In an address laced with a plethora of little-known facts about GW at Opening Convocation, University President Steven Knapp encouraged freshmen to take advantage of Foggy Bottom and the District in their “short” four years as an undergraduate.
“We are at a crossroads of the world,” Knapp said in his first completely public speech. “You all have a front-row seat at the theater of history and a chance to be more than a spectator.”
Knapp, who spoke at the Colonial Inauguration which took place last week, said the history of GW is intrinsically intertwined with that of our nation. In 1963, student groups from GW attended Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech and during the Vietnam War GW was nicknamed the “Holiday Inn of the Revolution” because protestors stayed at GW residence halls, he mentioned as examples.
“Even George Washington would have been amazed by how much the history of GW has matched the history of the nation,” Knapp said.
Around 2,500 people attended Opening Convocation, the majority of whom were freshmen, who were seated according to their residence halls. Upperclassmen and parents also attended the event.
To thunderous applause, Knapp spoke about Thurston’s namesake, juxtaposed with its current reputation.
“Remember that when you walk into Thurston Hall, Mabel Thurston was the first female graduate of GW,” he said. “Although I understand it is (now) somewhat famous for other reasons.”
Knapp told students that the freedom they gain from living away from home is up to them to decide how to use.
“Today you are free,” he said. “You are free to pursue your intellectual passions, eat ice cream for breakfast and leave clothes on every square inch of your floor. No one will compel you to take advantage of everything GW and the city has to offer.”
Usually called Freshman Convocation, the University sent an e-mail to sophomores, juniors and seniors last week inviting them to the renamed event. The speech culminated a long weekend where the former Johns Hopkins provost helped students move into residence halls.
“Since it was President Knapp’s first convocation we felt it was appropriate to invite the entire student body,” said Tracy Schario, director of Media Relations. “This was definitely the best attended convocation in recent memory. Inviting the entire student body made it a more fun event.”
For most students, today was their first time hearing Knapp speak. Former University President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg spoke at this summer’s first five Colonial Inaugurations, as Knapp had not yet stepped into his post.
“He is going to bring a new perspective to the University that we haven’t had before,” senior Anthony Pandolfo said. “He really seems to be looking ahead to the future of GW.”
Parents said they enjoyed hearing Knapp’s thoughts on GW and the new school year.
“My wife and I met President Knapp during move-in yesterday, but we came all the way from Alaska, so we definitely wanted to take advantage of the opportunity to hear President Knapp speak as well,” said Len Ceder, the father of freshman Josephina Ceder.