Patrick advised BU graduates to connect
Governor Deval Patrick stood before thousands of graduates at Boston University Sunday and urged them not to allow the swift currents of modernity to keep them from truly connecting with other people.
Look up from the smartphone and the tablet, the endless texts and tweets, he exhorted, and engage with other people, face-to-face, being fully present.
“Real human connection, the nuance of empathy and understanding, is often more gradual and elongated than Twitter,” Patrick told the more than 6,800 graduates and some 25,000 guests seated at Nickerson Field. “It requires intimacy.”
Boston University’s commencement was one of many on Sunday that gave the region a festive air as thousands of students became alumni. Tufts, Brandeis, Framingham State, and Suffolk universities and Stonehill College were among the many institutions saluting graduates this weekend. Commencement speakers at each offered advice to students as they started a new chapter of their lives.
At Brandeis University in Waltham, Geoffrey Canada, who leads a New York City nonprofit, said he worries about the world graduates will face. But, he added, he also is heartened by the idealistic people who craft reality out of their dreams.
Former State Department official Anne-Marie Slaughter pressed graduates at Tufts University to build a life in which work and family are in harmony.
And at Boston University, Patrick, who is set to conclude his second term as governor in January, gave an apolitical address, focusing on the human connections that take place outside the digital realm. He offered examples of speaking with people — including one of his daughters — who were fully engaged with their devices, but not always with the men and women who stood beside them.
“My point is that human intimacy still matters,’’ he said before graduates in black caps and red gowns. “That’s how we build trust, how we convey kindness and grace, how we love, how we heal the world.”
Human intimacy, he added, still depends on “looking someone in the eye, touching them, actively listening, being present.”
Many graduates put down their cellphones to rise as the crowd gave him a standing ovation. Patrick was one of six people, including actor and comedian Bill Cosby, who received an honorary degree.
Newly minted Boston University-alums lauded Patrick’s remarks after the ceremony.
Daryl Thomas, a 21-year-old who graduated with a bachelor of arts in computer science, said he thought the governor made a lot of good points.
“I think the most important take-away was to really enjoy the people around us, and not just to be glued to our devices,” he said.
At Brandeis, Canada used his address to reflect on his generation’s mark on the world. The 62-year-old will retire next month as president and chief executive of the Harlem Children’s Zone.
“While my generation has done real good — we have made real progress — we have also left you a mess,” Canada said.
Canada, whose organization offers health and social services to poor children and adults in Harlem, said he is cheered by people who go the extra mile to help each other.
“I have always been deeply moved by the sacrifices that others have made to make our country the greatest nation on earth,” Canada said. “I love the ideal of America, even while grappling with its imperfect reality.”
At Tufts University’s Medford and Somerville campus, Slaughter made an appeal toward recalibrating the way women and men balance work and family. The former director of policy planning for the US Department of State echoed themes of a 2012 article she wrote in The Atlantic: “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All.”
Speaking to about 10,000 people, including more than 3,400 graduates under blue skies, she advised the young women in the audience to choose their careers on the basis of what they are passionate about, to pick a spouse assuming he or she will be an equal partner in both caregiving and breadwinning, and to seek a person who has the qualities that will allow a healthy work/life balance to flourish.
“If you marry a man, you must see his caring side as every bit as masculine as his competitive side,” she said.
“Look for a man who thinks Don Draper has missed out on what is most important in life,” Slaughter said, referring to the lothario main character of the television series “Mad Men,” who often puts work and drink ahead of time with his family.
She advised the young men in the audience to think about family as they plot their career paths. She asked them to consider whether their fathers and grandfathers have had enough time to spend with them and to ponder how they might be equal partners with those with whom they choose to spend their lives.
“If one of you must actually stop working for a while to take care of a child or parent with particular needs, will you be prepared to do that?” Slaughter asked.
And for everyone in the audience, she had a broader message. “As you look forward across your lives, think about today as a day that weaves you all together, that strengthens the very fabric of family,” Slaughter concluded. “And remember if that family comes first throughout your life, your work will not come second. Your life will come together.”
Correction: Because of incorrect information provided the Globe, an earlier version of this story misstated the number of people at Sunday’s commencement at Tufts University. Including more than 3,400 graduates, attendance was about 10,000.