Celebrating VCU Class of 2019


This weekend more than 2,900 graduates were welcomed to the VCU Alumni family. It was a great joy to join their family and friends to celebrate years of work and dedication in today’s universitywide ceremony. Below, is my address to VCU Class of 2019.


It’s great to join the Provost, the Board of Visitors, our deans, and my faculty colleagues in congratulating you on your graduation from Virginia Commonwealth University.

Today, we are all here to celebrate you. I’m really proud of you because of the impact you’ve made in Richmond and the work you will do to change the world. Along with your friends, family, and loved ones, I am delighted to say, “I am so proud of you.”

You worked hard, and everything you’ve earned is well-deserved. And now, you’ve got so much coming your way.

You are a brave group of forward-thinkers who came to VCU to DO…not to be. You chose to come to a university that believes in collaborating with people from many different backgrounds and many different fields. And that’s how you’ve shaped VCU forever for the students who will follow you. And you will.

You know…I admire you. Because you want to make important things happen that matter to society.

We are here today because you are relentless. You barrel head-on into the pressing needs of today and tomorrow. Unlike many college students around the country, YOU are ready to tackle the unknown.

You came to VCU from all over the place, and brought with you diverse life experiences that shaped your student experience. You are a multi-generational class who’s achieving the dream of so many people. YOU ARE YOUR ANCESTORS’ WILDEST DREAM.

And we are grateful for you because you always make clear what you expect from yourself and others…you actively participate in a society that needs you…and you will make changes in yourself and in all of us that will elevate the human experience forever.

The psychologist Abraham Maslow said, and I quote, “One can choose to go back toward safety or forward toward growth. Growth must be chosen again and again; fear must be overcome again and again.” End quote.

You understand this well. And what excites me after leading VCU for 10 years is being here with a graduating class that’s chosen to move forward toward growth, to focus on creating a world that includes all of us. You are optimistic. You are relentless. You chose growth.

And we are in awe of what you’ve done—but even more what you will do.

Last month, I had the pleasure of meeting with a group of student veterans who chose to pursue the next chapter of their lives at VCU.

They brought with them to VCU unique life experiences. They overcame the unknown and are now actively making a difference in our world as they work toward their life goals of doing critically-needed work in design…journalism… science…and scholarship in their quests to do the right things for humanity. The experiences they bring to the classrooms, studios, labs, and clinics at VCU help us as educators, mentors, and classmates to grow and learn with them and from them.

Like them, all of you bring a will to succeed and great zeal for life…for learning…and for doing great things for society.

Class of 2019, believe in how great you are and how you’re going to use that greatness to make the world a better place for all people. As VCU graduates, you are going to make the biggest difference for humanity. I can’t wait to see how you’re going to change the world.