“Make the American Dream your own, champion the rights of others.” That’s the dual challenge that Kareem Abdul-Jabbar put to Drew University’s Class of 2016 in a thought-provoking Commencement address that was the centerpiece of a whirlwind graduation day for 442 students.
The ceremony, which took place on the back lawn of Mead Hall, also featured remarks from the deans of Drew’s three schools, Board of Trustees Chair Dean Criares C’85 and President MaryAnn Baenninger. In addition, Drew recognized three teachers of the year — Kate Ott of the Theological School, Jonathan Golden of the Caspersen School of Graduate Studies and Raul Rosales of the College of Liberal Arts — and awarded honorary degrees to Abdul-Jabbar, the NBA’s all-time leading scorer and author of 11 books; William C. Campbell, a Drew Fellow and winner of the 2015 Nobel Prize in Medicine; and Robert Ready, outgoing dean of the Caspersen School, who has served since 2011, and a Drew professor since 1971.
Abdul-Jabbar, who also received a personalized Drew basketball jersey, was the rock star on campus, smiling and nodding to the relatives and friends of graduates and shaking hands with some students as they walked the final feet toward their degrees. He encouraged them to pursue their definitions of the American Dream and to fulfill their responsibilities to condemn racism, sexism, homophobia and the exploitation of the poor. This, he concluded, “is an American dream worth dreaming.”