University of California, Berkeley Commencement Convocation:
Faculty Address by Professor Alan Dundes, Professor of
Anthropology and Folklore
17 May 2002
Congratulations, Class of 2002, you made it! And thanks to all
parents, friends, neighbors, in some cases spouses, in others
children, and all those who may have helped you get to this
important milestone occasion in your lives. You are a special
class, a palindromic class, one of the very few to ever graduate
from the University of California, Berkeley.
A palindrome is a word, line, or verse that reads the same
forwards and backwards. I suppose the classic one is supposedly
the very first sentence ever uttered on the face of the earth.
According to folk tradition, Adam’s first words to Eve were:
"Madam I’m Adam." Of course, this presumes that Adam not only
spoke English, but also knew how to write or spell English words.
The same kind of problem (regarding knowledge of English)
occurs with respect to the great Napoleon’s alleged nostalgic
reminiscence: "Able was I ere I saw Elba." In any case, the class
of 2002 is, according to my calculation, only the third palindrome
class of this institution. There was the class of 1881, and more
recently the class of 1991, most of who are still around. You are
the third palindrome class and I shall return shortly to the
significance of this fortunate distinction of being number three.
The next such class will not be until the class of 2112.
You should feel pride, great pride, graduating from the number
one university, in the number one state, of the number one
nation in the world! On the other hand, there are probably a few
things you won’t miss all that much, once you leave the campus
for good. Finding your way in and out of Dwinelle Hall which,
according to campus legend was built by two brothers who didn’t
get along---in one version, one brother was involved with the
other brother’s wife—and they each started building Dwinelle
from one end and that’s why the room numbering is so confusing.
You probably won’t regret not having to dwell on this past season