Hopkins graduates Class of 2010

Alum Michael Bloomberg urges students to defy partisanship and ask hard questions

May 27, 2010|By Childs Walker, The Baltimore Sun

Graduating students should ignore partisanship and conventional wisdom in favor of asking tough questions about the issues facing the world, said New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg in remarks Thursday morning at the Johns Hopkins University's commencement.

"No ideology has God on its side or a choir of angels at its feet," Bloomberg said, alluding to the state of political discourse in Washington. "Your professors have never trained you to follow the crowd. … Never trust anyone who reflexively shoots down an idea because it comes from a different party or ideology."

Bloomberg, a 1964 Hopkins graduate who has donated millions to his alma mater, also reduced the large crowd at Homewood Field to giggles with recollections of his college days. The university had no swimming pool and no female students, he said, and the public health school had a curiously incomplete name (it now bears his). "I was the kind of student who made the top half of the class possible," he said in remembering his lack of academic focus.

Hopkins awarded 6,323 degrees on Thursday, 1,654 of those to graduating seniors. For the first time, the university awarded diplomas to both undergraduates and doctoral students at its campuswide ceremony. The new format is part of President Ronald J. Daniels' push for more unity between the Homewood campus and the university's powerful graduate schools.

In another new custom, graduating seniors began their procession in the quadrangle where they lived as freshmen and walked throughout campus before emerging onto the field. One senior had taped the message "HIRE ME!" to his black cap. When he appeared on a large video screen, he drew nearly as loud an ovation as Bloomberg.

Daniels also addressed the graduates, telling the tale of how lucky he was to arrive at Hopkins just months before he needed major abdominal surgery. He was lucky, he said, because Hopkins physician John Cameron had spent decades perfecting the arduous Whipple procedure that Daniels needed.

"When I look out at all of you, I know, I am confident, that there are countless Dr. Camerons among you," he said. "Your patience and your perseverance will save lives, rebuild cities, discover our history, affect humanity and enrich our existence."

Bloomberg echoed that message in urging the graduates to unleash their intellectual curiosity and rigorous judgments on the world.

"Grab one last Natty Boh at PJ's tonight, because tomorrow, the real work begins," he said. "Don't screw it up."

childs.walker@baltsun.com

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