Honorary Degree Recipients
Alberto Mora ’74, former legal counsel to the Department of the Navy, spoke of his vehement opposition to government-authorized use of cruel and inhumane treatment of detainees taken captive in the War on Terror at Guantánamo Bay and elsewhere:
“Cruelty, once held in disrepute, has been astonishingly rehabilitated. What was once unspeakable is now the subject of polite conversation. But not here. I’d like to think that there are no members of the Swarthmore community who could countenance the embrace of cruelty. No one educated here could fail to recognize that a person’s right to be free from cruel treatment is a fundamental human right and that observance of this right is central to our nation’s values and constitutional order. All of us here know that to adopt and apply a policy of cruelty anywhere within this world is to say that our founders were wrong about their belief in the rights of individuals, because there is no right more fundamental than the right to be safe from cruel and inhumane treatment.”
Artist, critic, and curator Robert Storr ’72, who said, “I was 39 before I got my first regular job,” compared the state of the art world in the 1970s and 1980s to what faces young people seeking professions in art today:
“A friend of mine said that the difference between artists and people who have other professions is that in the other professions, people go from A to Z in pretty much calculated steps; but artists, even going from A to B, go by way of E, Z, K, P, Q, and so on—we meander like snails….
“Today, there is more focus on celebrity and on cash than ever before in the American art world. This makes it much harder if you add these distractions to all of the other, much more legitimate kinds of diversifications and changes. Whereas for us, it was a matter of taking what was said to be a simple world and articulating the ways in which it was actually much more complicated, now the problem is to take a complicated world and bring it into focus for each individual practitioner, art historian, writer, curator, and member of the public.… I had it easier; you’re going to have a much rougher time. On the other hand, if you consider the prospect of going from A to B by way of P, Z, V, and Q, you’ll do very well.”
Phyllis Wise ’67, provost and executive vice president at the University of Washington–Seattle and professor of biology and physiology, biophysics, obstetrics, and gynecology, demonstrated in four brief stories manifestations of generosity she had experienced from individuals who influenced her life, including two of her Swarthmore professors—former Professor of Art Hedley Rhys and Professor of Biology Robert Enders. She also spoke of Bill Gates Sr., a member of the University of Washington Board of Regents and first chairman of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation; and her mother, Mamie Kwoh Wang.
“My humble words of advice for you: Take note of the people you encounter who inspire you, who energize you, who live the way you aspire to. Watch how they work. Learn from them. Never stop observing. Give generously of your time, of your experience and ideas, of your intellect, your spirit, your heart. You will have many opportunities to contribute generously to the solutions of our most complex challenges: the environment, global health, world poverty, education for all regardless of wealth, and social justice. Give with dedication, with conviction, with energy, with grace, with panache, with humility. You are uniquely qualified to do this. And save time for yourself, so that you continue to develop and learn from the people around you who inspire you, energize you, live the way you aspire to. Save time so that you can give generously.”