June 1, 2003
Honorary Degree Citation
It is a joy and privilege to join the graduates of the Class of 2003 in your commencement celebration. More than a few years ago I participated, from the audience, in two other commencement celebrations, at Swarthmore, in which my two daughters were graduates. One of them loaned me the title of her book, A Gathering of Gifts. Perhaps it was a permanent loan.
On the 22nd of April, 2002, the 66th anniversary of my own graduation, I traveled to Cornell for its year-long diversity program. What would students and even faculty like to hear about me?
Thinking of my train trip to Cornell in September 1932, seventy years before, I recalled not a few fearful thoughts about the student life which I anticipated. In April 2002, with the less-fearful wisdom of some eighty-seven years, I mused, "what if I had asked myself in 1932, 'are there gifts of my own which I bring to this fine institution, Cornell?'"
I did speak to the 2002 Cornell audience of the gifts brought by me to the Cornell campus in 1932, even generational gifts. At your graduation, I now charge you to have a major concern for your own gifts, from this day forward. I refer to gifts, which I might speak of as ego strengths, in a slightly different audience.
Anna Freud once called our attention to the fact that even our ego strengths can be buried so deeply in "our level of unawareness," more familiarly our unconscious, that they, our ego strengths, may not be wholly available to us. If this is true, getting acquainted with our gifts will require some work.
Identifying one's own gifts means that you are able to use them for your own growth and enhancement. And in addition you may use them in the world, in your relationship with others, both personal and work-life. There will be myriad opportunities to assist others in calling forth their gifts. You can easily see how this process of identifying gifts builds on itself.
Viola Bernard, Perry Ottentberg, and Fritz Redl spoke of self-humanization and humanization of others as opposed to de-humanization. These authors, as long ago as 1964, wrote of the urgent need to develop the "psychic antidotes of re-humanization." By re-humanization they meant, "to counteract the intensified callousness toward human worth and suffering resulting from the advances in modern technology and the push-button aspects of nuclear warfare."
I do charge you with the responsibility for the identification and the development of your own gifts, and for preparing to share them in our troubled world. When you came to this fine institution, Swarthmore, you brought them with you.
For my presence today, thank you.