Marsalis speech offers graduates trumpet call to ‘Pursue And Find’
Wynton Marsalis unzipped his black trumpet bag, and the nearly thousand gathered at Connecticut College’s graduation ceremony Saturday prepared to be serenaded.
But instead of removing a trumpet, the Pulitzer-Prize winning jazz musician, who delivered the commencement address and received an honorary degree, pulled out six pages of a single-spaced handwritten speech.
“You know, I never write a speech because I feel when you write something, you go long,” he said. “If this goes long, I’ll just stop in the middle and start playing.”
The trumpeter’s speech was fitting for Connecticut College’s 83rd commencement — and not just because 451 graduates were bidding farewell to the school. The college’s president, Claire L. Gaudiani, will also be stepping down in June after 13 years on the job.
“We have all heard the trumpet call,” Gaudiani told the crowd who gathered on the college green. “I step away with deep gratitude to all of you.”
The ceremony was planned for indoors. But in the spirit of collegiate optimism, school officials decided to risk the unpredictable weather, and hold the ceremony on the college green as originally planned.
“I want y’all to bathe in this moment as if it were the noonday sun, which as you can see is not going to come out today,” Marsalis told the graduates.
Despite the gray skies, the man who owns an audience the minute he plays his trumpet kept the crowd rapt with the harmony, power, inspiration and even humor that’s usually reserved for his music.
Marsalis talked of the glory of youth and the sometimes harsh realities of age. He spoke of the lessons of justice, freedom and equality learned and practiced so well in college, and too often quickly forgotten in the name of job security, mortgages and selfishness.
“Many of us will bend our integrity to the time or the situation. Many of us will thirst for justice and equality only when our own throats are parched,” he said. “But still, there will be those bloodhounds amongst us that never will lose the scent of this day and pursue and pursue and find.”
He also told the students to take a good look at those who helped them become individuals — friends, family and teachers — and appreciate what they have done.
“Savor these last sublime moments of parents financing your rebellion against them,” he said. “Brothers and sisters, revel in your last days of babyhood.”
“Amen,” one parent whispered.
After a standing ovation, Marsalis took the podium again. This time, to play Jelly Roll Morton’s jazz standard “Buddy Bolden’s Blues.” Bolden was considered to be the first jazz musician.
“It was amazing,” Jamie Haines, one of the graduates, said of Marsalis’s speech and trumpet playing. “He was so inspirational. He said so many great things.”
University of New Haven
In New Haven, the story of the University of New Haven commencement was the rain.
The ceremonies got off to a wet start with a light rain falling as honorary degrees were presented, according to Rick Eaton, director of marketing and public relations. Then the rain became heavy, and university President Lawrence J. DeNardis gave the students a choice — move indoors or stay outdoors. . The graduates voted overwhelmingly to sit in the downpour on Vieira Field.
“As a result, it was a very, very spirited commencement,” Eaton said.
Leading the program was John A. DiBiaggio, president of Tufts University and former president of the University of Connecticut. He received an honorary doctor of humane letters degree.
Other honorary degrees went to Barbara H. Franklin of Bristol, former U.S. secretary of commerce, doctor of laws; and Louis F. Tagliatela Sr., Hamden entrepreneur, doctor of business administration.
About 600 students received degrees, including 250 graduate students.
By Helen Ubinas
Source: Hartford Courant