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Full, Fearless, Active Participation

Thank you. That is lovely, thank you so much. And aren’t we resilient IC? It is sunshine all over this field today. Thank you for the wonderful introduction, Tom, and thank you for your dedicated leadership as chairman of the board of trustees. I also want to take this opportunity to extend my personal gratitude for all that you have done to get us to this point together. So thank you.

I am thrilled to be with all of you today, to share in this incredible moment and to celebrate the achievements and the lives of nearly 1,400 students who are members of Ithaca College’s Class of 2018.  

As Tom mentioned in his welcome remarks, this is my first Commencement and my first year as president. I want all of you to know, our graduating students, it has been an honor for me to share in this year with you. You have been such an important part of my IC experience. 

I hope this moment reminds you that you do not—and you must not—stand still. You are in the midst of an extraordinary life. Now is not the time to rest.  

And as we honor our graduates’ accomplishments today, we are, at the same time, honoring the accomplishments of an equally important group of people: your parents, family members, friends. The deep love and unshakable support they have provided you—not just this year, but for many years before now—who enabled this moment to happen. Thank you to all of you, for all that you have done for our graduates. 

Many thanks to our Ithaca College faculty and staff who played a critical role in our graduates’ lives and who deeply enriched their IC experience. There are literally thousands of people across this field today expressing deep gratitude to our distinguished faculty and staff, thank you so much.

I also want to thank our graduates, not only for your participation and effort as part of our college community, but for representing today robust, diverse, and strong identities as scholars and as people. There are more than a dozen cords, stoles, and pins, beautiful decorations on your caps, that express who you are, and I just want to name a few.  

  • Those of you wearing blue and yellow cords are graduating with academic honors as summa cum laude, magna cum laude, and cum laude students. 
  • Black and gold single cords—and I am wearing one of them today very proudly—represent our first-generation college students in this class. 
  • Those of you wearing rainbow cords are showing your pride as a part of our LGBTQA+ community.  
  • Red, white, and blue cords tell us that you have proudly served our country in the armed forces.  
  • Kente stoles and stoles representing your country of origin speak to us about the rich ethnic background of our students whose roots stretch across the globe.   

My thanks to each of you for bringing your authentic and full self to our ceremony today and throughout our campus community during your years at IC. 

As you know, this year marks our 125th anniversary as an institution, and there has been much celebration around this special milestone, and many opportunities to reflect on our history and our evolution. Today we do the same for our graduates. We pause to look back at the past and we revel in all that you have done and all that you’ve become.  

In this moment, though, I hope you feel a sense of urgency. I hope this moment reminds you that you do not—and you must not—stand still. You are in the midst of an extraordinary life. Now is not the time to rest.  

When each of you crosses the stage today, you will receive the Class of 2018 Presidential Medallion, which honors your graduation and shares a meaningful quote from one of the women I most admire: Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor. She reminds us that there are no bystanders in life, that our humanity makes us a part of something greater than ourselves.  

This is the essence of what it means to fully, fearlessly, and actively participate in the construction of our collective experience as human beings. This is the essence of our deep responsibility to one another, and to our messy, fragile, and resilient world.  

And it’s why we look to you, our graduating students, to help move us forward. To drive the evolution of our society. To push boundaries. To challenge what we think we know—and what we think we have to accept.  

As an Ithaca College graduate, I have no doubt that you can, and you will.