SALEM, Va. —Congressman Rick Boucher (D-Va.), a leader in federal policy for information technology and the Internet, served as Roanoke College’s commencement speaker. Boucher was recognized with an honorary Doctor of Laws degree from the College. Dr. Munsey Wheby, of Charlottesville, a member of Roanoke’s class of 1951, received an honorary Doctor of Science degree. The Class of 2006 is comprised of 387 graduates from 26 states and 10 foreign countries.
In his speech, Boucher encouraged graduates to get involved in public service and to resist cynicism and doubt in the nation’s public institutions.
“I think this is a time of special national challenge,” Boucher said. “With public approval of our executive and legislative leaders near their all time lows, there probably could not be a more difficult time to challenge you to public service. Given the actions of some in high positions, I can readily understand the public cynicism that is prevalent today. People in large numbers are turning from the political process. But for the benefit of all of us, that cynicism must be overcome. It leads to low voter turnouts which weaken the foundation of our government. It encourages less respect for the American democratic experience which to this time has endured so well and become the example so many other nations have followed so successfully.”
“In spite of the cynicism and the problems that attend it, our nation remains the leading example of what people united in purpose with a shared resolve and participating in an open representative government can achieve,” Boucher said. “Whether the measure is economic success, the presence of personal freedoms or the extent to which our model is adopted elsewhere, no other nation is our match.”
“Our challenge today is to overcome the cynicism that threatens this very success,” Boucher said. “See personal shortcomings, even of those in high places, for what they are—the failings of a few—not the common practice of many. Our system is responding properly to those public officials who have abused the public trust. I hope you will not let the daily news reports of their being held to account lead you to doubt our public institutions. Don’t be cynical about the power of a single individual guided by principle and committed to serving others to achieve truly great things.”
“My personal belief is that serving others is the most noble use of one’s talent and one’s time,” he said. “And so share with your community, our nation and the world your special talents. In so doing, you will best serve yourself.”
Rebekah Elaine Halsey Hellkamp, a history major from Roanoke, earned the top honor and will present the Valedictory address and Linda Ann Harris, an English and theology double major also from Roanoke, was recognized as the Salutatorian.
Rev. Paul Henrickson, Dean of the Chapel, served as the baccalaureate speaker. His sermon was titled “Listen. Up.”
Boucher, a native of Abingdon, Va. and a 1968 graduate of Roanoke College, is currently serving in his 12th term in the U.S. House of Representatives, representing Virginia’s 9th Congressional District. Boucher is a member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee and serves on two subcommittees through it: Telecommunications and the Internet and Energy and Air Quality, of which he is a ranking member. He also sits on the House Judiciary Committee and its Internet and Intellectual Property subcommittee.
In his student years, Boucher majored in political science, was a member of the national fraternity Kappa Alpha and served as president of the Honors Council. He was named to Who’s Who Among Students in American Colleges and Universities. After graduation, Boucher earned his law degree from the University of Virginia. He practiced law on Wall Street in New York and in Virginia. Prior to his election to the U.S. House of Representatives, Boucher served as a member of the Virginia State Senate for seven years.
Wheby lives in Charlottesville and serves as the Professor of Internal Medicine and Senior Associate Dean Emeritus at the University of Virginia School of Medicine. A distinguished scientist and clinician, Dr. Wheby holds membership in many renowned scientific societies and professional organizations, and has held Visiting Professorships in China, Beirut, Lebanon, and at the University of California. A Fellow of the American College of Physicians (ACP) since 1967, he served as President of this important group in 2003. Roanoke College honored Wheby as a Distinguished Alumnus in 1992 and as the Roanoke College Medalist in 2000. In 1999, he received the Walter Reed Distinguished Achievement Award, which is the highest award given by the U.Va. Medical School Alumni Association.
Roanoke College, the country’s second oldest Lutheran-related college, is an independent, co-educational, four-year liberal arts college. Roanoke is one of just 270 colleges nationwide with a chapter of Phi Beta Kappa, the nation’s oldest and most prestigious honor society. The Princeton Review names Roanoke as one of the “best in the Southeast.” Roanoke’s 1,900 students represent 41 states across the U.S. and 25 foreign countries.
For additional information, call the Roanoke College Public Relations Office at (540) 375-2282.