Value solitude, Loyola class is urged

Columnist Safire notes need for quiet reflection

May 16, 2004|By Tanika White | Tanika White,SUN STAFF

Take a break from checking your e-mail, and put those cell phones away.

Keynote speaker William Safire offered that advice to graduates at Loyola College's 152nd commencement yesterday, reminding them that human beings need to set aside time to think.

At the 1st Mariner Arena downtown, 813 Loyola students were awarded bachelor's degrees, and another 831 earned master's or doctoral degrees.

More than 400 students at St. Mary's College of Maryland also graduated yesterday in southern Maryland.

Locally, Loyola's graduates were told by Safire - a New York Times columnist and Pulitzer Prize winner - of the importance of jealously guarding their private time in an increasingly high-tech world.

Safire called "wirelessness" a "great technological boon that has brought society together like never before." But the growing popularity of cellular phones, beepers, two-way pagers and e-mail also is "an assault on the blessedness of solitude," he said.

People need time alone, he said, to think and reflect.

In this "speeded-up, 24-7, attention-on-demand world," Safire said, "I suggest you might want to slow it down, or at least cordon off a time for yourself."

The advice resonated with many Loyola graduates, most of whom acknowledged being tied to their wireless gadgets, particularly their cell phones.

"It was on my lap when he started talking," said Nikol Werner, 24, who earned her master's degree in speech pathology yesterday. "I was like, `Oh, no!'"

Before the graduation began, tiny telephones were ubiquitous, as capped-and-hooded graduates checked in with friends and family members, trying to locate them in the crowd or firm up plans for celebrating afterward.

Meanwhile, under a tent overlooking the St. Mary's River, 407 St. Mary's College graduates - the school's largest graduating class - were encouraged to think less about themselves and more about others.

Alhaji Yahya A.J.J. Jammeh, the president of the Republic of the Gambia, in West Africa - which has exchanged students with St. Mary's College since 1993 - pointed out the unevenness of opportunities between developing countries, such as his, and the United States.

While the St. Mary's graduates are lucky to be able to take advantage of their opportunities, Jammeh said, they should work to remember the less fortunate.

"He said he had a high regard for young people who challenge injustice in this world," said Mark Apter, a St. Mary's spokesman. "He encouraged the young people to continue in that direction. `Always remember it takes you and I to make world peace,' he said. `Let's work together toward that end.'"

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