Tag Archive for Michael Roth

President Roth Makes Remarks at 2017 Commencement


Wesleyan President Michael Roth '78. (Photo by Will Barr '18)

Wesleyan President Michael Roth ’78. (Photo by Will Barr ’18)

Wesleyan President Michael Roth ’78 made the following remarks during the 185th commencement ceremony on May 28:

Members of the board of trustees, members of the faculty and staff, distinguished guests, new recipients of graduate degrees and the mighty class of 2017, I am honored to present some brief remarks on the occasion of this commencement.

In the fall of 2013, the political situation in this country was frustrating as you began your Wesleyan careers. Washington politics were not plagued by the scandal, impetuousness and sleaze we see today, but instead presented a spectacle of stasis—with threats of government shutdowns and cynical declarations of pride in the agenda of doing nothing. Stasis and inertia, these are surely the enemies of liberal education. I trust you have found at Wesleyan opportunities for journey and discovery, even if it hasn’t always been clear where you were headed. I hope that over the course of your time here you have felt empowered, your capacity to make a positive contribution to the world around you has increased. This is in line with the oft quoted statement of the founding president of our university, Willbur Fisk. Your education should be for your own good as individuals and for the good of the world.

This notion of the “good of the world,” is, I think, what many students at Wesleyan mean when they call for social justice. Over the last four years, this call has reverberated around campus in demands to eliminate institutional racism and in calls to eradicate the persistent poison of sexual violence. But as we have struggled with the subtler aspects of discrimination and power dynamics, it has often become clear that not everyone has the same view as to what constitutes justice, social or otherwise. This should lead us to recognize that political engagement and community participation must include discussions in which we can explore our differences without fear. A university is the place to have one’s ideas and one’s ways of thinking tested—and not just protected.

But political and social engagement are not just about testing ideas, they are constituted by actions in concert with others. The student culture you have created here at Wesleyan has fostered responsible and generous contributions to making the world around us more equitable and less oppressive. The plight of refugees has been one of the defining issues of our time, and a number of you gave your time and labor to ease their suffering—helping those in camps in the Middle East and smoothing the way for refugee families settling here in the United States. Many of you have worked in the community—tutoring at Traverse Square or the McDonough Elementary School, reaching out to the incarcerated through the Center for Prison Education, seeking to improve health care and food security for Middletown’s most vulnerable. Your efforts inspire others to do more to create opportunity and reduce suffering.

At a time when nihilism is cloaked in intellectual sophistication, and when many are tempted to retreat from the corruption of the public sphere, your cohort at Wesleyan has made a point to stay engaged. You reject retreat by working with environmental groups, from Long Lane Farm to international organizations combating climate change. You reject retreat by standing together to end mass incarceration, or by building solidarity with those marginalized by the dominant culture. You reject retreat by standing by your principles and standing with those desperate for allies.

At Wesleyan, your commitment to see those around you fulfill their potential has been inspirational. This commitment can be found all around the campus: in concert halls, in science labs, on stages or on the playing field. Your commitment to one another has strengthened our campus community; it is a promise that the work we do at this university will be relevant beyond its borders.

I am proud to be here on the podium with our honorary doctorate recipients: a scientist, an activist, a poet. All have found what they love to do, gotten very, very good at it, and found powerful ways to share what they do with others. Some of you may recognize in these phrases the three things that I like to talk about as essential to liberal education. All the same, as Wesleyan’s President Victor Butterfield put it in his final Commencement Address 50 years ago, “whatever the President might say about liberal education in community discussion, or in the college catalog, or in his speeches, he could not really define that education or affect it where it counts; that is, in hearts and minds of students. {Liberal Education} is defined and takes effect from what and how teachers teach, how both they and their students think, how they both listen and read, what they both ask, and by how vitally and imaginatively they respond to each other.” As in Butterfield’s day, this university takes enormous pride in the vital and imaginative responsiveness of its teachers and its students. We celebrate that responsiveness today.

