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In an address to more than 1,700 members of Loyola University Maryland's Class of 2011, renowned Johns Hopkins pediatric neurosurgeon Benjamin S. Carson, M.D., urged the graduating students to devote their unique talents to endeavors that bridge divides, celebrate faith, and strengthen the nation, particularly with regard to educational opportunity.
"The emphasis should not be on unanimity of thought, unanimity of speech," he said. "The emphasis should be on learning to be respectful of those with whom you disagree. Just because someone is of a different political party does not make them an enemy. We have taken that much too far. We all have much more in common than we do differences."
Much of his address focused on the urgent need to strengthen education in the United States. Reminding the graduates that 19th century French political thinker and historian Alexis de Toqueville came to the United States to discover how the young nation had developed an educational system that was the envy of the world, Dr. Carson noted that in those days, fifth and sixth graders completed examinations today's college students would struggle to master.
"We are behind the 8-ball," said Dr. Carson, who received a Doctor of Humane Letters degree, honoris causa, at the Exercises. "We have fallen behind. But we can change that. With technology, we can create virtual classrooms, bringing the best teaching there is anywhere."
"People say we are not exceptional, that we are not a nation of faith. I don't agree with that at all. This country provided me with a tremendous opportunity, coming from the lowest rungs," said Dr. Carson, who was raised in poverty in Detroit. "You can go anywhere you want if you are willing to put the time and effort into it. That's the kind of country we are, but that is in danger. It is up to you to change that."
For Dr. Carson, a key aspect of this change comes from a deeper embrace of faith, and an understanding that separation of church and state and the protection of religious expression are equally essential aspects of our national identity.
"It is OK to live your life by Godly principles," he said.
University President Brian F. Linnane, S.J., echoed the importance of faith in his remarks.
“While I certainly do not want to suggest that only persons of faith can be happy and lead meaningful or productive lives, I do want to suggest—as do the insights from positive psychology—that those persons who do acknowledge a dependence on a higher power do tend to have a better and easier chance of experiencing the life satisfaction that we understand as happiness,” said Linnane. “So my point in this, your final lecture at Loyola: please continue to give faith and religious commitment that nourishes it a central place in your lives. Loyola University Maryland’s existence is predicated on the understanding that faith and reason are not simply compatible but complementary and that our students’ (your) ability to grasp that insight will more readily make you a leader in positive change.”
The 159th Commencement Exercises were held on May 21 at 1st Mariner Arena in Baltimore.
Learn more about Dr. Carson.
Other honors presented during the Exercises included:
- Doctor of Commercial Science, honoris causa: Edward A. Burchell, ’64, Loyola trustee and owner of Roseda Black Angus Farm.
- The President’s Medal (presented to those who have demonstrated notable support of Loyola or the greater community): The family of late United States General and Secretary of State Alexander M. Haig, Jr.
- The Carroll Medal (presented to a Loyola University Maryland alumnus or alumna in recognition of distinguished service to the University): William J. Baird, Jr., ’61, former Loyola trustee and retired executive officer of Willis North America.
- Newman Medal (presented to those who have made outstanding contributions to Catholic education): Loyola Jesuit Community
- The Milch Award (recognizing superior contributions and achievement by an organization involved in service): Cristo Rey Jesuit High School of Baltimore, Md.
Photo by Larry Canner.
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