Nearly 4,700 professional, graduate and undergraduate degrees were awarded to more than 4,300 graduates. It was an honor to celebrate such a momentous event with new alumni, their families, friends and loved ones. The VCU community is magnificent.
Below, is the address I delivered to those gathered.
To this year’s graduates, families and loved ones—congratulations!
You are graduating from a nationally and internationally recognized university. By coming to VCU, you have shaped the university and helped make it what it is today. No matter where you find yourself, you are—and you will always be—a member of the VCU family.
You have been challenged within and outside of the classroom.
You have challenged us. And, together we all have changed, a lot. This is exactly how it should be.
You and your classmates came to VCU from a wide range of backgrounds with the common goal of learning, creating, and making a difference at the university, in the community and beyond. Many of you are first-generation, multi-generational, super seniors, lifelong achievers. You are committed to excellence and also to the success of others.
You are driven, compassionate and innovative. And, as we continue to work toward a more perfect union, you are the future and strength of our world.
Writer and environmental activist Terry Tempest Williams once said, “The eyes of the future are looking back at us, and they are praying for us to see beyond our own times.”
This is you, the Class of 2018. You know what is coming, and you are ready.
You chose to stand up for your classmates and community. I can point to the changes you set into motion at Virginia Commonwealth University. Some of you came to my office and pressed for a faculty that better represents our students. You said that our university needed to be more equitable and accessible to everyone who come here to live, learn and create.
You collaborated with others in vastly different disciplines to discover and create better ways to do old things. You questioned things and in the end, you helped raise our standards. You helped VCU become a stronger university that is constantly evolving.
Congressman and civil rights leader John Lewis said—and I’ll quote him now— “You are a light. You are the light. Never let anyone—any person or any force dampen, dim or diminish your light. Study the path of others to make your way easier and more abundant. Lean toward the whispers of your own heart, discover the universal truth, and follow its dictate. Release the need to hate, to harbor division, and the enticement of revenge. Release all bitterness. Hold only to love, only peace in your heart, knowing that the battle of good to overcome evil is already won. Choose confrontation wisely, but when it is your time don’t be afraid to stand up, speak up, and speak out against injustice.”
Graduates of Virginia Commonwealth University, we look to you with confidence that you are the light. Because you received a world-class education with amazing educators, mentors and a supportive community, you are ready for the future. You will go forth and you will do great things.
We are incredibly proud of you and excited about the mark you will make on the world and humankind.
Thank you. And congratulations!