Thousands of students from the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences celebrated their graduation in a two-part ceremony stretched over most of Saturday afternoon in the Smith Center.
The event was split into two events to accommodate graduates from the University's largest school. Though no outside speaker addressed the graduating class, Steven Kelts, a popular political science professor, spoke to the first group about post-graduation life and Jeffrey Cohen, chair of the English department, read a passage from Edward P. Jones' "The Known World" during the second ceremony. A student speaker and a distinguished scholar also addressed the audiences.
Referencing Jones' work, Cohen emphasized the importance of literature in life.
"The reason I bring this passage to you today is the following: Literature, it seems to me, enables us to not live a circumscribed life," Cohen said. "Nothing can constrain our desires."
Many of the speakers offered advice to students scared by the post-graduate world. Kelts told the crowd that there is both freedom and sorrow in the responsibilities that come with graduation.
"You are now completely responsible for your own life. You hold your own destiny in your hands. But on the other hand, you are now completely responsible for your own life. You now hold your own destiny in your hands. Yikes," Kelts said. "But every year you learn more and more what to do with your freedom and you start to grow your capacities."
Students interviewed said that despite the absence of a famous speaker, the messages conveyed by the faculty and student speakers were inspiring.
"I liked the introduction speech by Kelts. I thought it was a good message that if you do what you want to do in life, you'll get happier and happier by pursuing whatever it is that you like," Gerard Mancusi said.
Graduate Anna Sicari, however, said she would have enjoyed a speaker from someone outside the University.
"I thought the ceremony was nice, the student speakers were good. But I was a little upset no outside speaker was brought in," she said. "But I'm just really happy to graduate. It feels great, I can't wait to go."
CCAS Dean Peg Barratt also spoke at both ceremonies, noting great accomplishments made by GW students, graduates and professors in the past year.