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Duke Student Speaker to Urge Pragmatism, Idealism

Senior Andrew Kragie will give this year's student speech at the May 10 ceremony

Andrew Kragie will give the student address at Duke's main commencement ceremony May 10, 2015
Andrew Kragie will give the student address at Duke's main commencement ceremony May 10, 2015

In Andrew Kragie’s view, a Duke education gives students the skills not only to think critically and pragmatically, but to also look at the world with an idealist’s bent.

That’s the message Kragie plans to emphasize Sunday, May 10, as the student speaker at Duke’s annual commencement exercise. A senior from Maryland, Kragie says Duke graduates can be both practical and starry-eyed about their futures and the role they can play in the world.

“Right now we’re thinking of our next steps,” says Kragie, who is majoring in political science and public policy with a certificate in Latin American Studies. “But we can also think about more than that because this place, and the people here, prepared us to think about more.”

He calls it “Blue Devil Double Vision,” the ability to both see how something works and imagine how it might be improved. He will urge his fellow graduating seniors to harness that imagination and use it for good.

“We’re very good at being practical and focused and getting things done,” he says. “But at our best, we’re not just ruthlessly pragmatic. We’re also idealists.”

Kragie believes this happens because a Duke education is a steady blend of curricular and extracurricular.

For example: At Duke, students don’t just study statistics, he says. Students might then volunteer with a nonprofit through DukeEngage, using those statistics skills to help the organization improve its client service. Or lessons learned in an ethics course can be applied at a summer internship or some other opportunity that Duke helps facilitate.

“Duke rarely has an idea in the classroom that cannot be experienced outside the classroom,” Kragie says. “So we are used to living with this dual vision of ideals and the real world.”

Kragie has had a busy four years at Duke. His involvements include a stint as director of religious life for Duke Student Government, where he was part of an interfaith working group with students of other religions. He also spent a great deal of time as a reporter and columnist with the Duke Chronicle. One of his most rewarding experiences was his time living in Cooper House, a selective living group that mixed the social with the intellectual.

Kragie was selected by a committee of faculty, staff, students and administrators, the top choice from a pool of about 30 candidates, says Sterly Wilder, chair of the committee and Duke’s associate vice president for alumni affairs.

“His message really caught the attention of the committee, particularly the students on the committee,” Wilder says. “ They felt it had broad appeal and a good message.”

The commencement ceremony will begin at 9 a.m. at Durham Bulls Athletic Park and is open to the public. The event was moved from Wallace Wade Stadium because of renovations to the 85-year-old football stadium. More details on commencement are available at