A final coming together

As the class of 2005 gathered on the Ellipse to throw their caps in the air Sunday, it was the first and last time many students would come together as members of the GW community.

As the procession of black-robed graduates marched side-by-side to their seats for graduation, many individuals who had never met before stood shoulder-to-shoulder in the nation’s capital to experience a landmark celebration.

“It’s hard to know everyone from your school, but I think (Commencement) had something for everybody” graduate Jon Woodward said.

Contrary to the idea of a formal, personal graduation, GW’s ceremony took place in an outdoor setting, with members of the public mixing the informality of the event could be seen as spectators and even graduates moved freely throughout the massive crowd.

Five thousand graduates, surrounded by an even larger crowd of friends and family, gathered together under the morning sun to celebrate the conferment of undergraduate, master and doctoral degrees.

“I think this is one of the ways (graduates) get to know each other,” University President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg told The Hatchet after the event. “Of course no group this big knows everybody, but everybody knows enough people, has subgroups, people from their school, their major, their teams, their extracurricular activities, that they all feel they’re part of something larger.”

Outgoing Student Association President and 2005 graduate Omar Woodard said he enjoyed the celebration despite not knowing many of his graduating peers.

“I was just talking yesterday to a friend of mine about how we went to our school celebration and half of the people we didn’t even know,” Woodard said.

Smiling graduates said that with the smaller individual school graduation ceremonies taking place throughout Commencement weekend, they didn’t mind the impersonal nature of Sunday’s ceremony.

“The fact that (Commencement) is outside and on the Ellipse is awesome,” said medical school graduate Mary Samplaski. “We get our more personalized ceremony later when we all walk on stage and get called doctor.”

The transience of Commencement was summed up during the keynote address by CBS journalist Andy Rooney, who characterized the event as a bittersweet day.

“You’ll find that long before you reach my age, you’ll make more friends than you have time to keep,” Rooney said.

He added of the ceremony, “It’s sad because as I speak, it is the last time many of you will see each other.”

Some students said they were optimistic about the future of their friendships.

“I’m going to miss the great times, always having your friends close by,” said graduate Jennifer Lawrence, standing next to her fellow graduate and friend Lauren Korshak. “But I think if you want to make a friendship work, you make it work.”

Woodard said that at the end of a chapter out of many students’ lives, graduates should be confident as they leave the security of GW’s masses and set out as individuals in the world.

He added, “Like Andy Rooney said, things tend to go the way you want them to in the long run, and if you want it bad enough you can get it.”

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