Generations of Wesleyan alumni have benefited from this responsiveness. As I say each year, we Wesleyans have used our education to mold the course of culture ourselves lest the future be shaped by those for whom justice and change, generosity and equality, diversity and tolerance, are much too threatening. Now we alumni are counting on you, new graduates, to join us in helping to shape our culture, so it will not be shaped by the forces of violence, conformity and elitism.

We are counting on you because we have already seen what you are capable of when you have the freedom and the tools, the mentors and the friendship, the insight and the affection to go beyond what others have defined as your limits. We know that in the years ahead you will explore unfamiliar realms and see possibilities that others might not. We know that you will find new ways to make connections across cultural borders—new ways to build community, to join personal authenticity with compassionate solidarity. When this happens, you will feel the power and promise of your education. And we, your Wesleyan family, we will be proud of how you keep your education alive by making it effective in the world.

It’s been nearly four years since we unloaded cars together at the base of Foss Hill, four years since family members shed (or maybe hid) a tear as they left you here “on your own.” To me, it seems like such a short time ago. Now it’s you who are leaving us, but do remember that no matter how “on your own” you feel “out there,” you will always be members of the Wesleyan family, you will always be able to come home to Wesleyan. Wherever your exciting pursuits take you, please come home to alma mater often to share your news, your memories and your dreams. Thank you and good luck!

President Roth Calls on Universities to Promote Intellectual Diversity

President Michael S. Roth

President Michael Roth

On May 11, Wesleyan President Michael Roth writes in The Wall Street Journal about the need for colleges and universities to proactively cultivate intellectual diversity on campus. While student protests over controversial speakers have dominated headlines of late, he writes:

The issue, however, isn’t whether the occasional conservative, libertarian or religious speaker gets a chance to speak. That is tolerance, an appeal to civility and fairness, but it doesn’t take us far enough. To create deeper intellectual and political diversity, we need an affirmative-action program for the full range of conservative ideas and traditions, because on too many of our campuses they seldom get the sustained, scholarly attention that they deserve.

Roth discusses initiatives at Wesleyan, including the Posse Veteran Scholars program, which brings cohorts of military veterans to campus on full scholarships.

These students with military backgrounds are older than our other undergraduates and have very different life experiences; more of them also hold conservative political views.

Now, Wesleyan plans to deepen its engagement with the military by working with the U.S. Army to bring senior military officers to campus. Starting next year, the first of them will arrive to teach classes on the relationship between military institutions and civil society.

Roth goes on:

Another new initiative for intellectual diversity, launched with the support of one our trustees, has created an endowment of more than $3 million for exposing students at Wesleyan to ideas outside the liberal consensus. This fall, our own academic departments and centers will begin offering courses and programs to cover topics such as “the philosophical and economic foundations of private property, free enterprise and market economies” and “the relationship of tolerance to individual rights, freedom and voluntary association.”

We are not interested in bringing in ideologues or shallow provocateurs intent on outraging students and winning the spotlight. We want to welcome scholars with a deep understanding of traditions currently underrepresented on our campus (and on many others) and look forward to the vigorous conversations they will inspire.

Students are also recognizing the value of the free exchange of ideas. This spring, the Wesleyan Democrats and Wesleyan Republicans joined forces to host a Bipartisan Political Series to encourage open political dialogue on campus.

WSJ subscription is required to access the full article. The Wesleyan community can access the article through the Olin Library website.

Roth Calls on Government Leaders to Enact a Carbon Price as Climate Change Solution

In a letter released May 8, President Michael Roth joined 29 other college and university presidents from across the country in endorsing carbon pricing for its economy-wide approach to reducing greenhouse emissions that cause climate change. The letter calls on state and federal lawmakers to proactively work to enact a carbon price at the state and federal level. Roth was one of three leaders, together with the presidents of Swarthmore and Dickinson colleges, to first sign the letter back in February.

