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WHITE HOUSE 2021-05-19 1071次


Remarks by First Lady Dr. Jill Biden for George Mason University’s Spring 2021 Commencement

May 14th, 2021

Thank you, President Washington, for the invitation to speak today and for the honorary degree. This school is special to me for several reasons – many of my own students at NOVA transfer here. But another reason is the leadership George Mason showed when we launched Joining Forces so many years ago. This college was one of the first to join “Operation Educate the Educators” to better equip teachers helping military-connected students…And you remain committed to serving our military community and their families.

So, I’m excited to be able to address the Class of 2021.

Though there is no crowd of friends and family to see you cross a stage today – sitting beside you or watching from far away, there are so many people cheering you on.

It might be your mom or dad – or that person who feels like a mom or dad – your siblings, your teachers, your friends. They’re feeling excitement. Relief. But most of all, pride. Chest-swelling, cheek-aching pride.

Now, I know that commencement speeches are usually life lessons from the speaker.

But instead, I want to talk about you today.

I want you to look back on everything you’ve accomplished here at GMU – especially in this last year.

For some, that will be harder than for others. But I want you to think about the moments that made you just laugh out loud…When you felt deeply grateful for the people in your life…

Picture the times when the beauty of the world stopped you in your tracks…An act of kindness that caught you off guard…

Or a morning when the leaves glowed greener than you thought that they could, and the sun shone just right, and you knew that things would be OK.

You see, trials like the last year can teach us a lot about ourselves. They can show us what matters most and strip away those things that only seemed important.

We see that joy can be found, even in the worst of times.

We see the strength that has always been in us.

And we realize our limitations as well.

A few years ago, I had to tell my class that I would miss the next session for personal reasons.

Now, my students have never suffered from a lack of curiosity. So, they immediately began shouting, “Dr. B, Dr. B, where’re you going?”

Well, my sister was having the first of her cancer treatments, and she would be in a hospital room for six weeks. I tried to explain with as much composure as I could muster, but the words caught in my throat. So, I turned to face the whiteboard, hoping to hold back my emotions.

And when I turned back around, my entire class was standing. And they lined up and they gave me a hug, one by one.

Until that moment, I didn’t realize how much I was struggling, or how much I needed their strength.

Sooner or later, we all suffer heartaches – some unimaginable. Some that we might think we can’t survive.

In my life, I never could have imagined the ways my heart would be shattered.

Sometimes our strength comes from within us… and sometimes it can’t.

Sometimes we carry the weight of our lives…and sometimes our knees buckle beneath us.

But in those moments, remember: You’re not alone. Let the people who love you help carry that weight.

And never hesitate to be that strength in return.

There are times when the most courageous thing we can do is lean on someone else.

It’s a gift that we give each other: our vulnerability; our brokenness; and the chance to lift up our loved ones when they need it most.

What you’ve accomplished this year is different from the graduating classes that came before you.

Historians will study this time. Generations will wonder what it was like.

Our world has been changed in ways we don’t even know yet.

But here’s what we do know: You, class of 2021, not only survived this year – you have achieved something that will change your life forever.

And that’s just the latest chapter of your journey.

Students at this school come from all different backgrounds. Almost one third of you will be first-generation graduates. You know what it means to overcome challenges.

This year, each of you walked through the fire of a global pandemic and you made it to the other side. You found connections despite social distancing. You found the strength to keep going.

If you can do that, you can do anything.

The poet Mary Oliver wrote:

“If you suddenly and unexpectedly feel joy, don’t hesitate. Give in to it… Joy is not made to be a crumb.”

No one can promise you that life will always be beautiful.

But there will always be beauty – in the world around us, in the people we love, in the strength of our communities.

So, even if it’s hard, remember what you’ve learned in this pandemic and all the years leading up to now – and hold it tightly within you.

Remember how you rose to this moment and never underestimate the magnitude of that accomplishment.

Remember that, in a time of sickness and sorrow, there was joy and laughter, too.

Remember that life is made of small moments that change us more than we know – a hug when we need it most, a kind word, the decision to show up for someone who’s falling behind.

Remember that, eventually, everyone will have to walk through the fire.

But there are times when we need to do more – to bring others through the flames; to help them find the other side.

Life is calling. It will be heartbreaking and hopeful. It will be bruised and beautiful.

Give in to it. You’re ready for whatever comes your way.

Congratulations, Class of 2021.

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