Charge to the Graduates 2008

Delivered by GW President Steven Knapp
GW Commencement on the National Mall
Washington, DC
May 18, 2008

I am honored to welcome the Class of 2008 into the lifelong and worldwide community of GW alumni. You are exceptional men and women, and I am proud to call you graduates of The George Washington University!

This is an exhilarating day for you, as well as for the family and friends who have supported you throughout your educational journey. As we gather in this majestic setting on the historic National Mall to celebrate your accomplishments, I applaud your hard work and perseverance, your boldness of thought, and your deep interest in local, national, and world issues -- and your dedication to resolving them.

We at GW are proud of our reputation as one of the most politically engaged and service-oriented campuses in the nation. Our students care passionately about the state of the world and the state of whatever community they find themselves part of, and the approaches they take to addressing the pressing issues of our era range across the entire spectrum of political and philosophical opinion. In the last year, members of our GW community devoted 55,000 hours to volunteer service, and 66 of our alumni served abroad in the Peace Corps.

In his comments this morning, Julian Bond spoke about the civil rights movement that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. so passionately symbolized. Today, as nearly 7,000 of you graduate just a short distance from the Lincoln Memorial where Dr. King spoke so eloquently about his dream, I urge you all to strive for equality and justice in the world.

Commencement ushers in a new beginning for the Class of 2008 -- ripe with opportunity and bright with anticipation of the boundless adventures that lie ahead. Some of you will continue your education; others will pursue careers in your chosen professions, while others will embark on a mission with the Peace Corps or with another humanitarian organization.

My charge to you today is to lead lives rich in meaning and powerful in contribution. Take care of our planet, as some of you have promised to do in your impressive “graduation pledge,” advocating environmental awareness at your future work places. Take care of each other. Act with integrity. You have the potential to become our future leaders and can make a real difference in this world. And, as you go forth, always carry GW with you, and always regard GW as your intellectual and cultural home in the heart of the nation’s capital.

Best wishes to you all!