The computer science commencement — held at the Hearst Greek Theatre on Wednesday afternoon — began as the department’s division chair James Demmel announced that computer science was now the largest major on campus, as well as the one with the highest starting salaries.
Students applauded and cheered in response, but beneath the humor and joy that filled the theater, a serious theme of responsibility lay in the core within all the speeches given throughout the afternoon, with a few speeches alluding to the current political climate.
Commencement speaker Gavin Newsom, lieutenant governor of California, who is running for governor in 2018, said in his speech that “the future for some seems uneasy” and “there’s fear that’s dominant” for many due to the world transitioning from the old to the new. The world, he said, is no longer connected, but hyper-connected.
Newsom, who formerly served as the mayor of San Francisco from 2003-11, commended all the technological and entrepreneurial achievements of the Bay Area but expressed concern at low job growth and warned of politicians that may exploit circumstances in times of rapid change.
His speech emphasized that despite contemporary technological innovations, the things that matter more are qualities that cannot be “downloaded” such as morality, values, good parenthood and good teaching.
“As you pursue wealth and fame and success in your own career, don’t do it at the expense of others. Bring other people along, address the issue of social mobility and income equality,” Newsom said in an interview. “If you’re going to develop an app that can have a billion followers, also consider developing an app that can help people up that ladder of opportunity at the same time.”
Gavin concluded his speech by mentioning the diversity that exists in the region, state and nation, and reminded students to celebrate each other’s differences.
Professor Scott Shenker also made political comments while delivering the faculty speech. He spoke about earlier times when people “argued over policies but in the end were one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.” He added that it has, however, become apparent that “this consensus no longer holds.”
He said his last homework assignment — a lifetime one — for his students would be remembering to vote, driven by “basic decency and devotion to the common good” as they are the ones that hold the future in their hands.
Shrayus Gupta, campus EECS alumnus, said he appreciated the speakers attempting to be nonpartisan and emphasizing the general need for more participation in democracy. He added that he hopes graduating students continue to exact change, open companies and become leaders in their field.
Many students said their four years were tough but said they felt the experience was rewarding. A student in the graduating class, Ryan Kapur, said the graduation felt particularly surreal to him, due to his paralysis that he first faced four years ago.
“I never thought I would be here … I overcame a lot; I never saw the end of the road,” Kapur said. “It feels good graduating alongside my buddies.”