Reed College Graduates the Class of 2007
Attorney William M. Hohengarten '84 delivers commencement address.
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“You have spent the last four years in one of the world’s most privileged and sheltered environments,” President Diver told the Class of 2007. “But in fact, as I’m sure you are well aware, that impression of privilege and shelter is just an illusion. We are all—here at Reed, and wherever your path will take you—part of one world.” This world, Diver said, is one characterized by “staggering contradictions” of material inequality, as well as global threats such as climate change. “We are asked, every one of us, to consider the footprints we leave behind during our brief visit to this planet,” Diver continued. “You, the graduates of this college, have the undoubted intellectual and cognitive capacity to understand the kind of footprint you will leave on the earth, to know whether your actions will move the world backward toward death, or forward toward life. I pray that you, that all of us, will use that capacity to choose life.”
William M. Hohengarten ’84 delivered the commencement address. A history major at Reed, Hohengarten went on to earn a Ph.D. in philosophy at Northwestern University, then attended Yale Law School, where, he says, he found his calling. After clerking for Supreme Court Justice David Souter, Hohengarten became a partner at Jenner & Block, a prominent Washington, D.C., law firm, where he specializes in complex appellate and Supreme Court litigation. He has also been involved in several high-profile pro bono cases, including leading the legal team in the groundbreaking gay rights case Lawrence v. Texas—in which the Supreme Court overruled its earlier decision in Bowers v. Hardwick and invalidated state laws that criminalize gay sexuality.
In his commencement address, Hohengarten called on graduates to take their time in deciding what to do following college, to be willing to shift careers later in life, and to use their talents to defend constitutional rights in the United States.
“You are graduating from college at a time of unique peril in our nation’s history,” Hohengarten said, identifying the treatment of so-called “enemy combatants” as just one symptom of a broader attack on the rule of law in the U.S. since 9/11. Hohengarten’s firm has represented several of those held in military detention as enemy combatants, including alleged al-Qaida conspirator and U.S. citizen, Jose Padilla.
“Using the horrible events of that day [9/11] as a justification,” said Hohengarten, “the current Administration has pursued a strategy of arresting individuals . . . and imprisoning them without charge, potentially for life, without any opportunity to contest the allegations leveled against them.” This policy, he said, “is being driven by an extreme ideology of executive power unconstrained by law, which has no precedent in our nation’s history.
“Ideology (or, to use Stephen Colberg’s term, “truthiness”) is ascendant,” Hohengarten continued. “But the best antidote to that is critical reason, something Reedies have in abundance. It doesn’t matter whether you are a scientist, a carpenter, a historian, a doctor, an activist, an artist, an entrepreneur, a slacker—or even a lawyer. Whatever you do, find a way to help steer America back to its core values.”
Framing commencement as neither an ending nor a beginning, Hohengarten described the moment as a bend in the road for Reed’s graduates. “It is a road you are already traveling,” he said. “There will be many other bends in the road of your life. They will take you places you don’t imagine as you sit here today. Your years at Reed have prepared you well for the rest of the journey. Have a great trip.”
Among the Class of 2007, the top five majors for graduating seniors were (in descending order) biology, psychology, philosophy, English, and anthropology. There were 155 women and 124 men in the Class of 2007; the graduates came from 41 states and seven foreign countries.