Actor Sam Waterston speaks at Class Day 2024.
Tori Repp / Fotobuddy
Waterston encouraged the graduates to think for themselves

The Class of 2024 has the unique distinction of being the only class to start its time at Princeton not at Princeton. Instead, due to COVID, the then-freshmen were forced to meet and mingle on a Facebook page “from the discomfort of our childhood homes,” as Sierra Stern ’24, one of the class heralds, put it on Class Day.

The annual celebration, which is organized by the senior class and this year fell on Memorial Day, proved the seemingly impossible is possible: Not only did members of the Class of 2024 commemorate the conclusion of their time at Princeton together on Cannon Green after starting their journeys so far apart, but the class also lauded keynote speaker and Emmy- and Golden Globe-Award-winning actor Sam Waterston, despite the fact that, as Julie Levey ’24, Class Day co-chair, said by way of sarcastic introduction, he was born “in every Princetonian’s favorite city: Cambridge, Massachusetts,” before attending college “at every Princetonian’s favorite university: Yale.”

“I promise it’s only an upwards trajectory from here,” Levey joked.

“So, remember, there’s no obstacle you can’t overcome. … You once generated enough saliva to fill two plastic tubes a week.”
— Rohit Narayanan ’24

Electrical and computer engineering major and class herald Waterston — who is most known for his 18-year run as Jack McCoy on Law & Order and who has also starred on the stage and in film — limited his advice, noting that as “graduation is the landmark” of adulthood, he finds it “kind of crazy that the first thing the world wants to do is to tell you, in a graduation speech, how to think and what to do. I’m not going to try.”

Instead, Waterston encouraged the graduates to think for themselves, to take action when appropriate and to be still when needed, and to always remember the importance of play, which he defined as a mixture of love and joy.

In her remarks, Stern, an English major, admitted that when she scrolled through that class Facebook page years ago, she was overwhelmed by her classmates’ accomplishments. “One of you actually discovered a planet, which is like — you didn’t have to do all that,” Stern said. But she learned not to get caught up in comparisons. “After the last four years of intense exposure therapy, I am no longer afraid of exceptional people,” she said.

Rohit Narayanan ’24, an electrical and computer engineering major and the other class herald, brought things full circle when he said that given the dramatic events class members have endured, they are characterized by a sense of adventure. “So, remember, there’s no obstacle you can’t overcome. … You once generated enough saliva to fill two plastic tubes a week.”

How times have changed.