Skip to main content

President Celebrates 'Human Commonality' at Swarthmore Commencement

Swarthmore College President Alfred H. Bloom urged members of the graduating Class of 2000 today to retain an important "habit of mind" they developed over the last four years — namely, their "readiness to see beyond differences to the astounding commonality in conceptual, emotion, and ethical life."

Addressing the most diverse class in Swarthmore history, Bloom said, "You have come to recognize that, although the particulars of what is learned will be different... all human beings share the ability to learn, to stretch conceptual categories, to discriminate among them, to build new ones, to think with words and beyond words, and to combine the words of their own language to capture ideas expressed in another."

While giving degrees to 377 seniors, Swarthmore awarded honorary doctorates to Ian Barbour, a theologian and physicist noted for his pioneering efforts to forge a dialogue between science and religion; Bill T. Jones, acclaimed dance choreographer; and Elizabeth "Betita" Martínez, a lifelong advocate for civil and political rights and the first Mexican-American to graduate from Swarthmore. The ceremony — the college's 128th commencement — was held this morning at the Scott Outdoor Auditorium on the Swarthmore campus.

Bloom, who has made the shaping of a diverse campus community a top priority of his presidency at Swarthmore, celebrated what the graduates had learned in the classroom and by being part of a student body reflective of society. Nearly one-third of the Class of 2000 are American students of color, and an additional 7 percent are international students.

"In a world in which single-dimensional differences are so readily inflated into stereotypes which distance and discount the other as a whole, your recognition of fundamental human commonality compels you, in your personal interactions with individuals and groups, to refuse to define others by their difference, and rather to search for the common ground you know you share," Bloom said. "... You have each developed a habit of mind which transforms you into an agent of connection among the individuals and across the groups and societies of the world."

Of the 377 graduates, 359 collected the bachelor of arts degree and 21 the bachelor of science. Three had double degrees. Highest honors were awarded to 10, high honors to 52, and honors to 37.

Thomas H. Blackburn, Centennial Professor of English Literature, addressed the graduating class at baccalaureate services on May 28. The senior class speaker on May 29, as voted her by classmates, was Rhiana Lauren Swartz, a political science major from Amherst, Mass.