Read by Peter Gordon (Crown ’71) at his graduation from Crown College in June 1971.
How joyous it is to be a member of Crown College’s first four-year class, to be assembled here together, with our parents, our College Faculty, our relatives, and friends. How heady it is to celebrate the passing of our undergraduate days, to have at long last our degrees conferred upon us. This day marks the beginning of our true independence, our entry into that larger society that surrounds this city upon a hill. And we feel solemn because the sweetness of this occasion can taste so bitter. We are about to embark on our careers, and there is trauma in this for our hopes and aspirations about our own abilities, and about our share in mankind’s task. These are about to be tempered by economic necessity. Our vision of an alternate goal orientation in the way we work, consume, and render life meaningful is threatened by the compromises we have thought so odious in our elders and in our politicians. We are faced with compromising ourselves, and I think this is part of the bitterness of this day.
There is also bitterness in our leaving Crown College, leaving UCSC. Even for those of us who are thinking of remaining in Santa Cruz, for a time, this marks the end of our Crowning days, if you’ll forgive the pun. After four years, the world that has been swaddled about us is about to be unswathed, and shortly, Crown’s second four-year class will be assembled in this meadow. And even if our graduation is timely, how very dear these College years have been. Nor will the recalling of these years in future days be mere sentimentality, as one of our campus historians suggests—his notion is that if you want to understand the actions and the views of a man or woman, at whatever point in his life cycle, look to his early 20s, his schooling, his friends, the ethos permeating these formative years. Mark well, we have acquired our convictions here, our cast of mind, and our careers will always be overseen by that sense of rightness, conscience if you will, that took root and was nurtured here, and will command and guard us the rest of our lives.
Not only did we come to recognize our convictions here at Santa Cruz, not only have we received our education and our training here, but we grew up here and we have grown up together; we had our loves and our tragedies, our parties and our late night conversations, our house nights and our political strikes here, and, together. There is also that quite special comradeship of being present at the creation of Crown College and seeing it, and ourselves, through its first years. But now I must return to that bitterness that is with us today, for from many a good friend, many a familiar place we shall have to part. The pain of this runs deep; we lose not only our circle of friends but the familiarity of this small university town that we have come to know as home. Friends’ homes on each street will receive new occupants and pass out of our hands and into the stores of our memory. Only the closest friends will remain in touch with each other, and those others, who knows where on the face of this country or the globe? And this microcosm, no longer intact, will irrevocably pass. Maybe for some, tonight, tears will prove the most fitting end.
Yet I know, as we must all know, that womanhood, manhood, is upon us, and all the responsibilities heir to this well-earned freedom we now gain. Some of us will go on to graduate school with clarity and dedication as to our goals; Others of us will enter teacher accreditation programs, med schools and law schools and still others will take those jobs that we have been trained for and can find. Then there are those of us who are undecided, unsure about our future—of these, some will remain in our cherished Santa Cruz, and some will go in search of a destiny worth persevering to make one’s own. There is yet one segment to this class, and to all other graduating classes across this country that are comprised of young men with eligible draft numbers: their burden is in being called to serve in the armed forces of the United States while our country is waging an immoral and heinous war. To those among these young men who find it unconscionable to serve, to be an accomplice in what we have perpetrated in South East Asia, every shred of support is not enough.
It has been forgotten that in the history of the student movement the turbulence of street battle, arson, and bombing came after many years of peaceful protest and many a candle-lit vigil. Remember the vigils in the Cowell courtyard each noon back in 1967? And each noon since then has had its toll—so many bombs and bullets; so many dead and maimed. How can our eyes not be hollowed out by grief, our shoulders stooped from the weight of our unwilling complicity. Yet, our protests have not been entirely futile. The vast majority of this country now agrees in condemning this Asian land war, and I can only be dismayed when I am reminded that the silent majority does not thank us for being instrumental in changing their views, does not commend us for our courage in having spoken out so very long ago, and does not even now begin to do everything in their power to stop this war. To write a letter in support of the McGovern-Hatfield bill which would cut off funds for the war on December 31, (of this year) is something we could all do, and could do now.
To speak so strongly may seem almost out of place in this doldrum-like year, the quietest this country’s universities have known in five years. But it is my view that many of the changes we have undergone here at UCSC are directly or indirectly attributable to the disillusionment spawned by the values, alternative vocations, lifestyles, and alternative foreign and domestic policies. For many of us alternatives were found deep in our own American and Western traditions, so deep, in fact, that they had become neglected—I refer to our Constitutionally guaranteed freedoms, and particularily the provision on conscription and the requiring of Congressional approval for the waging of war, I refer to the religious ideal of a world-embracing brotherhood, and lastly, I refer to the personal importance of a life lived well as opposed to well paid. The finest tribute I can make to UC Santa Cruz is that the ideals of personal freedom and social responsibility are somehow wed here and abide in the very texture of the place—in its classrooms and its wooded paths, and in the air we breathe. Love and awe of nature and respect for the diversity in man come naturally here and seems to me to be the ethos of this place. It is of this stuff that my own convictions are made. I hope that these are also our convictions. And lest it sound too cliche ridden, a cautionary word: they are cliches only if you do not follow through once you have adopted them, as by active participation in the ecological movement, in the effort to achieve a society that does not degrade its poor, and a foreign policy based on a more realistic estimation of what the growing family of nuclear nations bodes, I mean by this that a zealous dedication to disarmament and international cooperation is the only sane policy.
Our convictions and what follows from them, that is if these be our convictions and not the notoriously short-lived idealism of rebellious youth, imply that we become life-long Nader’s Raiders, life-long non-conspicuous consumers, that all our lives long we try to attain personal relationships that are genuine, and that we also strive to achieve an ecologically sound, humane, and just world community. Let us each work and live by our convictions, and, to each of us, every success.