Graduates, be true to Pomona College.
What will the future hold? Graduates ask this with excitement and trepidation, and yet you already have a sense of the answer. You will spread across the country and focus on building your life. Many treasured friendships will devolve to Facebook likes; then you will get married and have kids who will monopolize your time and energy. You will live oddly parallel lives if you really have time to think about it (which you won’t). But every once in a while you will think back to these four years and appreciate anew how marvelous a Pomona College education is.
Pomona is an incredibly diverse community of mutually-respectful scholars. The tradition of listening to others, engaging in open debates, and expanding your personal worldview is important in so many ways. Neurologically, it grows dendrites, keeping your brain perspicacious. Socially, it allows you to interact with a wide variety of personalities–a key skill in the workplace. In an increasingly-interconnected world it safeguards against groupthink and totalitarianism.
Why is this so important? Look at the 2016 presidential primaries. Regardless of your political leanings, it is deeply disturbing how many voters support open bigotry, war crimes, and ad hominem attacks. This is the latest manifestation of the eternal struggle between respect for others and the “will to power;” between the joy of exploring the world and the arrogance required to exploit it; between the open hand of tolerance and the closed fist of persecution. The pendulum swings back and forth, and now, just as the Reformation gave way to the Counter-Reformation and Emancipation gave way to Jim Crow, President Obama is being followed by his antithesis. Through it all, there will always be millions of Americans who simply hate other classes of people; Pomona graduates cannot enlighten everybody. But we can lead good lives and inspire others to do the same.
Back to the future: how will you “bear (your) added riches in trust for mankind?” That is up to you. Many of my classmates became teachers, which is one of the most socially-redeeming careers you can have. Research, artistry, activism, poetry, entrepreneurship–your talents can take you on so many journeys. But wherever you go and whatever you do, the riches of a Pomona education will be with you always. For your sake and for the sake of future generations, bear them well.
– Peter Clasquin PO '97