Skip to main content

Welcome and Reading


Thomas E. Spock '78

Good morning, everyone. In the spirit of our Quaker tradition, let’s begin by joining in a moment of silence.

Thank you, and welcome to Swarthmore College’s 145th commencement.

My name is Tom Spock, Class of 1978. I am so happy to be here today, and feel incredibly lucky to serve Swarthmore as chair of the Board of Managers. Don’t worry – this will be quick.

OK – it’s over! You did it! Congratulations! Wherever you go from here, you’ve earned something that can never be taken away – a degree from Swarthmore – and I’m well aware of how brutally rigorous this place can be. But it’s also trial by fire; beyond the classroom learning, you have run a physical, emotional, and intellectual gantlet that will prepare you for the varied challenges of life.

Today, you’re going to hear from five compelling and very different speakers, in our terrific President Valerie Smith, our three honorary degree recipients, and of course the classmate you selected to address you today. I won’t try to compete with them. But I will tell you what makes me happiest about this event: it’s the knowledge that sitting in front of me are 374 people with 374 different stories, each a unique narrative. In some ways I’m typical of the Old Swarthmore. My parents graduated from here, and I grew up attending the Swarthmore Quaker meeting right here on campus. But today our student body is much richer in diversity, with far more varied backgrounds. That dynamic makes for a much stronger school, a more fertile educational environment, and is contributing to a far more interesting and wide-ranging alumni body. 

And very shortly you’ll all be alumni. I hope you all come back often. I remember when I graduated, I was a little cynical about our beautiful campus. It struck me as a bit of an advertising ploy – this incredibly beautiful place seemed more like it was pitched to the parents of prospective students as a sort of marketing hook, and once Swarthmore grabbed you there was so much work you never really got to appreciate the place. Well, you’ll spend a lot more of your life as a Swarthmore alum than as a student here, and will have plenty of opportunities to wander around the beautiful Scott Arboretum, and think about your time here. I hope you take advantage of it.

Finally, our mantra these days is “changing lives, changing the world.” I hope Swarthmore has done that for you – and that you take the message to heart. I hope that you will take it upon yourselves to go out, and be the best you can be.

So once again, welcome everyone. And to the Class of 2017: Congratulations!

David McElhinney '75, P'17 reads from Reinhold Niebuhr:

"Nothing that is worth doing can be achieved in our lifetime; therefore we are saved by hope.

Nothing that is true or beautiful or good makes complete sense in any immediate context of history; therefore we must be saved by faith.

Nothing we do, however virtuous, can be accomplished alone; therefore we are saved by love."

Watch: Commencement Welcome