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Graduate Commencement

Graduate School Commencement Ceremony

Graduate School Commencement 2020

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A note to the Graduate School community and the friends and families of our graduates

The speeches you will see in the Graduate School’s commencement ceremony were filmed on May 21, 2020. George Floyd was murdered four days later. The world has changed in the days since, but in so many ways it remains the same. How are we to understand this celebration in light of our rage, our mourning, our fear?

Commencement is the most important event of the year at the Graduate School. It celebrates the achievement of graduates who have given everything in preparation to serve others. To fight for a world that is more just, compassionate, and humane. That is not the world that exists for people of color in America and for Black people whose lives are threatened by the systemic racism that remains so tightly woven into the fabric of our history, culture, institutions, and communities. We live in the world that murdered George Floyd. And Ahmaud Arbery. And Breonna Taylor. We live in a world where this list does not have an end.

Our options were to cancel this celebration or proceed with airing the original speeches and presentation of graduates, despite the many things that would have been different in our various addresses to the graduates and their families and friends. I made the decision to proceed as planned with the deepest of conflicting emotions. At a time when we see the fathomless pain that rips through our communities of color and the unabated violence that threatens their very existence, we must all reflect on what it is that we celebrate today.

I hold this commencement in my heart as a statement by each and every graduate, by each and every faculty and staff member at the Graduate School, that we will stand against the systemic oppression of people of color and the state-sanctioned lethal violence aimed at Black people in this country. Education and counseling are fields that make a profound difference in the lives of individuals, while also working to enact the kind of fundamental social change that is required to transform the deeply flawed world in which we live. We honor this year’s graduates as a new cohort of equity-driven, social justice activists. We remember George Floyd today. And those who came before. This world must change.

Scott Fletcher