Robert Haas, Carol Christ speak at UC Berkeley winter commencement

Brittany Hosea-Small/Courtesy

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As the final class of 2019, 650 undergraduate and graduate students walked during winter commencement and received their diplomas Saturday morning.

The commencement took place at Haas Pavilion, where students graduated following the keynote address by UC Berkeley alumnus Robert Haas. The graduates also became part of nearly 500,000 living alumni worldwide, according to Chancellor Carol Christ.

“As surely as this institution has left its mark on you, then you have left your mark on Berkeley,” Christ said during her speech. “For when you saw the need for change here you seized it, and our university is richer and better for your efforts.”

Christ described the graduates as challengers of injustice, searching for solutions to the world’s problems. Christ noted the accomplishments of those graduating and the positive effects they had on the campus community. She recognized the Black Student Union and its graduating members for helping found the Fannie Lou Hamer Resource Center for Black students in 2017.

Christ also mentioned the graduating student advocates who helped improve the campus’ response to cases of sexual assault and harassment. She added that it was students who encouraged the campus to make sustainability a priority, enabling UC Berkeley to become the largest university to commit to 100% clean energy in 2019.

“In this campus, we share a small and bounded world that each of us can influence, shape and make different by what we do and say,” Christ said during her speech. “You enter a world that is both full of incredible possibility as well as rife with intractable problems … but I know you will not retreat from those challenges, you’ll face them head-on just as you’ve been doing here at Cal.”

Following Christ’s speech, Haas delivered his keynote address. He spoke at a campus commencement for the first time in 1964 when he graduated from UC Berkeley as valedictorian, said Kylee Mebust, campus Senior Class Council vice president, when introducing Haas.

Haas’ main encouragement for the graduates during his speech was inspired by an old Levi Strauss & Co. billboard. He described the advertisement as depicting a flock of white sheep all oriented in the same direction with one lone black sheep going in the opposite direction. The ad included the tagline “When the world zigs, zag.”

To Haas, this image constituted the results of a UC Berkeley education and he encouraged the graduates to continue to be receptive to different perspectives, stand firm in their values and challenge established practices. Haas said when he reflects on his own life, he remembers the zags; the moments he went against conventional thought.

“Go forth and zag, and go Bears,” Haas exclaimed.

Contact Maxine Mouly at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @moulymaxine.