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May 24, 2005


LEWISBURG, Pa. - More than 800 degrees were awarded and commencement speaker Tom Ridge, the former U.S. secretary of Homeland Security and former governor of Pennsylvania, was the recipient of one of the university's highest awards, the Award of Merit, at Bucknell's 155th commencement Sunday, May 22.

Graduating seniors were the recipients of 799 degrees - 666 from the College of Arts and Sciences and 133 from the College of Engineering. Another 23 students were presented with master's degrees.

More than 6,000 family members and guests attended the ceremony on the Academic Quadrangle.

Susan Crawford, a 1969 Bucknell graduate and chair of the Board of Trustees, greeted the Class of 2005 and said commencement marked both a completion and a beginning.

"Scholarship has prepared you in mind and in spirit to function at a higher and more complex level," said Crawford. "Now, it is your responsibility to play your part and enhance the history of mankind's accomplishments."

In reference to the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, President Brian C. Mitchell said, "Inevitably, life beyond Bucknell profoundly impacts our experiences and, thus, our learning. Our community is not insulated from the outside world but is invariably shaped by it. This class in particular was affected by the world beyond Bucknell in a way that those older hoped would never happen."

Mitchell, presenting the Award of Merit to former Gov. Ridge, said he was a man "central to the country's response to 9/11."

"Today, we celebrate your big plans," Ridge told the 155th graduating class and he asked them as new graduates to "champion a great ideal."

He said freedom has to be an unyielding principle bound to every heart and mind. When thousands died in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, Ridge said, "We knew the task ahead would be daunting. The terrorists were determined. But our determination in this country is greater. Our resolve is stronger. Our response was swift and our message is clear. Do not take from us our loved ones and expect us to linger in grief. Expect us to come after you and to do all we can to keep you from harming our country and our citizens again. Freedom has its home in America and our fellowship is strong."

He said freedom is not a given but a "bugle call" in this country hundreds of years old.

"We must continue to heed it. We must continue to champion it. And we must know that we are all in this and have a responsibility together," said Ridge. "In many ways, I think that is the greatest lesson to come out of the tragedy of 9/11. In facing new hardships such as a new enemy, a new war, and a challenge of epic proportion, not only are we equal to the task, as citizens, I believe, we are all joined to it."

He said homeland security is the mission of an entire nation. "It's shared leadership, a shared accountability," he said. "It is a cause this nation took up with great speed and with full resolve.

"Ideals must have their champions," he said. "Do as many a champion has done. Raise expectations, set the new standard, and lead the way for future generations to follow."

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