The 400th Ohio State Spring Commencement ceremony celebrated the record-breaking size of the graduating class while challenging graduates to rise to even greater achievements than those realized at the university.
The ceremony began at noon in Ohio Stadium. A total of 10,636 degrees were given out Spring Quarter, the last quarter before the transition to the semester system, and about 7,480 students walked in the ceremony, said Javaune Adams-Gaston, vice president for Student Life.
United Nations ambassador Susan Rice was chosen as the commencement speaker. Rice has been a permanent United States ambassador for the UN since 2009. She also serves as a member of President Barack Obama’s cabinet.
The choice of Rice as the speaker has been questioned by some due to the backlash of last spring’s commencement speaker, Republican and Speaker of the House John Boehner. President E. Gordon Gee told The Lantern on April 23 that this spring’s commencement speaker was not likely to be political.
“We want to try to keep it somewhat out of the political arena in an election year, because you know no matter what happens, and we’ve had a couple of people that would love to come that just aren’t able to, so we keep it kind of open, and we don’t announce it until very close because things can change. But you know we’ll have a wonderful speaker, I can assure you of that,” Gee said.
Rice said in her speech that a public education, like the one offered at OSU, provides people with equal opportunities in America.
“Education is the force that let them compete fair and square,” Rice said.
Rice said OSU offers a “widely accessible world-class education,” where people can rise above backgrounds and circumstances that might otherwise have been limiting.
While Rice congratulated the graduating class, she said she looks to the graduates as the future of America and expects the seniors to be leaders in the 21st century, during times of “furious change.”
“This is about more than you, it’s about our leadership in the world which rests on your leadership here at home,” Rice said. “We need your leadership to … defend human rights and bring hope to the broken places of the world. We also need you to renew and rebuild here at home.”
She challenged the graduates to “Ask yourself, ‘what kind of America do you want to live in when your kids are graduating college?'”
Whether the answer is to live in a world where men and women are paid equally, gay marriage is legalized, college is more accessible or energy consumption no longer threatens the climate, Rice said that “whatever your vision, believe in making it real.”
Rice said the graduates have a responsibility to achieve as much, if not more, than previous OSU graduates – among them, Nobel Peace Prize winners, CEOs, newspaper editors, rock stars, ambassadors and astronauts. She offered 10 rules to live by which included advice like, “always put family first,” and “be about more than money.”
Rice closed her speech to the senior class by saying she has faith that they will meet the challenges ahead.
“We’re rooting for you. We believe in you. We’re counting on you,” Rice said.
Some of the graduates had not heard of Rice before she was chosen at the Spring Commencement speaker. Danielle Scoliere, a graduate in business, said she was disappointed in the speech overall.
“It felt like a presidential rally,” Scoliere said.
Yet Scoliere said she has no regrets about walking in the ceremony that many of her friends opted to miss.
“It’s all so surreal. Time flies by and you don’t realize it until it’s over,” Scoliere said. “But I’m happy and excited to be an alumna.”
Mary Antonelli, a graduate in human nutrition, also had not heard of Rice before she was named the speaker, and while Antonelli agreed that the speech was political, she said she enjoyed the speech.
“I liked her 10 rules to live by, and they can apply to everyone,” Antonelli said. “The speech was better than I expected.”
Antonelli said the ceremony in general was exciting yet difficult to take in.
“This is all a lot (to handle). I knew it was coming, but I still had to hold back tears,” Antonelli said.
Before diplomas were awarded, Archie Griffin, senior vice president for alumni relations, welcomed the graduates to a network of 500,000 in The Ohio State University Alumni Association, which Griffin founded in 2004.
Mike Balascio, whose son, Ryan, was among the graduates, said he could not be prouder to call his son an OSU alumnus.
“From a parent’s perspective, this has been a long time coming,” Mike Balascio said.