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The History of Harvard's Commencement, Explained

Jones Urges Peace and Love

Musician, Producer Tells Graduates to Pursue Happiness

By Georgia N. Alexakis

In an afternoon of orations, Class Day speaker Quincy Jones--world-renowned music producer, arranger and conductor as well as today's recipient of an honorary Doctor of Music degree from Harvard--used his address to move his Tercentary Theatre audience, both emotionally and literally.

After urging graduating seniors to use their talents to do their best, regardless of the monetary rewards involved, hundreds of graduating seniors and their parents rose to their feet and held hands at Jone's request.

"Repeat after me," said the 26-time Grammy award winner, before launching into what was largely a summation of the advice he had offered throughout his oration.

"On this day, I will mend a quarrel, search for a forgotten friend, fight for a principle, show gratitude to God and tell someone 'I love you,' again and again and again," the crowd recited.

Jones' speech, which addressed a variety of issues, encouraged seniors to use their Harvard education to focus on whatever issues they felt warranted their attention.

"Unfasten your seatbelts and welcome to the club," Jones said, congratulating the class on their approaching Commencement. "But the question you have to answer is 'What are going to do now?'"

"Try to think about being better," Jones added. "If you do that, then others will be sure to sing your praises."

Recalling the years he spent as a struggling artist early in his career, Jones asked the class to use their talents and skills to work towards their dreams, whatever they might be.

"In my life my vision has always been to learn how to get better," Jones said. "All [Jones and fellow artists] worried about was imitating the best, to try to be half as good as they were."

Jones also shared with the class his experiences growing up in the ghettos of Chicago's South Side and spending summers in his grandmother's "raggedy shanty" in Louisville, Kentucky.

"Many of you think my life is all about Bel Air and making music with Michael Jackson--not," Jones said. "I look back on the path of my life though, and it's been very, very good. I share all of this with you to make a point: despite the odds presented to you, you can do the best that you can."

While touching upon issues like poverty, illiteracy and the need to include inner-city youth in the coming information age millennium, Jones specifically addressed the problem of racism.

"America has come a long way since the civil rights days of Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X, but racism now appears in subtler forms," Jones said, adding that the key to changing the status quo is to "find new ways to see each other."

"We do at heart love the diversity because at heart we are all facets of this culture," Jones said. "We are all bound by our humanity."

As father of Rashida Jones '97, Jones said that he had a special message for parents like himself.

"Our children were born winners," Jones said. "We're all in this together, so take a deep breath and let it out slowly--we made it. Commencement is our payback day."

Audience members said they felt Jones was an appropriate speaker for Class Day because he could relate to both students and their parents.

"His speech was beautiful," said Joan E. Pugh, mother of Benjamin G. Steinberg '97. "It moved me to tears. Both his message to parents as a father and to students made his message a universal one."

Others also cited the moving nature of his remarks.

"It was a nice speech because he was so sincere," said Lisa M. Grant '97. "He had a lot of good things to say. I don't know what a Class Day speaker is supposed to do or say, but he certainly fulfilled what I feel is the purpose of Class Day. He was inspirational."

David E. Mann '97 said that Jones' personal example helped make the oration particularly significant.

"He has succeeded in really touching people with his life," Mann said. "If we can do things the same way, then we can say that we have achieved the same success that he has."CrimsonMelissa K. CrockerCHARLES B. GRANDY '97 and DANIEL J. GOOR '97 deliver the Ivy Oration at the Class Day ceremonies yesterday afternoon. Their satire of the Harvard student experience centered around a ficticious course entitled Foreign Cultures C-97: "Life After Harvard."

Jones' speech, which addressed a variety of issues, encouraged seniors to use their Harvard education to focus on whatever issues they felt warranted their attention.

"Unfasten your seatbelts and welcome to the club," Jones said, congratulating the class on their approaching Commencement. "But the question you have to answer is 'What are going to do now?'"

"Try to think about being better," Jones added. "If you do that, then others will be sure to sing your praises."

Recalling the years he spent as a struggling artist early in his career, Jones asked the class to use their talents and skills to work towards their dreams, whatever they might be.

"In my life my vision has always been to learn how to get better," Jones said. "All [Jones and fellow artists] worried about was imitating the best, to try to be half as good as they were."

Jones also shared with the class his experiences growing up in the ghettos of Chicago's South Side and spending summers in his grandmother's "raggedy shanty" in Louisville, Kentucky.

"Many of you think my life is all about Bel Air and making music with Michael Jackson--not," Jones said. "I look back on the path of my life though, and it's been very, very good. I share all of this with you to make a point: despite the odds presented to you, you can do the best that you can."

While touching upon issues like poverty, illiteracy and the need to include inner-city youth in the coming information age millennium, Jones specifically addressed the problem of racism.

"America has come a long way since the civil rights days of Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X, but racism now appears in subtler forms," Jones said, adding that the key to changing the status quo is to "find new ways to see each other."

"We do at heart love the diversity because at heart we are all facets of this culture," Jones said. "We are all bound by our humanity."

As father of Rashida Jones '97, Jones said that he had a special message for parents like himself.

"Our children were born winners," Jones said. "We're all in this together, so take a deep breath and let it out slowly--we made it. Commencement is our payback day."

Audience members said they felt Jones was an appropriate speaker for Class Day because he could relate to both students and their parents.

"His speech was beautiful," said Joan E. Pugh, mother of Benjamin G. Steinberg '97. "It moved me to tears. Both his message to parents as a father and to students made his message a universal one."

Others also cited the moving nature of his remarks.

"It was a nice speech because he was so sincere," said Lisa M. Grant '97. "He had a lot of good things to say. I don't know what a Class Day speaker is supposed to do or say, but he certainly fulfilled what I feel is the purpose of Class Day. He was inspirational."

David E. Mann '97 said that Jones' personal example helped make the oration particularly significant.

"He has succeeded in really touching people with his life," Mann said. "If we can do things the same way, then we can say that we have achieved the same success that he has."CrimsonMelissa K. CrockerCHARLES B. GRANDY '97 and DANIEL J. GOOR '97 deliver the Ivy Oration at the Class Day ceremonies yesterday afternoon. Their satire of the Harvard student experience centered around a ficticious course entitled Foreign Cultures C-97: "Life After Harvard."

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