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Booker’s Message to Class of 2018: ‘You Are Powerful’

Well-known as a community activist and elected official with a meteoric political career, U.S. Sen. Cory Booker nevertheless told graduates at Franklin & Marshall College’s May 12 Commencement, “Power is not your position or title. It’s what’s going on in your heart.”

Booker, a Rhodes Scholar and a graduate of both Stanford University and Yale University's School of Law, was elected New Jersey’s first African American senator in 2013. With a backdrop of incivility in today's national social and political discourse, he spoke about the impact that love and respect can have over one’s station in life.

“Someone who is nice to me, but rude to the waiter, is not a nice person,” Booker said. “Patriotism is love of country, but you cannot love your country if you can’t love your fellow countrymen and countrywomen.”

The senator said, “Class of 2018, my message is simple. You are powerful—your spirit, your heart, your faith—you are powerful. If you love your family and love your friends, if you love those who disagree with you, if you love those from different parties, if you love those who are bullies and those who are bullied … I promise you, your power will shape your world beyond your dreams.” 

Early-morning inclement weather moved the ceremonies into the Alumni Sports and Fitness Center, where the 564 cap-and-gowned graduates were joined for the celebration by an estimated 3,000 family members and friends.

In his final Commencement speech as Franklin & Marshall president, Daniel R. Porterfield, who was made an honorary member of the Class of 2018 by the College's Alumni Association, told the graduates they were the creators of their education.

“Higher learning is a self-enacted act, originating from within. We choose our openness to new ideas. We choose to learn the foundations of a field. We choose to read. We choose to inquire. We choose to think,” Porterfield said. “We create the education that we seek.”

The Henry S. Williamson Award, the College's most prestigious award for student achievement,went to Caroline Lawrence, a double major in cognitive science and government. Her academic research, which spanned computer science, psychology, English literature, philosophy and biology, prepared her for a summer 2017 internship at IBM. There, she developed software and user interfaces to help patients who have brain function but lack full motor control – a condition known as locked-in syndrome -- to communicate with others.

“Someone said to me in the summer before my first year at F&M, ‘In college, you do not find yourself. You become yourself,’” Lawrence said. “In these four years, we have challenged ourselves and mastered concepts that our first-year selves could not have even comprehended.”

Porterfield conferred honorary degrees upon Charles Lieber ’81, P ’14, the Joshua and Beth Friedman University Professor for the Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology at Harvard University; Pennsylvania Secretary of Health Rachel Levine, one of the few transgender public officials in the nation; and Nicole Hurd, founder and chief executive officer of College Advising Corps.

Other graduation honors bestowed went to Associate Professor of Chemistry Scott Brewer, who received the Bradley R. Dewey Award for Outstanding Scholarship, and Associate Professor of Biology David Roberts, who earned the Christian R. and Mary F. Lindback Foundation Award for Distinguished Teaching.

Five retiring faculty members were honored: Annette Aronowicz, the Robert F. and Patricia G. Ross Weis Professor of Judaic Studies; Fred Owens, the Charles A. Dana Professor of Psychology; Lynn Brooks, the Arthur and Katherine Shadek Professor of Humanities; Joel Eigen, the Charles A. Dana Professor of Sociology; and Professor of Art Virginia Maksymowicz.

Ted Schmid, F&M’s director of grounds, received the Richard Kneedler Distinguished Service Award, given to the member of the professional staff who demonstrates extraordinary commitment to the mission of the College.

In the annual passing of the torch, Brian Rutter ’87, president of the Franklin & Marshall Alumni Association, presented the symbol to Danielle Sang ’18, senior class president.

Throughout the morning, guests enjoyed the College's Commencement Wind Ensemble, directed by Brian Norcross, conductor of instrumental ensembles. The ceremony opened with tenor James Morogiello ’18 singing the national anthem as Elisabeth Hare ’18 conducted. The performances concluded with Gwendolyn Fowler ’18 conducting Franklin & Marshall’s alma mater, sung by soprano Yiwei Fang ’18.

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