by Mary Fiess (December
U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer, Alumnus Richard Wesley Address UAlbany Graduates
U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer and Richard C. Wesley '71, a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, offered congratulations and words of advice to graduates at the University at Albany winter commencement on Sunday, December 10.
"This is an exciting time to be young and educated.. And my advice is 'Go for it,'" said Schumer.
He recounted how, as a new college graduate, he had the opportunity to travel the globe, all expenses paid, or stay home with his girlfriend. After pondering this choice, he opted to stay home, only to be dumped a short time later by his girlfriend.
Three years later, after graduating from Harvard Law School, he again had various choices before him. His mother, he recalled, wanted him to join a big law firm. But, at the age of 23, Schumer decided to run for a seat in the New York State Assembly, and that fall, he won the election and became the youngest member of New York's legislature since Theodore Roosevelt. He concluded his remarks by reciting Rudyard Kipling's "If" and again reminding the graduates, "Don't forget... Go for it."
Wesley told the graduates, families and friends who filled UAlbany's SEFCU Arena that it was a "great honor" for him and his wife to return to "my alma mater."
"This University played a key role in much of the good that has come to me over the last 40 years of my life," he said. "Albany was a gateway for me. It opened new opportunities for me that I never could have imagined."
At the commencement ceremony, Wesley was awarded an Honorary Degree of Doctor of Laws from the State University of New York in recognition of his accomplishments as a leading jurist in New York State and the nation.
In his remarks, Wesley reflected on a book, Lincoln's Constitution by Daniel Farber, given to him by the late UAlbany President Kermit L. Hall. In 1860, Lincoln, only in office a few weeks and facing a growing Confederate insurrection, suspended the writ of habeas corpus and issued a proclamation calling Congress into session to ratify his actions.
"Lincoln clearly understood that he had no written authority for some of his actions, but he saw fit to constrain his efforts to the powers of an absent Congress and to acknowledge the need for congressional approval,'' said Wesley. "To me, that is quite extraordinary. Lincoln could have easily justified whatever he did because of the felt necessities of the day, but instead he couched his justification in terms of a constitutional emergency while immediately recognizing limits to what he could do."
"In the years to come, much will be asked of you. One challenge will be in striking the right balance between the rule of law and dealing effectively with pressing problems at home and abroad," said Wesley.
Patrick Chamberlain gave the student address and he, too, turned to Lincoln for inspiration. He shared a Lincoln quotation that his mother was fond of: "Most people are about as happy as they make up their minds to be." Chamberlain urged his fellow graduates to "find and do what makes you happy in life."
The University's winter commencement ceremony celebrates the accomplishments of both graduate and undergraduate students who have earned degrees since the May commencement. A total of 507 undergraduates earned bachelor's degrees; 368 graduate degrees, including 85 doctoral degrees, were awarded.