“Many of you have already experienced the kind of tragedy and hardship that leaves an indelible mark,” said Facebook chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg to Berkeley’s 2016 graduating class. “What I want to talk about today is what you do next. About the things you can do to overcome adversity no matter when it hits you or how it hits. The easy days ahead of you will be easy. It’s the hard days — the days that challenge you to your very core — that will determine who you are.”
Delivering the keynote at spring commencement, Sandberg spoke publicly for the first time about the recent death of her husband, sharing wisdom she drew from the tragedy with some 4,700 graduating seniors and another 20,000-plus friends and family members. “I’m sharing this with you today in the hopes that on this day in your lives, with all the momentum and joy, you can learn in life the lessons that I only learned in death. Lessons about hope, about strength and about the light within us that will not be extinguished.”
“It’s the hard days — the days that challenge you to your very core — that determine who you are. You will be defined not just by what you achieve, but how you survive,” she continued.
Sandberg discussed how, by experiencing great despair, she was able to find a deeper gratitude for life. “I hope that you live your life — each precious day of it — with joy and meaning,” she said. “I hope that you walk without pain and are grateful for each step. And when the challenges come, I hope you remember that deep within you is the ability to learn and grow.”
“You are not born with a fixed amount of resilience,” said Sandberg. “It’s a muscle. You can build it up and then draw on it when you need it. And in that process, you figure out who you really are. And you just might become the very best version of yourself.”
Read a full transcript of Sandberg’s 2016 Berkeley commencement address.