Commencement Crowd Gives Class of ’15 a Joyous Sendoff


By Cathy Cockrell, UC Berkeley News


“This is the proudest moment of my life,” Samira Salim, of Los Angeles, said as she waited for her daughter, Zina, to enter California Memorial Stadium, via its north tunnel, with the rest of the UC Berkeley Class of 2015.


Nearby, Becky and Don Talley and Barbara and Steve Little, all of Walnut Creek, were on hand to cheer on their students, Brandon Talley and Renee Little. “It’s been the best ride of my life, watching Renee grow up and succeed,” said Barbara.


These beaming parents were among 21,000 family members and friends at last Saturday’s campuswide commencement, featuring a keynote address by tech leader and philanthropist Marc Benioff and moving, personal remarks by top graduating senior, Radhika Kannan.


“It’s not winning awards or accolades that’s important, but the values of this university…that took root here in the ’60s” — values of “disruption, change, advocacy for equal rights, giving back,” Benioff, chair and CEO of Salesforce, told the graduating class.


Citing his and his firm’s strong public stand against a recent Indiana measure he said gave businesses legal cover to discriminate against LGBT people, Benioff insisted that “companies can be platforms for change.” But so can each individual, “by using our voice and our values,” he added.


The ceremony marked a formal sendoff for the Class of 2015, which totals some 5,100 undergraduates, more than a quarter of whom are first-generation college grads. Many doctoral and master’s degree recipients took part as well.


Welcoming new grads to a family of 470,000 living Cal alums, Chancellor Nicholas Dirks spoke of the “quest to secure and sustain” the campus’s public mission. “We live in a time,” he said, “when the need to reanimate our commitment to the public sphere…is more important than ever.”


At Berkeley, “you’ve learned that knowledge is power,” Dirks told the crowd. “Now the task is to use this power to address the most significant challenges of our time — including, perhaps most centrally,” he added, to applause, “the importance of making education itself at all levels accessible for all members of our society.”


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