“As leaders of higher education institutions, we call upon our elected representatives to act collectively on behalf of current and future generations by putting a price on carbon,” the letter reads. “We work to prepare our students for thriving futures, over which climate change casts a dark shadow of uncertainty. Putting a price on carbon pollution is an indispensable step we can take to effectively combat climate change.”

The complete letter can be found here.

The Higher Education Carbon Pricing Endorsement Initiative is led by Our Climate, a youth-led organization dedicated to empowering the next generation of climate leaders. Our Climate co-leads the #PutAPriceOnIt campaign with the National Geographic documentary series Years of Living Dangerously, and partners with Citizens’ Climate Education to recruit, train, and support student leaders across the country to advocate for carbon pricing.

“At Wesleyan, we place a high priority on reducing our own carbon footprint to do our part to address climate change,” said Roth. “A national price on carbon can be an effective tool to address climate change on a broad scale.  Wesleyan is will develop an internal price on carbon to better address the environmental impact of our own energy intensive projects.”

This summer, Sustainability Director Jennifer Kleindienst and Facilities Business Manager Jeff Murphy will be developing an internal method of accounting for the carbon footprint of high-energy-consuming Facilities projects.  This internal mechanism will set up a “shadow” price on carbon emissions from projects as a line item in projects’ lifecycle cost analyses, essentially proceeding internally as if national carbon pricing exists.  For example, if a project results in a 50-ton carbon emissions increase, and an internal price was set at $40/ton (price is yet to be determined), the shadow cost on carbon for that project would be $2,000.  This follows the strategy established in Wesleyan’s 2016 Sustainability Action Plan to reduce the university’s carbon footprint by providing the economic case for higher carbon footprint initiatives, and will prepare Wesleyan for the possibility of future national carbon pricing.

Roth Writes About Teaching Iconic Film ‘Casablanca’ to Today’s College Students

President Michael Roth

On the 75th anniversary of Casablanca, President Michael Roth writes in The Chronicle of Higher Education about teaching the iconic film to modern college students. He writes, “…I have to encourage students to open themselves to the pace, the acting styles, and the conventions of classical Hollywood cinema. I push my smart, hip, and often progressive students to give up their condescending attitude toward the past.”

He writes:

This year, the immigrant story at the heart of Casablanca is more powerful than ever. Many of my students are sympathetic to refugees escaping brutal conditions, and in our current political atmosphere this is no small thing. But Casablanca’s themes go deeper than that, depicting a world in which people are willing to work together across differences for shared political goals. There can be no litmus test of political or moral purity when the threat is real and the task is to find common ground from which to take effective action.

On college campuses it is easy to stay locked in the bubble of one’s own friends and allies. A campus may, like Rick’s cafe, pride itself on diversity, but student groups (and faculty allies) often self-segregate, so they rarely put aside their differences to join forces, or increase mutual understanding through conversation and debate.

While administrators talk a lot about helping the world, colleges often seem content to prepare students to maximize personal gain after graduating, encouraging a retreat into a private life in which other people’s problems and political struggles don’t inspire concern — let alone commitment and action.

Despite the lofty rhetoric, colleges are reluctant to stick their necks out for anybody, except their own students, alumni, and faculty. Casablanca forces us consider what it takes for good people to act in a corrupt world, not just turn their noses up at the corruption. What does it take to say “no” to abuses of power? How does one come to risk one’s life by publicly affirming basic human values?”

These are questions that Casablanca raised when it was released 75 years ago. Today’s undergrads may resist its earnestness and romanticism, and they can easily point out deficiencies in its portrayal of race and gender. But Casablanca’s story of how diversity and solidarity can be combined to fight tyranny still resonates, even if that combination remains more aspiration than reality on campuses. I suppose that’s one reason I continue to teach the film: When neutrality is no longer an option, aspiration counts for a lot.

Roth Writes on Hungary’s Attempts to Shut Down a Leading University

President Michael S. Roth

Michael Roth

President Michael Roth writes in The Washington Post about the Hungarian government’s efforts to close down the Central European University (CEU), a leading private university founded by liberal Hungarian-born financier George Soros.

