Chancellor Christ at ‘Commencement, Take Two:’ Grads kept their ‘eyes on the prize’

“Given what you overcame, your presence here today is testimony to your remarkable accomplishment, to the true meaning of community, to the profound power of the ties that bind us together,” Chancellor Carol Christ told graduates. (UC Berkeley video)

UC Berkeley Chancellor Carol Christ gave the following remarks at the pandemic-posted 2020 commencement ceremony on Sunday, August 29, 2021:

Class of 2020! It is simply wonderful to see you (again), to be with you, to say hello, so we can finally say “goodbye” in a fitting fashion. So, here we go: live and in-person. Commencement, Take Two!

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

Completing an undergraduate degree at Berkeley is challenging enough in the best of times. Given what you overcame, your presence here today is testimony to your remarkable accomplishment, to the true meaning of community, to the profound power of the ties that bind us together. We could not be prouder.

In so many ways your resilience is a reflection of our campus as a whole. Over the course of the pandemic, we have seen a remarkable coming together of students, faculty, staff and alumni who have supported each other and our university. That resilience is the reason why, in so many ways, our university is emerging from this extraordinary year stronger than ever, and I believe the same will hold true for you.

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 all those who have supported and stood by you through thick and thin.

Behavioral and social sciences teach us that unsettled times of change and transformation also have the potential to facilitate personal and societal growth and learning. The things we carry with us through life are accumulated over time and through experience. I am certain that what you are carrying from your college careers will be unlike anything any previous class has known.

Chancellor Christ stands at the podium on the Greek Theatre stage wearing regalia.

Chancellor Christ got loud and prolonged cheers during Sunday’s speech when she expressed her confidence that the graduates had uniquely prepared for the road ahead because they believe in science. (UC Berkeley photo by Keegan Houser)

This may be a perilous time, but so, too, is it a time of creative ferment and possibility and that means it is prime time for you, our newest alumni. What animates Berkeley is our belief in individual and institutional agency — the notion that through the discovery and dissemination of knowledge we can make the world a better place. These unprecedented times offer unprecedented opportunities for growth and learning about ourselves, and about the communities and causes, we draw strength, meaning and support from.

Now, as you stand at one of life’s great crossroads, pause, reflect and consider the road you have travelled and all of that you will carry with you from Berkeley on the road ahead

Now, more than ever, the world needs all that you have to offer as the beneficiaries of a world-class Berkeley education and experience. I am confident that you are uniquely prepared for what awaits you:

  • You have been taught how to learn by some of the world’s greatest teachers.
  • You value the truth and know it must be protected.
  • You believe in science.
  • You have been immersed in a culture that has nothing but disdain for the status quo.
  • You know that conventional wisdom must always be challenged…that there must always be a better way.
  • You know how to thrive — not just survive — amidst a diversity of origins, identities and perspectives.
  • You emerge from a campus culture shaped by thousands of alumni who fought, and fight for justice, equity, and inclusiveness.
  • You are changemakers at a time when change is sorely needed.
  • You are able to adapt and persevere in the face of challenge and hardship.

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

Hold tight to all the things you carry from here, and may they always serve you —and the world around you — well.

One last thing: I misspoke at the beginning of these remarks. We are not here to say “goodbye,”— far from it. As you are now members of Cal’s utterly awesome family of alumni, I should have said, “until we meet again!”

Roll on, you Bears!