Applause All Around

Rod Searcey

The first roar of applause came when the Class of 2003 barreled into the stadium. Family and friends whooped, video cameras fired up, and graduates radiated with the feeling of freedom one can only have at Commencement—the past is done and the future is not yet here. There is only the Wacky Walk.

Some planned their approach in detail. A group of “Jackheads”—complete with eye slits in their oversized white craniums—paid tribute to the fast-food chain for all the 4 a.m. study breaks it provided them. Others seemed to be a little late in organizing and ended up throwing corn tortillas Frisbee-style at one another. One anonymous senior skirted the “no live animals” rule, releasing a rumored 80,000 ladybugs onto the field. Good luck, perhaps, for a class faced with a tough job market—a topic four women’s track team members would not hear of on this day. They preferred to run, barefoot, around the stadium in a final moment of glory.

Several more cheers came for Peru’s President Alejandro Toledo, MA ’72, MA ’74, PhD ’93. The first sitting president of any country to speak at a Stanford commencement, Toledo told graduates the world needed their capacity to dream and emphasized the importance of education in lifting people out of poverty. On a less serious note, Toledo recalled his days in the Bay Area at the end of the 1960s. “Free love was the order of the day,” he said. “I hope it still is.”

The next ovations came from the graduates of each school as University President John Hennessy conferred their 4,740 degrees upon them. Then, the newly minted Stanford alumni let out a final cheer in the form of a “WHOO!” as the Band answered their chants for one last round of “All Right Now.” And, indeed, it was.