Delivered May 21, 2022
Greetings! On behalf of our University at Buffalo community, I would like to welcome the family members and friends joining us today. We appreciate you being with us to recognize your loved one at this major milestone.
Like you, we are very proud of your UB graduate. And so, in that spirit of UB pride, I invite you to join me in a round of applause for our Class of 2022!
Congratulations, graduates! I can tell that you are eager to cross the stage today. But, before you do, I have one request of you: I ask that you pause to consider how far you have come—and all that you have overcome—to arrive at this point.
Perhaps you will take into account the challenges you encountered while mastering a given subject…the adaptations you made during the pandemic…the lessons you learned in your field—and about yourself. What I hope you surmise is that your UB journey, and your success, are cause for great celebration!
And yet, as informed, engaged citizens, it may be hard to reconcile your happiness, and your sense of accomplishment, with the disquiet you see in the world today.
There is no way to sugarcoat it: We are living in precarious times. Times of war and suffering…of devastation fueled by racist ideology, as we have just witnessed in our own community…of unprecedented attacks on our democratic values…of imperiled oceans, skies and entire species…of racial injustice and economic instability.
So much of this strife is rooted in our own failure. Our failure to see the humanity in one another…our failure to compromise—or even tolerate opposing viewpoints…our failure to put the greater good ahead of personal gain. We have all witnessed major breakdowns in trust—and the rise of misinformation that ensues.
Mind you, I do not catalogue these shortcomings to dampen your spirits on this joyous day. In fact, my goal is the opposite. What I want to impress on you today is one simple fact: Your UB education has primed you for this moment. You are prepared to push against this tide…to heal these societal fractures.
As a UB graduate, not only can you deeply analyze and evaluate the trajectory of society, you can change that trajectory. Through your disciplinary expertise, you have refined your reasoning capabilities, and sharpened your intellect. You have sought out diverse opinions, so you understand the world from multiple perspectives. You have created innovative projects and collaborated on impactful solutions to pressing problems.
We know that education truly has meaning when our graduates emerge from UB with the qualities to create transformative change for a complex world.
I truly believe that the power to shape the future is in each of you. I also believe that, to succeed in this endeavor, humility must be your constant companion. With your education as your guide and humility as your companion, I have every confidence that you will tackle the most complex issues of our day.
The American writer Madeleine L’Engle described humility as “throwing oneself away in complete concentration on something or someone else.” With humility, you appreciate that there is always more to learn.
The humble person recognizes the difference between knowledge and wisdom—a distinction that American physician and poet Oliver Wendell Holmes made most eloquently: "It is the province of knowledge to speak," he wrote, "and it is the privilege of wisdom to listen."
Graduates, if we have done our job at UB, you have the knowledge, wisdom, and humility to positively impact the world. I greatly look forward to seeing you do just that.
Once again, Congratulations to the Class of 2022!