Chancellor Carol Christ gave the below speech to graduates at UC Berkeley’s commencement on Saturday, May 14.
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!
The successful completion of an undergraduate degree at Berkeley is challenging enough in the best of times. Given all that you have confronted and conquered, 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.
In so many ways, your resilience is a reflection of our campus as a whole. Ever since the pandemic’s early days, we have seen a remarkable coming together of students, faculty, staff and alumni in support of each other and our university. That resilience, those connections that power of the campus community, are the reasons why our university is emerging from these difficult days 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 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 meet and surmount unprecedented challenges and sustain Berkeley’s character and quality.
I know it took a lot of hard work on your part to get here. I know the toll these times have taken on you, your families, your friends and the array of communities, large and small, that you belong to. Yet, there is ample reason for hope. Behavioral and social science teach us that unsettled times of change and transformation have the potential to facilitate personal and societal learning, growth and adaptation.
We are living in a historic moment when everything is shifting about us in ways that will have a profound impact upon the future.”
This may be a perilous time, but so, too, is it a time of creative ferment and possibility, and that is prime time for this public university and for you, our newest alumni.
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 change-makers 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 traveled and all of that you can and will carry with you from Berkeley into your personal and professional futures:
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 know that conventional wisdom can and must always be challenged in order to find a better way.
You know how to thrive — not just survive — amidst 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 able to adapt and persevere in the face of challenge and hardship.
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.
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!