Yale University gives honorary degrees

Posted May 23, 2011, at 1:33 p.m.
Last modified May 23, 2011, at 3:39 p.m.
George Mitchell
AP Photo/Majdi Mohammed
George Mitchell

NEW HAVEN, Conn. — Yale University gave honorary degrees Monday to peace envoy George Mitchell, film director Martin Scorsese and writer Joan Didion.

At the Ivy League university’s 310th commencement exercises, Yale President Richard Levin called Mitchell a model U.S. senator who played a key role in the successful peace talks in Northern Ireland. Mitchell served in the Senate as a Democrat from Maine from 1980 to 1995, the final six years as majority leader.

“With patience, tact, insight and integrity, you have earned the trust of bitter enemies and made the world a safer place,” Levin said.

Mitchell earlier this month announced his resignation as the Obama administration’s special envoy to the Mideast at a time of turmoil in the region and after fruitless attempts at rekindling Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.

Levin said Scorsese’s films “explore gritty reality in ways that enlighten, engross and entertain.” Scorsese’s films include “The Departed” and “Gangs of New York.”

“Drawing upon your childhood on New York City’s mean streets, your films provoke anxiety while revealing the underworld in society and in the human soul,” Levin said. “With honesty and imagination, you confront morality, loyalty, trust and betrayal.”

Didion influenced two generations of writers and set a standard for American prose, Levin said.

“In unflinching prose, you explore themes of love and loss, politics and place, social disorder and the search for meaning,” Levin said. “As a columnist, essayist, and novelist, you have captured the magic and mystery of life and death.”

Tom Hanks delivered Sunday’s annual Class Day speech. The actor talked to 1,300 seniors in the crowd of 16,000 about the promise and peril of technology, joking that they should compare Twitter and Facebook posts later to see if anything memorable happened.

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