Commencement Thoughts

Last weekend we had a remarkable Commencement… with only a few students and families in attendance along with some staff, and with a few thousand watching online. It was both very sad and very moving to look out over the almost empty field and try to imagine all the seniors, full of accomplishment, being cheered on by their families. And the cheers were there, echoing for us across the miles.

You can listen to my remarks here. The honorary doctorate recipients had important messages to share. Rev. Dr. William Barber challenged graduates to have a positive impact on the world by working for social justice: So I want to issue you a challenge to be instruments of change. To use your degrees, your education, your influence, your intelligence, to be instruments of change.” Brad Whitford ’81 emphasized the importance of civic engagement and our connections to one another: “If we learn anything from this pandemic, it must be that we are all connected on this delicate little planet. And I hope that the pernicious myth of separateness that lies at the root of so much oppression and injustice in this world must finally be obliterated.” Finally Jacqueline Woodson underscored her belief in the power of the graduates to do good in the world: “I see your brilliance. And I see the way you are doing the hard work already and changing the world already. And I just love young people so much, and I love what y’all are doing, and I love who you’re becoming, and I love what this world is going to be because of you.” 

Lots more about Commencement 2020 here— and I especially recommend Caroline Bhupathi’s thoughtful message to her classmates.