PULLMAN–William D. Ruckelshaus, who has compiled an impressive record of public service at the highest levels of government, urged Washington State University graduates to become positive forces for political change during his commencement address on the Pullman campus Saturday.
“What really must commence today is your journey as a citizen your willingness to change and bring our leaders with you,” said Ruckelshaus, who was the first head of the Environmental Protection Agency, headed the Federal Bureau of Investigation and served as U.S. deputy attorney general.
“Your responsibility is to be a good citizen. Your willing embrace of your responsibility to help guide our country’s future and its government of, for and by the people is your highest calling as an American. In America, the government isn’t them, it’s us. Our leaders will lead us only where we insist we go,” he said.
Ruckelshaus is an attorney in the Seattle office of the Perkins Coie law firm. He chairs the state Salmon Recovery Funding Board and co-chairs the Puget Sound Partnership to clean up Puget Sound. He also chairs the board for the William D. Ruckelshaus Center, a neutral resource for collaborative problem solving. The center is a joint effort of Washington State University and the University of Washington.
He focused the audience’s attention on looming public policy crises, including global warming and the growing federal debt.
“None of the changes necessary to meet the problems I outlined are impossible if citizens don’t allow them to be,” Ruckelshaus said. “They are not impossible because the single most important thing we who have gone before have bequeathed to you is freedom.”
“It is the gift of freedom that allows you to be a full participant — a citizen — in the governing of America.”
The ceremony was the sixth fall commencement in WSU’s history. About 700 undergraduate and graduate students received degrees. The university also holds commencement ceremonies in May.
WSU President V. Lane Rawlins presided at the ceremony. Jason Doss, president of the Graduate and Professional Student Association, and Zach Wurtz, president of the Associated Students of WSU, also addressed the audience gathered in the Beasley Performing Arts Coliseum.