Volume 80, Number 52 | May 26 - June 1, 2011
West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since 1933

Photo by Phil Gallo

Bill Clinton at N.Y.U.’s commencement on May 24.

‘Big 3’ send off Class of ’11

By Aidan Gardiner

In an annual rite, the Village was once more transformed by a sudden influx of parents and robed twenty-somethings with square hats.

All three of the Village’s major universities — The Cooper Union, New York University and The New School — have just held their commencements, each boasting big-name speakers, each of whom pushed the graduates to better their world.

Following two years after his wife, former President Bill Clinton delivered N.Y.U.’s commencement speech on May 18 in Yankee Stadium. On May 24, Cooper Union hosted Malcolm Gladwell, the New Yorker writer and author of “The Tipping Point.” Frank Rich, The New York Times theater columnist, delivered The New School’s May 23 commencement speech.

Clinton, speaking to a vast violet sea, urged the graduates to help reshape the world during a trying time.

“Do what you love, work hard, and don’t quit,” he said. “Create a world of shared opportunity, shared responsibility and a shared sense of community.

“I wish you well,” he added. “I think it can be the most interesting time in human history. It can be an age of prosperity, peace and discovery, but only if it is an age of genuine community and sharing.”

Gladwell spoke at the Great Hall, Cooper Union’s traditional commencement venue — where Abraham Lincoln delivered his famous “Right Makes Might” speech, which showed he was a serious presidential candidate.

The New School held its ceremony at the Javits Center for the first time. It was the largest graduating class in the university’s history and David Van Zandt’s first commencement as president. The New School also gave an honorary doctorate to Tony Kushner. The playwright was recently caught up in a controversy with City University of New York when it discovered some comments he had made that could be construed as anti-Israel. The university initially rescinded the honorary doctorate it planed to give him, but then decided to grant him the degree.

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