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Keep an Open Mind

Seeing What No One Else Thought

Good morning.

To our honorary degree recipients and our new members of the Society of Scholars, to our Trustees and alumni, faculty and staff, to our parents, family members and friends, but most of all, to our brand new graduates, I bring greetings on behalf of all of Johns Hopkins University.

By ancient tradition at the great universities, degree candidates did not receive their academic credentials until they first passed a grueling and sometimes humiliating public examination. The exam was held before a committee of dour and humorless octogenarians, and usually conducted in an obscure dead language.

Eventually this procedure was recognized to be cruel and excessive punishment, even for university students. The tradition ended. But there still remained the need for some last excruciating rite of passage that all graduates must suffer before receiving their diplomas.

Hence, the commencement speech.

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