CEU is accredited in the United States and registered in New York State, but has no U.S. campus. The Hungarian government has targeted the school by passing a law requiring universities to have campuses in the place where they are registered. The response has been mass demonstrations and even threats to suspend Hungary’s European Union membership.

Pointing to  recent debates over free speech at American universities, Roth writes:

While we in the United States fret about whether right-wing provocateurs can speak in the evening or the afternoon, a far more dire situation has developed in Budapest.

The Hungarian government is trying to shut down Central European University, a major beacon of research and teaching. The university was supported by the liberal philanthropist and financier Georges Soros and is currently led by Michael Ignatieff, a champion of freedom of inquiry. The right-wing government of Prime Minister Viktor Orbán has put enormous pressure on CEU but supporters around the world have rallied to its defense. We should, too!

He concludes:

When freedom of inquiry and expression is threatened on campus, it will be threatened elsewhere in society. In the long run, it’s the most vulnerable who have the most to lose.

 

President Roth to Lead Wesleyan through 2023

Donna Morea ’76, P’06, chair of Wesleyan’s Board of Trustees, sent the following message to the campus community on Saturday, March 4:

Michael S. Roth '78 became the 16th president of Wesleyan University on July 1, 2007.

Michael S. Roth ’78 became the 16th president of Wesleyan University on July 1, 2007.

I’m pleased to announce that today, the University recognized the extraordinary leadership of President Michael S. Roth and offered him an extension of his contract. I’m delighted to report that he has committed to lead Wesleyan through 2023.

This is truly an exciting time for Wesleyan. With the support of our community and Michael’s outstanding leadership, our reputation for being at the forefront of pragmatic liberal education continues to grow. Michael led our highly successful THIS IS WHY campaign, which raised significant funds for financial aid. He has worked to deepen our resolve to cultivate a supportive campus community where all have ample opportunity to thrive and participate fully in our vibrant culture. Thanks to a concerted effort to expand recognition of Wesleyan, record numbers of students from around the world have sought the opportunity to learn here. Through a consultative process with all university constituencies, Michael is developing a vision for the future in “Beyond 2020: Strategies for Wesleyan” that will encourage and support innovations such as our new course offerings in design and engineering.

For almost 10 years now, Michael’s leadership has been crucial to Wesleyan’s success. We have been fortunate indeed to have a president who believes so deeply in our mission and advocates for it so effectively, so eloquently. He has done much to secure Wesleyan’s future and enhance recognition of our crucial role in American higher education. Under his leadership, Wesleyan has gained long-term fiscal stability through changes to our fundraising, spending and debt management. We’ve launched innovative programs, including the Shapiro Creative Writing Center, the Allbritton Center for the Study of Public Life and four interdisciplinary colleges.

Now more than ever, our country needs Wesleyan graduates whose liberal education has prepared them to address complex problems and create powerful opportunities. With Michael’s bold, visionary leadership and the continued support of our community, I am confident that we will meet if not surpass our high aspirations.

President Roth Defends Liberal Education in Op-Ed, Radio Interview

President Michael S. Roth

President Michael Roth

Following a visit to China Peking University–Shenzhen, which has decided to start an undergraduate liberal arts college, President Michael Roth reflects in an op-ed in The Washington Post on why commitment to a liberal education is more important today than ever. He contends, “This is a fragile time for liberal education, making commitment to it all the more urgent.”

Keeping in mind John Dewey, the pragmatist philosopher who visited China in 1919 to talk about education, Roth focuses on “two dangers and two possibilities.” He warns of the “danger of narrowing specialization” at a time when “we need more academics who can facilitate conversations between the sciences and the humanistic disciplines.” With an eye to the current political climate in the U.S., he cautions against the “danger of popular parochialism”:

It is especially urgent to advocate effectively for a broadly based pragmatic liberal education when confronted by ignorant authoritarians who reject inquiry in favor of fear mongering and prejudice. A broad education with a sense of history and cultural possibilities arms citizens against manipulation and allows them to see beyond allegiance to their own.

