Haverford Commencement Survives Rain; Speakers Offer Inspiration to Graduates
Before receiving their degrees from President Tom Tritton, the graduates heard words of inspiration and encouragement from each of Haverford's four honorary degree recipients.
The first to speak was human rights activist Hafsat Abiola, daughter of the former president of Nigeria and founder and director of Kudirat Initiative for Democracy (KIND), an organization that seeks to strengthen civil society and promote democracy in Nigeria.“Everything you need to make a difference in your life, you already have within you,” she said.“You have to be fully confident about your own talents, about your own possibilities, if you are going to realize them.”
David Bourns, former head of school at George School, a Quaker day and boarding school in Bucks County, Pa., and founder of the Paul Cuffee Charter School in Providence, R.I., urged the graduates to exert a positive influence on a world increasingly dominated by militarization and violence.“The premise of this celebration is that what you have known here and what you have created here together have given you reasons to tear down the barriers that divide us,” he said.
Musician Willie Ruff, Jr., one-half of the Mitchell-Ruff Duo and a faculty member at Yale University, recalled his friendship with Haverford alumnus and distinguished neuroscientist Warren McCulloch '21 and delighted the audience with an enthusiastic demonstration of the“hambone,” a method of drumming on one's body. The hambone, Ruff explained, was used as a“drum substitute” in the United States during the slave uprisings of the 18th and 19th centuries, when the talking drum was prohibited by law.
The final speaker was David Maybury-Lewis, professor of anthropology at Harvard, noted author, and founder of Cultural Survival, which promotes the rights of indigenous peoples. He hailed the Society of Friends' longstanding reputation for decent treatment and tolerance of indigenous races and lamented the discrimination and troubles these people continue to face in Brazil.“The challenge to all of us,” he said,“is to keep alive these traditions of decency and tolerance that are the best of the Quaker tradition.”
Following the awarding of degrees, the new graduates, their families and friends, and the Haverford community sought refreshmentâ€”and shelterâ€”at a reception in the Field House.