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Princeton University


2003 Latin Salutatory Oration

Jesse Isaac Liebman

Friends, students, parents, members of the faculty and administration – e pluribus unum, Princetonians – welcome. We gather here today in the name of tradition to celebrate you, fellow members of the class of two-thousand three, in lofty Latin prose.

First and foremost, I greet President Tilghman with a few humble words. You, like Lucretius, perpetually probe the natural world and, like Minerva, govern this University with noble wisdom. May your tenure not be cut short by any moratorium. And you, trustees, whose very initiative causes us such dread, even you I hail. Lastly, I offer paeans of praise to all of our families – you who are certainly the nec plus ultra. But gratitude is owed even more to certain lofty Olympians.

You, Bacchus, you first among the gods, we propitiate, you who are the reason why so many of us have spent nights worshipping the white, porcelain god. We thank you for these memories with a final libation later tonight, the best in all of Milwaukee.

Venus, mother of the race of Aeneas, we thank you for your fruitfulness, but not for your multiplication. You, Cyprian, we celebrate, in honor of puppy love, true love, and that invention which surpasses all others – beer goggles.

Minerva, daughter of father Jove, martial guardian of wisdom, we prostrate ourselves before you in eternal thanks. You were the sine qua non without whom we would not have passed our comps nor written our theses. Mercury, crafty god, we thank you for such great Dean’s Date excuses.

And you, Janus, god of doors and gates, deity of the threshold, patron of new beginnings, you in particular, cast a benevolent eye upon this ceremony. In just a little while, we shall walk through your hallowed Fitzrandolphian precinct, not as soldiers in the Roman army, but as warriors of the modern age. Once we were like unto a tabula rasa; now we are armed with B.A. and B.S.E. degrees.

Three and four times blessed are those who lived beneath these lofty spires! This was truly our locus amoenus: Prospect Street, Café Vivian, the Woody Woo Fountain, Hoagie Haven, and the WaWa.

When we have cast off these hats, let us not forget certain principles – Prudence, not necessarily Prudential Bank; Fortune, not necessarily Fortune 500; Truth, not necessarily in wine – well, okay fine, in wine. Finally, and most important, as we each begin to follow our own curriculum vitae, let us not become entangled in our resumes.

We leave our fate in your right hand, two-headed Janus, you who never cease your vigilance over both past and future. So let it be for us. As we march forward – even past faraway Forbes – may we forever preserve tender memories of this place. In the words of that famous Mantuan Vergil: "Perhaps one day it will be pleasing to remember even these things." And in the words of that contemporary poet Eminem: "It’s your moment, you own it, you’ll never let it go." Princetonia, sweet-smelling goddess of New Jersey, those who are about to be victorious salute you. Hail, Princeton, and farewell.

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