Undergraduate education – be it in China or the United States – should promote intellectual diversity in such ways that students are inspired to grapple with ideas that they never would have considered on their own. At Wesleyan University, creating more access for low-income students and military veterans has been an important part of this process.  Groups like these have been historically under-represented on our campus, but just having diverse groups is not enough. We must also devise programs to make these groups more likely to engage with one another, bursting protective bubbles of ideas that lead some campus radicals and free speech absolutists to have in common mostly a commitment to smug self-righteousness.

Roth concludes by discussing the “possibilities of open and reliable communication” among academic researchers in the sciences and humanities, and the importance of creating a “cosmopolitan” culture of openness and curiosity on campuses.

Also, in an interview with WBUR public radio, Roth defended the value of a broad liberal education today, at a time when many are calling for a narrower, more instrumental education.

“On our campuses, we have an academic culture that’s pretty much tilted to the left, in which people get increasingly used to talking to other people who agree with them already… In order to have a real education that’s broad and deep and challenges your own assumptions, you’ve got to talk to people who don’t agree with you. And you have to learn how to tolerate ambiguity and disagreement, and not just learn how to defend yourself and attack all people who don’t agree with you. The current climate is one in which people are very good at yelling at each other or fabricating tweets that make someone else feel really stupid, but that’s not the same as listening to someone else who has a different point of view and learning from that person.”

Roth said that Wesleyan has taken steps in the last five years to ensure diverse viewpoints exist among its student body, its faculty and visiting speakers.

President Roth Presents Beyond 2020: Strategies for Wesleyan

wes2020In May 2010, the Board of Trustees adopted Wesleyan 2020 as a tool for strategic decision making at Wesleyan. Reflecting the input of faculty, trustees, staff, alumni and students, and designed to be flexible, this framework for planning has assisted the University in making decisions about the allocation of resources since that time.

Wesleyan President Michael S. Roth has provided an update, Beyond 2020: Strategies for Wesleyan, organized under the rubric of Wesleyan’s three overarching goals: to energize Wesleyan’s distinctive educational experience; to enhance recognition of Wesleyan as an extraordinary institution; and to work within a sustainable economic model while retaining core values. Beyond 2020 outlines new investments Wesleyan can make to ensure that the university remains at the forefront of innovative, pragmatic and progressive education.

“It has become ever clearer to me,” says Roth, “that our university can continue to represent something relevant and admirable in American higher education—not just for our own alumni and friends but for a much broader constituency. Our ‘bold and rigorous’ work will add substantial value to our diplomas and has the potential to make a lasting contribution to our country and beyond. We are in a much better position now than we were a decade ago to make the investments required to make this happen.”

Roth said he will be discussing the goals of Beyond 2020 during the current academic year with various university constituencies on campus and off.

Forbes Ranks Wesleyan in the Top 10 Colleges in America

Forbes magazine has featured Wesleyan among the top 10 in its list of America’s Top Colleges 2016. Ranked at number 9, it shares the highest echelon with major research universities including Stanford, Princeton and Harvard, and liberal arts colleges like Williams, Pomona and Swarthmore.

The Forbes ranking is based on a weighted three-year moving average of each school’s total score. Critical factors include student satisfaction (measured by faculty ratings and freshman-to-sophomore retention rates), post-graduate success (alumni salaries and alumni on American Leaders List), academic success (alumni receiving PhDs and student nationally competitive awards), student debt, and four-year graduation rates.

President Michael Roth blogged about this honor in July, writing, “Despite knowing that ranking schools is more magazine public relations than science, and despite the tendency to reward the wealthiest schools with the highest rankings (all the schools in the Forbes’ top 10 except Wesleyan have endowments way over a billion dollars), I have to admit I was tickled to see alma mater get this recognition. This magazine (unlike U.S. News) paid more attention to outputs (how our alumni and faculty are doing) than inputs (how much do we spend per student, how many applicants do we reject), and I couldn’t help but think that we did well here because of the impact our grads are having beyond the university.”

