The twenty-seven commencement addresses by twenty-five distinguished college and university presidents brought together here provide an extraordinary sampling of the social history of our time and an inspiring expression of faith in the future.
Perhaps in no other period have we experienced as violent a tidal wave of swift-moving and bewildering events,” as one of the commencement speakers whose utterances are included in this interesting collection puts it, as we have during the period covered by this reportfrom the student riots at Berkeley in 1964 to the economic recession of the mid-1970s.
Hence the thoughts and expressions of our intellectual leaders take on new significance. First, as Francis H. Horn, the editor of the volume, points out, their addresses comprise an important sampling of social history of the time, and are well worth studying. This unique book is the first of its kind.
Second, the speakers are men and women who in most cases have spent their entire adult lives working in colleges and universities. Frequently their most important and formal statements were made on their own or on other campuses, and have not been preserved until now. Only three of the addresses included here have been published previously.
Third, the traditional exhortation to the graduates to somehow find the wisdom, will, and courage to solve what appear to be almost insolvable problems provides the larger framework for the extraordinary expression of faith on the part of these educational leaders in the ultimate ability of human beings to make a better world in which to live.
Now, when the national morale is at a low ebb, when hopelessness or at least apathy about the future is characteristic of our time, it should prove refreshing, perhaps even inspiring, to read these addresses which do not minimize the nation’s problems or the difficulties of the human condition but which express a cautious optimism about their solution.