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Radcliffe: 68th


This is the time of year when the platitudinous challenges to youth ring out throughout the land. Platitudinous because they must be. When faced with addressing a multitude of unfamiliar faces what can the commencement speaker say--unless he's a Ralph Waldo Emerson. Few are.

For commencements send out into the world individuals--individuals each of whom is different and each of whom has different aspirations, and potentialities, and a different future. The commencement speaker by his very function must address each of these individuals as if each were a mere cipher.

For instance, the class of 1950 being graduated today from Radcliffe College. Statistics tell us that some of them already have jobs--some as teachers, others with department stores or with publishing firms. Some others are to be married while a number of them have no definite plans as yet. And a goodly number are planning to go on to graduate study. The commencement speaker viewing this set of statistics might remark that new avenues of opportunity are opening up for young girls every day--for careers in business or in education. Or the more pessimistic speaker would cite these figures as a challenge to the young graduates, for there are still many barriers to young ladies in this man's world.

Or the statesman who is called upon to say a few words to the newly educated might feel he must take as his text the state of the world and what it means as a challenge to this new generation. Really when you talk of the East West split, or the threat of new ideologies to our traditional way of life, it is all entirely relevant but just a little far afield.

For, if we return to the example of the girls receiving their degress from Radcliffe today, each of them has her own problems as well as her own hopes, and each has to find out how best to work through the problems to realize the hopes. But the commencement speaker is peculiarly unsuited for actually giving the kind of advice which is most needed at that hour when the newly graduated are about to put their knowledge to the test in the untried world. Even if he happens to be the rather fatherly type, his task demands that he stay upon the platform and not chat with each graduate individually as might be more suited to both his temperament and the occasion.

The graduates have themselves been learning to deal in the abstract ideas for four years. From now on the tough actualities of living must be learned and dealt with. And though the commencement speaker may give them a helpful exhortation, each graduate must learn her own way in the actual experience. So we offer today's Radcliffe graduates no words of advice but only many best wishes.

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