Although the first proper Notre Dame commencement--conferring degrees on two candidates--took place in 1848, General William Tecumseh Sherman was Notre Dame's first graduation speaker with a truly national reputation. He attended Notre Dame's ceremony in 1865, just months after accepting the surrender of General Joseph E. Johnson's Confederate army. Sherman, whose sons had been students at Notre Dame, came less to give an address than to utter words of thanks for the kindness shown to his family, who had found refuge in the area during the war. When prevailed upon to speak, he offered some extemporaneous remarks, calling on Notre Dame graduates and students to "be ready at all times to perform bravely the battle of life."
Go Forth and Do Good: Memorable Notre Dame Commencement Addresses brings together twenty-four notable graduation speeches, ranging from the words General Sherman delivered in 1865 to President George W. Bush's remarks in 2001. Also included in this fine collection is a letter sent to 1986 graduates by Mother Teresa and Father Theodore M. Hesburgh's final charge to the graduating class of 1987. Wilson D. Miscamble, C.S.C., provides a delightful introduction that clarifies the importance of the selected speeches and places them in the context of the history of both Notre Dame and the world.