(5-19-97) --United States Attorney General Janet Reno, speaking at Boston College's 121st Commencement Exercises in Conte Forum on Monday, urged graduates to uphold the Jesuit ideal of service to others, while striving to build a just society free of hatred and violence.
"The challenges you and the world will face will test all that you have learned here," Reno told the 3,300 graduates.
"But in case some you may turn from the challenges of these next years, saying 'I'm just going to throw up my hands. The problems of the world are too complicated ...' Let me just tell you this: Each one of us can make a difference."
In his first Commencement address as Boston College President, William P. Leahy, SJ, urged graduates to remember their families and their teachers and to thank them. He also noted that the next stage in the graduate's lives will be uncertain, just as it was when they arrived on campus four years ago.
"Yet, just as you adapted to Boston College, I am confident you will adjust to life after graduation," Fr. Leahy said. "I hope that in the years to come that you continue to grow in self-knowledge and in your relationships with God and other people. I hope that you take time on a regular basis for reflection, prayer and worship with a faith community.
"I hope, too, that you keep developing your talents and sharing them with the community around you, that in keeping with the motto of Boston College, that you strive `ever to excel.'
"As we know," the president added, "our world very much needs people who are both competent and compassionate, who desire to serve, not be served."
Reno, first woman to serve as the nation's chief law-enforcement official, received an honorary Doctor of Laws degree at the Commencement Exercises, which were held indoors due to inclement weather.
Receiving honorary degrees with Reno were: John A. McNeice Jr., '54, retired chairman and chief executive officer of The Colonial Group Inc., who was named an honorary Doctor of Business Administration; Cardinal Roger Etchegaray, an advisor to Pope John Paul II on human-rights issues, who was unable to attend, but whose honorary Doctor of Laws degree was awarded to him in abstentia; civil-rights activist and singer Bernice Johnson Reagon, who was named an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters; and chemist Peter Dervan, '67, who was named an honorary Doctor of Science.
Reno, making reference to the slings and arrows that are the lot of the high-ranking Washington official, praised public service as an honorable calling, and urged listeners to stand forthrightly for causes in which they believe.
"Say what you believe is right and then stick with it," Reno said. "If you know you're right, don't let polls or criticism turn you away. When you lose or when you err, know that happens. Pick yourself up, dust yourself off and move ahead. Don't be afraid to try."
Referring to her career as attorney general in the sometimes turbulent Clinton Administration, Reno added: "These last four years have been the most wonderful that anyone could serve. Yes, it is true that you get cussed at, fussed at, and figuratively beaten around the ears very regularly. But there is nothing more rewarding than public service."
Reno also urged a greater national commitment to the welfare of children. She praised the work done at Boston College to promote collaboration between health-care professionals, educators and public-policy makers to improve care for the young.
Meantime, Reno cited the example of her late father, Henry, an immigrant from Denmark who worked 43 years as a reporter for The Miami Herald, as she offered a strong indictment of "a growing anti-immigrant sentiment" and other forms of intolerance she said are among America's most pressing current problems.
"We have to do all we can to heal the wounds caused by intolerance and bigotry," said Reno. "We must speak out against violence and hate whenever we find them ... Hate, and the turmoil it causes, are everybody's problem in America."
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