News of the Collegesummer2007

Commencement speaker William M. Hohengarten ’84

Commencement Speaker Calls on
Graduates to Defend Constitution

More than 2,000 family members and friends were in attendance as President Colin S. Diver conferred Bachelor of Arts degrees on 279 seniors at Reed’s 93rd annual commencement on Monday, May 14. Eleven students in the Master of Liberal Studies program also received degrees.

“You have spent the last four years in one of the world’s most privileged and sheltered environments,” 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 said.

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. He has been involved in several high-profile pro bono cases, including leading the legal team in the groundbreaking gay rights case Lawrence v. Texas.

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 one symptom of a broader attack on the rule of law since 9/11. “Ideology, or, to use Stephen Colbert’s term, ‘truthiness,’ is ascendant, 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.”