He added, “I still think that all college rankings are pretty artificial, and that prospective students should find the right fit with a school rather than choose a place on which a magazine has conferred prestige. […] But it’s gratifying to see Wesleyan faculty and alumni recognized for the great work they do every year—whatever the rankings.”

President Roth, Ulysse Respond to Recent Black Men Killings, Police Murders

In a July 11 Roth on Wesleyan blog, President Michael Roth responds to two recent killings of black men by police officers in Louisiana and Minnesota, and the murders of five police officers in Texas. In the blog, titled, “On What Matters” Roth shares his own thoughts and the reflections of others that he found meaningful. He writes:

Too often I have written blog posts about tragedies, violence, injustice. From attacks in other parts of the world to devastation right here in the USA, I have expressed sorrow, anger—and often a feeling of solidarity with those who have suffered, are suffering. Readers have pointed out that my compassion, like other forms of attention, is selective. There are plenty of injustices that have gone unremarked in this space, either because of my own ignorance or my judgments about what I should be writing about in this Roth on Wesleyan blog.

I have followed the news reports and commentaries closely over the last week. What horror unfolds before us! The brutal killings by police officers in Minnesota and Louisiana and the vicious murders of police officers in Dallas that followed have underscored how violence can destroy individual lives while shaking communities to the core.

In her latest piece in The Huffington Post, Gina Athena Ulysse, professor of anthropology, professor of feminist, gender and sexuality studies, responds to the recent killings of black men.

She writes:

My optimism wanes and my patience continues to be tried with each new extra judicial killing, each exoneration. Each one is more confirmation of the deep rootedness of our inequality. We bear the weight of history so unequally. It is written on our bodies and etched in the color of our skin. Human chattel. Property. Slaves. That is the undue burden, the inequity we live with, that simply cannot be undone unconsciously. Its transformation, if that (I am not naïve), requires so much more than will. To bring about a modicum of change we must not only intentionally attempt, but also be determined, to shift. It will not happen par hazard. Because history has seen to it that the exchange, use, and sign value ascribed to Black lives remains unequal to that of Whites. We are differentially positioned and invested.

What story do you tell yourself to assuage the comfort you find in the social luxury of being in an unmarked body. Your silence is your complicity. Where is your outrage as we all bear witness to this moment?

Read more here.

Campaign Celebrated at Grand Central in NYC

More than 200 members of the Wesleyan community—decked out in red and black—gathered in Vanderbilt Hall at Grand Central Terminal in New York City on June 16 to celebrate the success of the THIS IS WHY campaign, which draws to its end on June 30, 2016. The event was hosted by THIS IS WHY campaign chair John Usdan ’80, P’15, P’18, P’18.

At the event, President Michael Roth ’78 acknowledged some of the campaign leaders—including Usdan; Joshua Boger ’73, P’06, ’09, retiring chair of the Wesleyan Board of Trustees; Ellen Jewett ’81 P’17, trustee emerita; Alan Dachs ’70, P’98, Hon ’07, chair emeritus of the Board; and Donna Morea ’76, P’06, chair-elect of the Board—and thanked the entire Wesleyan community for its support.

“Thank you all for being generous donors to and supporters of this campaign,” said Roth, addressing the crowd. “We have faculty here who have mentored for decades, coaches who have helped athletes thrive, and parents whose kids have discovered what they love to do at Wesleyan. We are a family of people who support one another—not just for the sake of alma mater but also to send people out into the world to do great things.”

Photos of the event are below and the full gallery is in this Wesleyan Flickr album. (Photos by Robert Adam Mayer)

Wesleyan University and Campaign Chair John Usdan ’80 P’15, P’18, P’18, hosted a THIS IS WHY Campaign Celebration at Grand Central Station, New York, N.Y. on June 16, 2016. (Photo by Robert Adam Mayer)

THIS IS WHY campaign chair John Usdan ’80 P’15, P’18, P’18 hosted a campaign celebration at Grand Central Terminal, New York, N.Y., on June 16, 2016.

