Barnard Graduates Reminded to Turn Talents & Energies Outward
Mamphela Ramphele, activist, educator and managing director of
the World Bank, spoke to a graduating class of 550 women on their
responsibilities and opportunities as Barnard graduates and as
women. "There is a pressing need, she said, "for you to turn
your exceptional talents, sensitivities and energies outward:
to the community, the society, and the world at large, and the
many problems that deprive billions of your fellow citizens of
a secure, dignified and meaningful existence.
Ramphele received the Barnard Medal of Distinction, one of the
College's highest honors, in 1991. She spoke before a crowd packed
into all corners of Lehman Lawn and Altschul Plaza for Barnard's
She began by remembering the challenges she faced when she graduated
30 years ago from the University of Natal. Pursuing her M.D. as
a black woman in apartheid South Africa was practically unheard
of at the time. "Yes, that was eons ago, a continent away, she
said, "and the challenges I faced in a politically and socially
complex South Africa were very different from the challenges you
face as you enter the world today. The challenges you are facing
are no less real and difficult, however.
Reminding the graduates of the changes that have occurred, not
only since they graduated from high school, but of the last few
months, Ramphele said, "In today's world, it is no longer possible
to live a life in isolation, detached from the rest of the world.
Solving the growing AIDS crisis, world poverty, lack of education,
and lack of clean water were issues she cited as ones for which
the graduates "have an important role to play.
She also called on the graduates to fight against gender discrimination
worldwide: "In no part of the developing world are women equal
to men in legal, social, and economic rights. Gender gaps are
widespread in access to and control of resources, in economic
opportunities, in power, and political voice. Women and girls
bear the largest and most direct costs of these inequalities
but the costs cut broadly across society, ultimately harming everyone.
Ramphele closed with a quote from William James: "The great use
of life is to spend it for something that will outlast it.
Also receiving the Barnard Medal of Distinction were: Barbara
Novak "50, Barnard Professor Emerita of Art History and one of
the most influential theorists of American art; Alice M. Rivlin,
Senior Fellow in Economic Studies at the Brookings Institute and
Henry Cohen Professor of Urban Management and Policy at the Milano
Graduate School, New School University, a highly regarded policy
maker in Washington; and, Harold Varmus, cancer researcher, Nobel
Laureate and head of the National Institutes of Health, whose
research has led to great strides in the understandings, diagnosis
and treatment of a variety of cancers.
In a Barnard Commencement tradition, the Frank Gilbert Bryson
Prize was given to the graduate whose classmates voted to have
contributed the most to Barnard in her time as a student. This
year the prize went to Kathryn Curran. Keeping with tradition,
no student knew who would receive the award until the moment President
Judith Shapiro announced the name.
President Shapiro praised the graduating class for their learning
of the past year, citing the interfaith dinner organized during
Ramadan by Columbia/Barnard Hillel and the Muslim Student Organization:
"I would like to believe that the students who attended that dinner
are viewing the current hostilities from a broader, more critical
and informed perspective.#
Update, Inc., P.O. Box 20005, New York, NY 10001.
Tel: (212) 481-5519. Fax: (212) 481-3919.Email: email@example.com.
All material is copyrighted and may not be printed without express
consent of the publisher. © 2002.