On a day when rain moved Charter Day ceremonies to the cozier quarters of Harmon Gym, Donna E. Shalala, U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services, called on Americans to come together and solve the nation's problems with civility and common sense.
In celebrating the 127th anniversary of the founding of UC, the event also honored former Korean foreign minister Sung-Joo Han, recipient of the Haas International Award, Alumnus of the year T.Y. Lin and Berkeley's ties to the founding of the U.N. 50 years ago.
Unexpected rain shifted the April 28 event from the Greek Theatre to the weather-sheltered basketball arena, but the ceremony retained its traditional touches, with music from the Cal Band and processions of faculty, staff and students.
Following a welcome by Chancellor Tien, Regent David Flinn lauded the resiliency of campus staff and faculty during an era of cutbacks. Not only has quality been preserved, he said, but the institution is more efficient. "You've made Berkeley a better place," said Flinn, who is also president of the California Alumni Association.
He also commented on the challenge posed by the current debate over the merits of affirmative action and assured all that any changes to UC policy will not hinge on political solutions.
As keynote speaker, the former president of the University of Wisconsin-Madison received an enthusiastic response to her speech.
Saying it is time "to reject ideologues on all sides," Shalala addressed many of the hottest issues facing Americans, starting with the role of the federal government and moving through immigration, welfare reform and affirmative action.
"No matter what your political beliefs, all of us can agree that political debate has become too polarized in this society. Antipathy has replaced empathy. Sound bites have replaced substance. Division has replaced discourse. And simplistic solutions have replaced thoughtful answers."
On immigration, she said that while "illegal immigration is wrong and must be stopped," legal immigration "makes America great."
As for welfare reform, Shalala quoted Franklin Roosevelt, saying "A nation does not have to be cruel to be tough."
And finally, she said the question should be "are we taking the right steps" to assure "equal opportunity," not how quickly can we abandon all affirmative action efforts.
Shalala urged the audience to "look around this gym and around this campus. We cannot afford to squander the gains we've made."
On an historical note, UC's contribution to the establishment of the United Nations 50 years ago in San Francisco was noted with the presentation of a plaque recalling that UC Printing, under tight deadline pressure, stepped in to print the original UN charter. Glenn Seaborg, former chancellor and Nobel laureate, made the presentation.
Earlier, in accepting the Haas International Award, given to an outstanding alumnus from a foreign country, Han recalled his days in Berkeley when the campus was debating U.S. participation in the war against Vietnam and Cambodia.
Today, the university has played a vital role in fostering improved transpacific relationships, said Han, who received his PhD in political science from Berkeley in 1970.
Lin, a Berkeley civil engineering professor since 1946 and member of the Class of 1933, received the Alumnus of the Year award. "Lin is a builder of bridges, not only between continents but between people," said Tien, who added that Lin has the reputation of "going beyond the possible to the visionary." Lin spoke later at a gala dinner in San Francisco sponsored by the California Alumni Association.