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Chancellor Christ to grads: ‘The world needs all that you have to offer’

“Hold tight to all the things you carry from Berkeley, and may they always serve you — and the world around you — well,” Chancellor Carol Christ told graduates at UC Berkeley’s 2024 commencement ceremony. (UC Berkeley video)

Let me begin by offering my heartfelt congratulations to you, the members of this remarkable and resilient graduating class. Though the fates saw fit to place unprecedented challenges in your path, you kept your eyes on the prize, you persevered and you have prevailed!

Before I begin my graduation remarks, I want to say a few words about the protest on campus. Students have been camping around Sproul Hall for almost three weeks. They feel passionately about the brutality of the violence in Gaza, the tens of thousands of Palestinians killed, and the destruction of educational institutions and vital infrastructure. I, too, am deeply troubled by these horrors.

The encampment is civil disobedience of the sort Berkeley has long witnessed, and my efforts to bring it to a peaceful end are in line with how this university has historically dealt with similar protests.

I also mourn the terrible killing of civilians in Israel during the October 7th terrorist attack, and I am distressed by the continued imprisonment of Israeli hostages.

I am saddened by how this conflict has divided students, faculty and staff. While most of our campus community has engaged peacefully, political positions have bled over too easily and quickly to antisemitism and anti-Palestinian harassment. I have no tolerance for either. We have lost the ability to talk with one another. I feel passionately that we must work to regain this capacity, whatever our beliefs and perspectives. It is my hope that we can soon find a way to recognize our shared humanity.

As you prepare for the next stage of your lives, I hope you will reflect on these issues. I believe the future of our democracy depends on our ability to engage in civil discourse across the divides and reject the forces of division and polarization.

Given recent events and the scourge of COVID, I can only marvel at how you have navigated these complicated times. Your presence here today is testimony to a remarkable accomplishment whose meaning and worth will serve you well in the days to come. We could not be prouder.

Chancellor Carol Christ stands at a podium wearing academic regalia.
Christ encouraged graduates to “pause, reflect, and consider the road you have traveled and all that you can and will carry with you from Berkeley.”

Brittany Hosea-Small for UC Berkeley

While this is a day to celebrate your achievement, there is no time like now to express gratitude to and for everyone who has helped you arrive at one of life’s great milestones. So, let us also take a moment to celebrate, and thank those who have supported and stood by you through thick and thin. Let us take this opportunity to express respect and appreciation for this university’s extraordinary faculty and staff who have risen — for you, and together with you — to sustain Berkeley’s character and quality.

What animates Berkeley is our belief in, and commitment to, individual and institutional agency — the notion that through the discovery, development, dissemination and discussion of knowledge we can make the world a better place. We have before us extraordinary opportunities to extract and apply valuable lessons from all that we are witnessing and experiencing. These unprecedented times offer unprecedented opportunities for learning about ourselves; the communities and causes we draw strength, meaning and support from; and about the role of our university in our lives, our nation and the world.

Now, more than ever, the world needs all that you have to offer as the beneficiaries of a Berkeley education and experience, as changemakers committed to advancing the greater good. Today, as you stand at one of life’s great crossroads, take a deep breath, pause, reflect, and consider the road you have travelled and all of that you can and will carry with you from Berkeley into your personal and professional futures.

I can only hope you share the gratitude I feel for these attributes, values, and aspirations that form the foundation of all that Berkeley is and stands for.

Before I conclude, I want to share how pleased I am to have UC regent John Pérez with us today. He is a true Cal Bear and has dedicated his career to public service as a labor leader, Speaker of the Assembly and now as a UC Regent. His support for, and contributions to our university have been extraordinary, and he has been a tireless advocate for keeping the cost of education affordable, equitable and predictable; and for a student body that better reflects the people of California.

I have been so grateful for his partnership. There is no greater for champion of UC Berkeley than Regent John Pérez.

My parting wish for you: May your years ahead be richly rewarding and fulfilling, and may you enjoy much happiness. Hold tight to all the things you carry from Berkeley, and may they always serve you — and the world around you — well. We are immensely proud of what you have done, and even more, of who you will become.

Fiat lux, and Go Bears!