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Baccalaureate and Class Day highlight potential for global impact

Three students wearing class day jackets pop confetti behind a Princeton podium.
Class Day 2024.
Ryland Graham / The Daily Princetonian

The Baccalaureate ceremony and 2024 Class Day, held on Sunday, May 26 and Monday, May 27, respectively, were two of many events that brought an end to the college experiences of the Class of 2024. At these ceremonies, students, friends, and families gathered to celebrate the achievements of a class which first experienced Princeton virtually during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Graduation events began on Sunday, May 26 with the University’s 277th Baccalaureate ceremony. This service — one of the University’s oldest traditions — is “focused especially on the members of the senior class.” 

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Held in the University Chapel, the ceremony included an academic procession, interfaith music, prayers, readings, and an address by a guest speaker. This year’s Baccalaureate speaker was Federal Judge Nusrat J. Choudhury, who received her master’s in public affairs from Princeton in 2006. In 2023, Choudhury became the very first Bangladeshi American and first Muslim woman to serve as a federal judge.

During her address, Choudhury underscored the significance of leading by example, emphasizing the “responsibility to treat others with dignity and respect, to share knowledge[,] and to do what one can do to make the path a little easier for those that follow those of us who are the first.”

Choudhury also reflected on her experience as a Princeton graduate and civil rights attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), sharing personal anecdotes and encouraging seniors to make a meaningful impact using the “great gift of [a] Princeton education.”

To conclude her speech, Choudhury shared her aspirations for graduating students. “I wish you lives filled with meaningful and rewarding work that makes use of your great talents and pays those talents forward to those around you. I hope that as you move forward in your chosen professions that you approach different opinions and perspectives not as a threat — but as an opportunity to learn,” she said.

Class Day took place on Monday, May 27. The Class of 2024 webpage describes Class Day as “a day over which the Graduating Class has full charge and which [they] run to suit [themselves], in [their] characteristic way.”

According to Class Day Chairs Aisha Chebbi ’24, Julie Levey ’24, and Brian Li ’24, planning for the ceremony began about a year ago, with specific emphasis placed on the value of in-person celebration.

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“Most of us graduated high school from home, so it’s extra special that we got to do [Class Day] in-person with the people we care about. Class Day is meant to be a raucous celebration of what makes each graduating class so special, and the Great Class of 2024 did exactly that,” the Class Day chairs wrote in a statement to the ‘Prince.’ 

Ahead of the ceremony, members of the Class of 2024 had the opportunity to select a six-word memoir to have printed and attributed to their names in the Class Day Program

Prior to the ceremony, notes were circulated on social media encouraging seniors to submit the message “Disclose and divest from Israeli apartheid” to be printed alongside their names. Of the approximately 300 memoirs printed in the program, this message appeared 21 times, along with several other pro-Palestine demands, and a few statements in support of Israel. 

Printed in the program also was an in memoriam for Misrach Ewunetie ’24, who passed away on campus in 2022. 

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Dressed in their class jackets, seniors gathered on Cannon Green to listen to student speeches, remarks by President Eisgruber, a presentation of awards, and an address by a Class Day speaker — an individual chosen by the graduating class. 

Class Day speakers have historically included filmmakers, comedians, actors, and public servants such as Trevor Noah, Stephen Colbert, and Bill Clinton. Emmy-award winning actor Sam Waterston of NBC’s “Law & Order” was selected in April by the Class of 2024 to serve as this year’s Class Day speaker. 

Waterston urged seniors to embrace their newfound autonomy in his speech. “You don’t get to choose the questions — fate, chance, God, or history do that — but the response belongs to you. If you’re like every generation before you, you’ll keep the ball rolling, but, because the future hasn’t been written, the possibility is there that you will be the ones who finally get the answer right,” he said.

Waterson concluded his speech with a nod to family friend and Class Day Chair Julie Levey ’24, adding humorously, “if you have any complaints about this talk, please take them up with Julie.”

Following his remarks, Waterston was inducted as an honorary member of the graduating class.

Student speakers included Class President Sydney Johnson ’24, as well as Class Heralds Sierra Stern ’24 and Rohit Narayanan ’24, who were selected by the class and tasked with delivering comedic remarks which touched on everything from University Health Services (UHS) therapists to the issue of tents on campus.

Johnson emphasized the value of student activism in her speech, commending “measures to protect students’ mental health, campaigns for divestment and sustainability, [and] recognition of the injustices occurring in Gaza, the Congo, Sudan, the United States.”

“Wherever life leads you, know that graduating from a university like this one comes with the inevitable responsibility of enacting change in various spheres and on various levels. I hope you venture forward in true service of humanity and progress and reject the trend of solely instituting change when it is convenient and comfortable,” she said.

Johnson also touched on the relationship between success and happiness, encouraging seniors to balance their ambitions with self-care. 

Johnson was awarded both the W. Sanderson Detwiler 1903 Prize and the Walter E. Hope Class of 1901 Medal, which recognize the senior who has done the most for their class and for Princeton, respectively. Typically, these awards are given to two different students, but the Class of 2024 selected Johnson for both.

Academic and athletic awards were presented to several members of the Class of 2024 during the Class Day ceremony, and five individuals were recognized as honorary class members.

The Class Day ceremony concluded with a singing of Princeton’s alma mater, “Old Nassau.”

Ava Fonss is a staff News writer for the ‘Prince.’

Please send any corrections to corrections[at]dailyprincetonian.com.

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