At the September 20 Convocation ceremony marking the beginning of the College’s 242nd year, President Jim Yong Kim asked that students make the “moral choice” for optimism in the face of difficult challenges.
Kim cited the work of Convocation speaker Kul Chandra Gautam ’72, former assistant secretary-general of the United Nations and deputy executive director of UNICEF, whose efforts significantly increased the number of children in developing countries receiving immunizations. Gautam and his team at UNICEF, said Kim, were able to save nearly 250 million lives because they remained optimistic in the face of international skepticism.
“[Kul Gautam] has witnessed firsthand some of the worst atrocities of the last half century, and yet, his optimism and hopefulness for a better world have never been stronger,” said Kim.
“He understands that in his line of work, you do not become optimistic by looking at the evidence. Optimism, you see, is a moral choice.”
“We will work with you tirelessly to develop your analytic skills so that your intellect will be wonderfully and appropriately pessimistic,” he continued. “Nurturing the optimism of your spirit is your task. Indeed, it is your duty.“
Gautam, who was also the highest-ranking Nepali in the U.N. system, challenged students to “transform yourselves into true citizens of the world.”
“My Dartmouth education and student activism here, including the foreign languages I learned here and the courses I took on international relations, were an excellent preparation for my work with UNICEF, he said. “I urge you all to take full advantage of the boundless opportunities that this small College with a great president and a glorious history has to offer you.”
In addition, Kim told students they will “have unparalleled access to faculty who are leaders in their fields. This is the formula that has made us so successful for so many years.”
In his remarks, Student Body President Max Yoeli ’12 urged the first-years among the crowd of more than 2,000 in Leede Arena to “learn from those around you.”
“The smallest experiences at Dartmouth can have the biggest impact on your outlooks,” he said. “You never know what opportunities may be hidden in unseen adventures.”
Yeoli advised students to “stay true to yourselves, as cliché as that may sound. Be an individual. Harness the ambition that brought you to Dartmouth.”
Dean of the College Charlotte Johnson presided over the ceremony, welcoming students. The Dartmouth Glee Club and Gospel Choir together led the crowd in the singing of “American the Beautiful,” and the College’s Alma Mater.
Following the ceremony, students joined members of the College community for a lunch at the newly renovated Class of 1953 Commons dining hall.