May 24-June 6, 2002
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Elmaleh’s watercolors on exhibit
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New Supervisor Orientation Program
U.Va. women encourage leadership

Baldacci: ‘What you do with what you have’ is what matters

David Baldacci
Photo by Stephanie Gross

By Carol Wood

Rain and unseasonably cool wind did nothing to dampen the spirits of nearly 5,000 parents and soon-to-be graduates who made their way to University Hall Saturday morning for Valedictory Exercises.

They gathered to hear David Baldacci, suspense novelist and U.Va. Law School graduate, talk about how they might prepare for the next phase of their young lives, drawing from his own experiences as a wordsmith, researcher and student of history.

“You must take the time to build the life you want,” he advised. “Each of us is the embodiment of our past, our present and our future. We must know where we came from to know where we’re going.”

He said that despite today’s uneasy times and constant reminders of how small the world has become, with careful thought and reflection college graduates can do anything they want with their lives.

But he warned his audience that with that ability comes responsibility to use and share their gifts. “Along the way, realize that there will always be people who will need your help,” he said.

Earlier, following the student awards given at valediction, he said he was “glad to know that volunteering and public service were alive and well in the Class of 2002.”

His greatest concerns for the present generation are a blind dependence on technology and a disregard for the power, complexity and beauty of language.
Of the first, he talked about a recent visit to a high school in which students knew all about using technology but nothing about how it worked. “You are the most helpless, dependent generation in the history of the world. … The point is not how much information you have available, it’s what you do with what you have.”

Unfortunately, he said, while we now have vast resources of information at our fingertips via the Internet, we are not taking the time to distill that information into value, knowledge and wisdom. “It is what we as human beings do best – think and reflect. Yet, instead, in today’s world we feel compelled to react immediately. And we make so many mistakes when we don’t think things through.”

Baldacci made a plea to slow life down. “We’re not machines, and it’s time to stop acting as if we were.”

He also asked that people consider language the most powerful tool they have – what separates them from “blindly following” instead of establishing themselves as “independent thinkers.”

In order “to preserve our enormous freedoms,” Baldacci said, “we can no longer be ignorant of other cultures.” Staying connected – through events of the present and histories of the past – will allow us to overcome the ignorance and intolerance in today’s world, he said.

Baldacci’s remarks came after the presentation of the class gift. This year, the Class of 2002 had a 44 percent participation rate and handed to U.Va. President John T. Casteen III a check for $49, 359. Students could designate the University program of choice to receive their donations, and overall 170 University programs will benefit from the gift.


© Copyright 2002 by the Rector and Visitors
of the University of Virginia

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