an interview for the Southern Oral History Program in 1976, Pauli Murray offered these words about her activism:
“I would like to say here,
if you will notice that the questions you've been asking me about my activities
and the things that I was involved in,
that in not a single one of these little campaigns
was I victorious.
In other words, in each case, I personally failed,
but I have lived to see the thesis upon which I was operating
and what I very often say is that
I've lived to see my lost causes found.”
Finally, Grace Hopper was a trailblazing computer scientist and mathematician, applying her analytic skills to serve the country during World War II, after which she retired as a rear admiral of the U.S. Navy. Hopper was less interested in safe careers as she was in adventurous projects, and in time she developed some of the earliest computers and pioneered computer languages and compilers to run them. Here she is in her own words:
“Humans are allergic to change. They love to say, ‘We’ve always done it this way.’ I try to fight that. That’s why I have a clock on my wall that runs counter-clockwise.”
“A ship in port is safe, but that is not what ships are for. Sail out to sea and do new things.”
Class of 2018: congratulations.