In front of thousands of family members and friends, 629 students received their degrees on May 26 at Vassar College’s 155th Commencement ceremony at the college’s outdoor amphitheater. Van Jones, CEO of Reform Alliance, host of The Redemption Project and The Van Jones Show on CNN, delivered the commencement address.
In his address, Jones talked about the current state of the world and how young graduates should work towards unity and finding common ground, particularly among groups or individuals with different viewpoints.
“We have millions and millions and millions of awesome people—in both parties, of all races, of all backgrounds—who just don’t know what to do, we just don’t know how to find each other and help each other and lift each other. If your generation says, ‘I’m not worried about the awful people, I’m gonna find the awesome people and we’re gonna fix these problems,’ you will finally have a country with liberty and justice for all,” Jones said.
"While this moment is part of the continuous flow of each of our lives, it is one where time seems to stand still, or even bend. This is a transition moment—from all that has come before to the hope that lies ahead. I suspect that your Vassar story is a bit like this—a 4-year continuous journey marked by unique moments when time seemed to curve, like the moment you changed your mind about something you always felt to be true, the moment you arrived on campus and saw its stunning beauty, the moments you fell in love or out of love, or the moment you felt like you truly understood a new and complicated idea," she said.
"It is these moments that punctuate a mindful and meaningful life, that give us a glimpse into our deeper humanity. If we let it be, in these moments—when we give ourselves permission to put the distractions of the past and the apprehensions about the future over to the side and out of sight—we can find connection and fulfillment, which allow us to the hear the calm echo that says, we are ok."
The graduates come from 23 countries and 46 states plus the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. They received bachelor’s degrees in 51 majors, as well as independent studies in language studies, biophysics, drug policy, and community psychology. The most popular majors in the class of 2019 were psychological science, economics, and political science.
More than 270 of the graduates—nearly half of the class—engaged in community service projects for academic credit, and 119 competed in intercollegiate athletics.
The day before Commencement, several ceremonies were held to celebrate students’ achievements including the Awarding of Prizes, the Latinx Student Union’s Stole Ceremony, the Asian and Pacific Islander Graduation Celebration, and the AAAVC Kente Cloth Ceremony.
One of the most anticipated pre-Commencement events was the Baccalaureate Service held in the Chapel. The ALANA Seniors Council event was titled, “United Without Borders: Building Coalition and Community,” and included featured speaker, the Reverend angel Kyodo williams, a Zen priest and author of Radical Dharma. The service also included remarks by Ismail Rashid, Professor of History, a performance by Ujima, the presentation of the J-Task Award to Safety and Security’s Lavetta Cooks, and the amazing processional and recessional by the Kariamu Drumming Group.
The commencement ceremony capped a week of events for seniors on and off campus that included a formal dinner-dance, a Hudson River cruise, the senior class tree-planting ceremony, a hike to a nearby fire tower, roller-skating, and the Barefoot Monkeys Senior Showcase.