Paterson tells Saint Rose graduates to follow the light

Gov. David Paterson delivered The College of Saint Rose's 85th commencement address at SPAC Saturday

Gov. David Paterson quoted other intellectuals Saturday in his first commencement address since becoming governor, attacking narrow-mindedness in his one political comment.

He noted some people follow shadows instead of light because they’re confused about the truth, quoting Plato’s Allegory of the Cave to The College of Saint Rose graduates.

“I think that those who are advocating in government right now to decrease the gas tax are suffering from that delusion,” said Paterson in citing a present-day example of the allegory.

Since retailers control the price of gas, reducing the tax won’t necessarily cut the cost for New York motorists, Paterson argued.

He urged the graduates — almost 900 received degrees at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center — to learn from people who aren’t as well-educated as they are.

“The fact is that we can learn from anyone,” Paterson said.

He delivered the talk sprinkled with his characteristic humor, noting that Saint Rose officials invited him to give the commencement speech when he was still lieutenant governor.

“The lieutenant governor is not available today, so I would like to come,” said Paterson in mock humility, drawing laughter from the crowd.

Paterson was awarded an honorary doctorate before he delivering his speech and lauded for his public service as a state senator, lieutenant governor and governor.

College President R. Mark Sullivan implored the new grads to work and live in New York state, something that Clifton Park native Kristen Reichardt plans to do. The 22-year-old hopes to secure an elementary teaching job this fall in one of the local school districts.

“I like the area. I grew up here and just want to stay here,” she said while waiting in line for the ceremony to start.

More than 630 calm, nervous or excited graduates filled the backstage at SPAC to attend the graduation. For Michelle Chmura of Poughkeepsie, attaining her bachelor’s degree in communications is just one stop on the way to her master’s degree, which she also plans to obtain through St. Rose.

“I’m not that excited. It’s a long haul,” the 22-year-old said while waiting with friends.

Zach Doyle, 21, plans to stay in Albany this summer for an internship at Mass Mutual after receiving a bachelor’s degree in business. He said he would be sad to leave his friends and the college.

“It kind of all hit me this morning,” said the Rhinebeck man.

The College of Saint Rose awarded 759 bachelor’s and master’s degrees from its four academic schools and 125 certificates of advanced study from the Thelma P. Lally School of Education.

Bishop Howard Hubbard also attended the 85th annual commencement.

Sister Rose Regina Smith received the Carondelet Medal at the commencement, one of the most prestigious awards given by Saint Rose. Smith has worked in the president’s office for the last 34 years and is in her 80s. Her aunt was a founding sister of the college and her mother a member of the first graduating class.

“The day after tomorrow, you are going to find yourself on the bottom rung of the ladder,” she told the graduates, encouraging them to work their way up.

Former student association president Omar Lopez, a Brooklyn native, called his classmates to fight injustice in the world.

“Against apathy, history is our weapon,” Lopez said.

The honors student graduated with a bachelor’s degree in English and adolescent education and next will attend Harvard University Graduate School of Education to pursue a master’s degree in educational management and policy.

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