Seton Hall University
Commencement 2013

Commencement Speaker

eberstadtMary Tedeschi Eberstadt, is an author and a Senior Fellow of the Ethics and Public Policy Center. Her work focuses on issues in American society, culture, and philosophy. She is the author of several influential books: Adam and Eve after the Pill: Paradoxes of the Sexual Revolution (2012); The Loser Letters: A Comic Tale of Life, Death, and Atheism (2010); and Home-Alone America: The Hidden Toll of Day Care, Behavioral Drugs, and Other Parent Substitutes (2005). She is also editor of a 2007 anthology, Why I Turned Right: Leading Baby Boom Conservatives Chronicle their Political Journeys. Her latest book is How the West Really Lost God: A New Theory of Secularization, published by Templeton Press (April 2013).

Mrs. Eberstadt was a Research Fellow at the Hoover Institution from 2002 to 2013. Between 1990 and 1998, she was executive editor of the National Interest magazine. From 1985 to 1987, she was a member of the Policy Planning Staff of the U.S. State Department, a speechwriter for Secretary of State George P. Shultz, and a special assistant to Ambassador Jeane J. Kirkpatrick at the U.S. Mission to the United Nations. She was also managing editor at the Public Interest. A four-year Telluride Scholar at Cornell University, Mrs. Eberstadt graduated magna cum laude in 1983.

Introductory Remarks by Monsignor Anthony Ziccardi

Seton Hall University was founded by Bishop Bayley and others who were convinced that the intellectual patrimony of Catholicism had much to contribute to the continuing quest for knowledge not only of Catholics but any who might seek understanding.

America was founded much earlier by people of faith and non-faith who were not inclined to recognize much of intellectual value in Catholicism. Yet they established a nation, a political system, that incorporated civic freedom, a democratic republic, which could and did eventually become a home even to misunderstood Catholicism.

Perhaps the founders of the nation never recognized it, but they shared with Catholic believers a basically optimistic view of humankind; for they wagered that citizens might be able to govern themselves rather than have government and laws imposed upon them by monarchs or oligarchs—or any other kinds of “archs” you like. The founders’ political leap of faith—mind you, not shared by Catholic political theory at the time of the founding—was in time embraced by Catholicism as consonant with its own bedrock insight that human beings, though they may get it wrong, though they may do wrong, are fundamentally rational and moral; for in time men and women recognize their error and sin and eventually get it right and do right. Hooray for Catholicism!  Hooray for the founders and this democracy they established!

As error and sin are not extinct among us, the danger persists that democracy might devolve and dissolve into anarchy. To guard against this danger there is needed an intellectually and morally educated citizenry, not a few people here and there dedicated to getting it right and doing right, but the majority of the nation’s citizens. This is where institutions of higher education and their proliferation in democratic republics like the United States come in—or, at least, they should. This is to say: while universities function to train professionals for careers in the market place, their primary purpose is to train citizens, members of the civic community, that will care enough for the community to engage others in the quest for the true and the good—the common good—and act resolutely and collaboratively to realize it. To this end, against all mere economic utilitarianism or philosophical despair, universities should serve to invigorate and stimulate rational, moral, responsible, public discourse.  

I imagine it to be the fond hope of the governors, administrators, and faculty of Seton Hall that you graduates, along with your professional training, have learned the rudiments of the world’s intellectual patrimony so that you might be engaged and responsible citizens of the American democracy, citizens who can set aside slogans and get beyond sound-bites in order to think clearly through the forest of issues facing our common destiny. It is as an expression of this hope that one of Seton Hall’s newest doctoral graduates was chosen to be this year’s commencement speaker: Dr. Mary Tedeschi Eberstadt.

The outlines of her professional career were rehearsed for us earlier and are found in your program, so that there is no need for me to speak of all that now. It is enough to say that she is an intellectual who has not confined herself to the ivory tower or even to one specific field of inquiry, but who has learned broadly and grown and migrated in her convictions, which she has all along courageously and humbly put forth in the public square as her honest and dutiful contribution to the pursuit of America’s common good. Today she is offered to us all, especially her fellow graduates, as a model of what the founders hoped for in citizens of this democracy. And with her words, she will not fail to inspire us all to dedicate ourselves more fully to the moral and intelligent shaping of our future.

Commencement Remarks

Mary Tedeschi Eberstadt addressed 1,248 undergraduates at Seton Hall University’s 157 Baccalaureate Commencement Ceremony held at the IZOD Center in East Rutherford, New Jersey. View the complete address titled "You Are More Important than You Know".

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