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The Daily Tar Heel

December Graduates Say Goodbye to UNC

While many UNC students were packing up to go home for Winter Break, a select few were walking across the Smith Center floor for the final time.

Students graduating at the end of the fall semester celebrated their Commencement on Dec. 20. Students who graduated in the summer also were honored at the ceremony.

Chancellor James Moeser; Robert Albright, senior class vice president; and Branson Page, president of the Graduate and Professional Student Federation were among those who addressed the 1,463 graduates.

The speakers congratulated the graduates and urged them to use their degrees and the knowledge they gained at UNC to benefit others, especially those in North Carolina.

James Leloudis, professor of history and director of the James M. Johnston Center for Undergraduate Excellence, was the keynote speaker.

Leloudis, who graduated from UNC in 1977, said the speech was the toughest he ever had made because he was speaking to both former students and former professors.

Leloudis urged graduates to remember those who are less fortunate, both around the world and around the state. He mentioned a recent poll conducted by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press in which the majority of respondents from Africa, Latin American, and Russia said there have been times in the past year when they could not afford to feed their families or to pay for clothing and health care.

In America, only a small minority of respondents could not afford these basics, but Leloudis said this does not mean there is not a local divide between rich and poor.

There are, increasingly, two North Carolinas, he said.

"One North Carolina (is) centered here in the Piedmont, urban, riding the wave of the new economy, rich with opportunity and resources for its schools and communities," Leloudis explained. "The other North Carolina (is) predominantly rural, wrestling with the decline of traditional industries, often finding prosperity just beyond arm's reach."

He said that UNC is special because it is a public university and that the emphasis should remain on the fact that it is public.

"As you make your way in the world, let me also ask that you remember where you came from and that you reflect on what it means to have been educated at a public university," he said.

Leloudis said graduates have a duty to help those who live in the other North Carolina because these residents helped pay for their educations.

"The vast majority of them have never been to Chapel Hill, and in many cases their children will not come here either," he said. "Even so, they pay their share because they love their university and because they believe in you.

"You are indebted to those men and women, who ask not that you pay them back but that you pay forward by living a purposeful and engaged life."

Leloudis also told UNC's newest graduates they are part of the UNC family and urged them to visit often.

"Thomas Wolfe may have been, as he was often quick to remind his classmates, a genius -- one of Carolina's great gifts to the literary world. But he was wrong about one thing -- you can come home again."

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