"We ask parents and families to twist and turn in every possible way to fit the time needs of our institutions and modern life instead of the other way around," Riley said in the main address at the University's 124th Commencement Exercises, held May 22 at Alumni Stadium.
"As you...reflect on what is truly important," Riley said, "the answer may surprise you. You may discover that time with good friends, your new baby, or your aging parents may be far more valuable to you than everything modern and up-to-date."
The education secretary was main speaker at campus ceremonies at which some 3,250 undergraduate, graduate and professional degrees were conferred.
Honorary doctorates were awarded to Cardinal Jaime Ortega of Havana, Rosie's Place founder Kip Tiernan, NBC President and CEO Robert C. Wright, and Cathedral High School teacher Fayette Long.
United States Secretary of Education Richard W. Riley addresses the Class of 2000 at Monday's Commencement Exercises in Alumni Stadium. (Photo by Lee Pellegrini)
Riley did not receive an honorary degree, in keeping with a self-imposed ban on accepting awards from individual schools while serving as secretary of education.
The proceedings seemed charmed from the outset, as gray clouds threatening rain gave way to bright sun during the opening processional. Celebratory whoops from enthusiastic graduates more than once punctuated the ceremonies, with cheers rising from the Lynch School of Education ranks when the cabinet secretary responsible for the nation's schools singled out BC's newly minted teachers for praise.
University President William P. Leahy, SJ, in opening remarks, recalled the words of the prophet Jeremiah: "For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. When you seek me with all your heart, I will be found by you, says the Lord."
Added Fr. Leahy: "Our society...cries out for individuals who care about others, and who are willing to invest themselves in their neighborhood, schools and local communities. Stated most simply, we need people who will go out into society and bear fruit that will last."
Riley, a veteran Southern politician who served as governor of South Carolina from 1979-87, warmed the BC crowd to his theme by offering a down-home anecdote - conveyed in a folksy drawl evocative of the late Sen. Sam Ervin's "country lawyer" - about a Harvard student and a pig.
The Harvard man, motoring through the Carolinas, stopped short at the sight of a farmer holding a pig as the swine ate apples off a tree. Harvard Man: "What are you doing?" Farmer: "I'm fattening up my hog." Harvard Man: "Isn't that a waste of time?" Farmer: "Hell, man, what's time to a hog?"
The education secretary challenged graduates to "slow down" their lives.
"We live in a modern society that values time beyond anything else," he said. "We want our packages to arrive overnight. We want faster search engines for our computers. We even want people to talk faster on our answering machines so we can get on to the next message. We hail as a major breakthrough every new discovery that allows us to save time. Time is everything.
"But I worry that in all this rush to stay ahead and get ahead - in all this rush to achieve what we want to achieve - we may be losing our way. I worry that we are missing something that is far deeper than time. In the process of all this rushing, we may be losing our connections to our friends, our sense of family and our spiritual life, and at times, our own sense of humanity."
All too many children today grow up "almost alone, and disconnected," he said, their education and moral development spotty. Society's major institutions, from schools to commercial employers, he said, too often require family time to be sacrificed in the name of success.
University President William P. Leahy, SJ, congratulates Cardinal Jaime Ortega on receiving an honorary Doctor of Laws degree, while Board of Trustees Chairman Charles I. Clough Jr. looks on.
"Please remember that the time we give to others is one of the most important gifts we can give," Riley said. "The time we set aside to listen, to care, to meditate and pray, to lift someone up, or even help them heal, is very important."
Sharing the stage with honoree Cardinal Ortega of Havana, where Catholics have long suffered under the Castro regime, Riley also urged those with the "luxury of time and freedom" to "speak up for those who have neither" in "Cuba, Sierra Leone, Northern Ireland and so many other places."
He closed by recalling the words of a fellow South Carolinian, the late Cardinal Joseph Bernardin of Chicago, who, suffering from cancer, spent his last days speaking eloquently for the power of reconciliation: "We are blessed with a precious gift of time," Riley recalled the cardinal saying. "Please don't waste it on acrimony and division."
The Order of Exercises began with the singing of the national anthem by Genevieve F. Thiers '00, who also closed the ceremonies with a rendition of "Alma Mater."
The Invocation was given by Michael P. Walsh, SJ, Professor of Bioethics John J. Paris, SJ.
Rev. Thomas P. O'Malley, SJ, former College of Arts and Sciences dean and president of Loyola Marymount and John Carroll universities, and now teaching in the A&S Honors Program, gave the Reading of the Degree in Latin.
Cardinal Bernard Law of Boston gave the Benediction.
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