The University of Wisconsin Class of 2014’s commencement ceremony marked the end of the graduates’ journey as Badger students and the start of their journey as Badger alumni.
“Young folks all over the world would give almost anything for a chance at the incredible journey you’ve had here, and the even more incredible journey you’re starting today,” Jon Huntsman, the commencement speaker and former Republican governor of Utah, said.
About three quarters of the way into the ceremony, the 5,400 graduates ended their college careers with one more opportunity to “Jump Around” at Camp Randall. About 44,300 people filled the stands to support this year’s graduating class, UW spokesperson John Lucas said in an email to The Badger Herald.
The ceremony began with opening remarks from UW Chancellor Rebecca Blank, who said the history of Camp Randall commencement ceremonies dates back to 1925. Today’s graduates were in the same venue where the Badgers first triumphed in football over the University of Minnesota in 1917, she said.
Blank said all of the graduates are the embodiment of what the university’s founders built the Wisconsin Idea upon.
“We expect you to take what you have learned here and use it to be more productive workers, better citizens and better people reaching out into the world like the rays of light on the university seal,” Blank said.
Graduating senior class treasurer Sarah Neibart introduced Huntsman, a former U.S. ambassador to China and Singapore and a 2012 presidential candidate, as the keynote speaker.
Neibart said Huntsman currently co-chairs No Labels, a group that encourages politicians to “reach across the aisle” to solve problems.
“A lot of you will be making a beeline to the Abraham Lincoln statue on Bascom Hill,” Huntsman said. “I have to say it’s an honor to share this day with President Lincoln. It’s amazing to think how far we’ve come since his time — and how in some ways, his example is more relevant than ever.”
Although the divisions are not as severe as they were under Lincoln, Huntsman said the idea of a national union is under challenge.
Huntsman said self-government, one of the best pieces of machinery the U.S. built, is in some ways breaking down due to human failure and the gridlock that arises from not listening to others who disagree.
“Here’s the good thing about human failures: They have human solutions,” Huntsman said.
Huntsman said today’s graduates and the generation many of them are part of will be capable of finding that solution. At UW, he said, students come from different backgrounds, study different things and have different goals, but they still manage to get along.
“You share the same sun on Bascom Hill. And no matter who you are, you link arms and sing ‘Varsity’ when you’re feeling extra proud of this university you all share,” he said. “This is the way progress is made — when we refuse, despite our differences, to write each other off.”