Delivered May 21, 2023
Welcome to the friends and family joining us for this joyous occasion.
Like you, we take immense pride in your graduate and our entire Class of 2023.
With that, I would ask our guests and members of our UB community to join me in a round of applause for our graduates.
Graduates, all you have achieved over the course of your education—the lessons learned, the personal and professional strides you have made—everything is reflected in the cap and gown you wear today.
Since the Middle Ages, this regalia has been a symbol of intellect and authority. To further reflect on the tradition, the word “commencement” comes from the Latin “inceptio” or “beginning.”
If you think about it, there’s something of a contradiction embedded in this centuries-old rite of passage. On one hand, you have earned the status of an intellectual authority. On the other, you’re at the beginning of a journey—a novice, in some respects.
So, which is it?
Today, I humbly ask you to embody this duality by embracing the role of a life-long learner. One who has amassed the knowledge to be considered an authority—but has the wisdom to appreciate there is much more to know and understand. Not only about your profession, but the world.
So, as you wear the vestments of intellectual authority from the distant past, and prepare for a new beginning in our 21st-century world, I have another question for you: What are going to bring on the journey?
I hope your packing list includes a well-loved UB hoodie that you’ll continue to wear with pride! But I’m really talking about the intangibles—the things you carry in your head and heart. Like your memories of UB, the friendships you have made, the expertise you have gained—in sum, the intellectual authority we celebrate today.
Above all, it is my greatest hope that, as you commence through life’s journey, you carry with you UB’s mission of excellence and impact. You have lived the UB mission in your strong work ethic, and your commitment to your discipline. You have demonstrated it in your compassionate engagement with your classmates, and society at large.
Now that you are on the brink of graduating, I would argue that it is more important than ever that you carry this mission with you. With our mission in your heart, you will have the vision to see our shared humanity, even in polarizing times.
You will elevate the public discourse with reasoned, fact-based contributions, and with respect for opposing viewpoints. In times of challenge and strife, you will not respond with reflexive panic or blame. Instead, you will work calmly, taking measured risks toward sustainable solutions. With our mission as your guide, you will make your way through the world with your eyes trained not on the bottom line, but the greater good.
Graduates, if we have done our job, your UB education has primed you for a life of service and purpose.
Of course, you will encounter setbacks, and experience the sting of disappointment. These are, after all, part of the human condition. But I am confident you have everything you need to face these obstacles with resilience and persistence.
And so today, as you commence on your journey, pack wisely. And, please, accept my very best wishes for the road ahead!
Once again, congratulations to the Class of 2023!