WASHINGTON -- U.S. Sen. Cory A. Booker (D-N.J.) brought enthusiasm and power to the podium for his Commencement address to graduates from the George Washington University on Sunday at the National Mall.
On a bright and unseasonably chilly morning, Sen. Booker and members of the GW community gathered to celebrate the end of the university's 195th academic year. With more than 25,000 people in attendance, Sen. Booker channeled life lessons from his parents, personal triumphs and tragedies in a speech that urged graduates to fight for a better, less cynical future by taking control of their own lives.
'We need to change our world'
"I'm tired of this call in our country for this idea of tolerance—that is not the aspiration," Sen. Booker said. "We have a nation right now that seems to think the greatest and highest achievement is for us to be a tolerant nation, but I say no. We're not called to be a tolerant nation. We're called to be a nation of love. What we need to do is understand that we have to love each other, that we have to see each other have worth and dignity and value."
He challenged graduating students to persevere and to be present.
"Stay faithful," Sen. Booker said. "Stay faithful because you have come this far by faith—faith in each other, faith in yourselves, faith in our country. And understand that you may not be called to change the whole world, but to one person, you could make a world of difference."
A unique setting
Interim Provost Forrest Maltzman welcomed graduates highlighting the "one-of-a-kind" opportunity as GW is the only university in the nation that holds its graduation ceremony on the Mall.
"To gather here in the shadow of the monument dedicated to the nation's first president and our university's namesake is a fitting tribute to your achievement in completing your degrees," Dr. Maltzman said.
Before conferring the students' degrees, GW President Steven Knapp conferred two more honorary degrees to Baroness and Parliamentarian Joanna Shields OBE, M.B.A. '87, and philanthropist and Southern Engineering Corporation President Albert Harrison Small.
"Go out, be the light, remain faithful and change our world," Dr. Knapp offered in a final charge to graduates.
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