In his remarks to the graduating class at Commencement exercises on May 26, 2011, Washington and Lee University President Kenneth P. Ruscio told the members of the Class of 2011 hat they must search for nuance rather than simplicity as they make their way in the world.
Ruscio was following the long-standing tradition at W&L that the University president serves as the speaker at commencement.
"I cannot easily "Wisdom is not the same as more and better information," Ruscio said, "but we seem to think so."
Ruscio warned the students that the world they are about to enter is different from the one that they are leaving. For instance, the University's Honor System asked the students to be both trustworthy and to trust one another. But once they leave W&L, he said, they need to be ready for someone to call them naïve for telling the truth.
"You will be presented with the false choice of looking out for yourself or being honest," he said. "It will be a false choice even in the world out there. And in this world of moral complexity, search for nuance rather than simplicity."
Washington and Lee has given the graduates not just an education, Ruscio told them. They also have gained a way of thinking and a feeling of respect for others - "an intellectual self-assurance, but also a reverence for the vast world you will never completely understand, although I hope you never stop trying."
um up what we do here at Washington and Lee, but one simple description is that we seek to move students up a ladder that begins with information, then up to knowledge and then, ultimately, wisdom," Ruscio said.