'Pursue Your Wildest Ambitions'

Commencement guest speakers inspire the Class of 2010 and its guests in word and in song

Paul Simon
Mike Lovett
Paul Simon

Recalling his youthful experiences as a paratrooper, Israeli Ambassador to the United States Michael B. Oren exhorted this year’s Brandeis graduates to leap fearlessly into the unknown in pursuit of their dreams. Addressing a crowd of more than 8,000 people gathered for the university’s 59th commencement, Oren said, “It may necessitate a measure of bravery and a leap into the howling darkness, but I urge you to pursue your wildest ambitions. … Whether it be teaching in an inner-city school, building a clinic in Africa, developing the world’s smallest biochip or serving as president of the United States, if that is your dream, go for it.”

The transformation of dreams into reality, Oren added, means confronting new responsibilities — whether you are an individual or a nation. For Israel, the ambassador noted, these responsibilities include “absorbing hundreds of thousands of refugees, sustaining a democracy in a region generally inhospitable to such systems, defending ourselves while trying to maintain our morality, preserving our Jewish character while respecting our vibrant Arab minority, and seeking peace in spite of painful setbacks and potentially excruciating sacrifices.”         

On another note, the May 23 ceremony also included a rendition by singer-songwriter Paul Simon of his classic song “The Boxer.” First recorded by Simon and his longtime partner Art Garfunkel on their album “Bridge Over Troubled Waters,” the plaintive song describes the narrator’s struggle to overcome loneliness and poverty.

Oren and Simon both received honorary degrees at the commencement, as did Partners in Health founder Paul Farmer, an eminent advocate of quality health services for the poor; Judith S. Kaye, the first woman to serve as chief judge of the highest court of the state of New York; author Antonio Muñoz Molina; and veteran U.S. diplomat Dennis B. Ross.

For the complete text of Ambassador Oren’s address, visit www.brandeis.edu/now/2010/may/orenaddress.html.

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