Seventy is a nice, solid round number and will be forever memorable to the Claremont McKenna College Class of 2017 as Saturday, May 13 – a beautiful spring day – marked the College’s 70th annual Commencement ceremony.
Graduates convened on Pritzlaff Field to prelude music from the Artisan Brass Quintet. Many seemed to have a quiet glow about them; one that comes from knowing four years of hard, rewarding work is over and the next exciting phase of their lives is about to begin.
Elizabeth Morgan, Registrar and Assistant Vice President for Academic Affairs, led the class in singing the official College song, “Claremont McKenna,” after which CMC President Hiram E. Chodosh, in his welcoming remarks, harkened back to his own trajectory at CMC, a journey that began when the Class of 2017 were arriving freshman.
After Jessica A. Witt ’00, President of the CMC Alumni Association, exhorted the Class to maintain connection with the College via the Alumni Association, Siddharth Mandava ’17 in his class presentation spoke about three key lessons he learned during his four years at CMC.
“The first lesson is the importance of revealing your true preferences,” Mandava said. “At its core, it’s just about constant and open communication. It means expressing your thoughts and your feelings to yourself and to those around you and it also means voting – in all elections, not just every four years.”
The second lesson Mandava said he learned is humility. “If CMC has taught me one thing, it’s that I don’t know anything,” he said. “The day I realized that was one of the most freeing days of my life.”
Lastly and according to Mandava, perhaps most importantly is his third lesson learned – that things eventually work out. “We all face a slew of troublesome situations,” he said, “some that are of our own creation, but I truly believe that it all comes together in the end.”
“CMC isn’t perfect, but it’s a place that cares for you, that challenges you and supports you,” said Cole J. Mora, Senior Class President, before he introduced the Keynote Speaker, Wes Moore. “And CMC is always looking for ways to help you grow. I hope that you continue to challenge CMC and care for CMC as it has challenged and cared for you.”
Moore, a decorated Army combat veteran and Rhodes Scholar, is youth advocate and CEO of BridgeEdU, a national initiative focused on addressing the college completion and career placement crisis by reinventing the freshman year of college. He is also the bestselling author of The Other Wes Moore, and The Work: My Search for a Life That Matters. Moore, along with John V. Croul ’49, received a Doctor of Laws honorary degree at Commencement.
A self-professed “contrarian by nature,” Moore told the Class that the most important question they will face after leaving school isn’t the query they’ve often heard in the last four years: “What’s your major?” Instead, it will be “who is it that you will choose to fight for?”
It was Moore’s fervent hope that when the Class of 2017 addressed that question in their lives, they “would stand for the others – people who might not look like us or speak like us; people who might come from a different part of town or the country or a different part of the world; people who might call their God by a different name.”
In closing, Moore told the Class that the world is ready for them to “stand up” with others and starting tomorrow, after the celebrating is done they should begin to “lead incredibly interesting lives.”