Wesleyan University and Campaign Chair John Usdan ’80 P’15, P’18, P’18, hosted a THIS IS WHY Campaign Celebration at Grand Central Station, New York, N.Y. on June 16, 2016. (Photo by Robert Adam Mayer)

Pictured, from left: John Usdan ’80 P’15, P’18, P’18; Wesleyan President Michael Roth ’78; and Joshua Boger ’73, P’06, ’09.

Wesleyan University and Campaign Chair John Usdan ’80 P’15, P’18, P’18, hosted a THIS IS WHY Campaign Celebration at Grand Central Station, New York, N.Y. on June 16, 2016. (Photo by Robert Adam Mayer)

From left: Wesleyan trustee David Resnick ’81, P’13, with Helen Haje P’13 and Peter Haje P’13.

Wesleyan University and Campaign Chair John Usdan ’80 P’15, P’18, P’18, hosted a THIS IS WHY Campaign Celebration at Grand Central Station, New York, N.Y. on June 16, 2016. (Photo by Robert Adam Mayer)

Pictured, from left: Connie McCann ’76, trustee emerita; Alan Dachs ’70, P’98, Hon ’07, chair emeritus of the Wesleyan Board of Trustees; and Karl Scheibe, professor of psychology, emeritus.

From left: Barbara-Jan Wilson, vice president for university relations; John Usdan ’80, P’15, P’18, P’18; and Eva Usdan P'15, P'18, P'18.

From left: Barbara-Jan Wilson, vice president for university relations; John Usdan ’80, P’15, P’18, P’18; and Eva Usdan P’15, P’18, P’18.

Wesleyan University and Campaign Chair John Usdan ’80 P’15, P’18, P’18, hosted a THIS IS WHY Campaign Celebration at Grand Central Station, New York, N.Y. on June 16, 2016. (Photo by Robert Adam Mayer)

From left: Cristhian Escobar ’00, Miguel Guadalupe ’98 and Jamie Novogrod ’02.

Wesleyan University and Campaign Chair John Usdan ’80 P’15, P’18, P’18, hosted a THIS IS WHY Campaign Celebration at Grand Central Station, New York, N.Y. on June 16, 2016. (Photo by Robert Adam Mayer)

Amy Appleton ’83 P’16, ’19 sports her homemade Wesleyan University dress.

President Roth Makes Remarks to the Class of 2016 (with video)

Wesleyan President Michael Roth. (Photo by Tom Dzimian)

Wesleyan President Michael Roth. (Photo by Tom Dzimian)

Wesleyan President Michael Roth made the following remarks during the 184th Commencement ceremony May 22:

President Roth delivers his remarks. (Photo by John Van Vlack)

President Roth delivers his remarks. (Photo by John Van Vlack)

Members of the Board of Trustees, members of the faculty and staff, distinguished guests, new recipients of graduate degrees, and the very mighty Class of 2016, I am honored to present some brief remarks on the occasion of this Commencement.

When you began your time at Wesleyan in the fall of 2012, the presidential elections were moving into high gear. Barack Obama, who spoke from this podium eight years ago as a presidential candidate, was arguing for a renewed mandate for change, for finding ways to make even small amounts of progress on environmental issues, social justice concerns, and economic growth. There were many who opposed this vision, and they offered an alternative framework for imagining individual freedom, prosperity through work, and respect for tradition. Today you are graduating into another election cycle, and now differences in the visions for the future of this country seem greater than ever. Our politics have grown ever nastier, cruder, more vulgar, more juvenile. Many Americans, turned off by the triumph of vulgarity and corruption, seem ready to dis-engage from the political process. I trust this will not be the case for you. Resignation should not be an option. We so need your participation, your vision, your commitment to put justice, generosity, and care at the center of your lives and our communities.