President Wente faces the audience from the stage.

Delivered in on Hearn Plaza on May 16, 2022. Remarks as prepared

Good morning, Wake Forest! It is so great to be here.

To all the family members and friends joining us today, welcome to campus!

We are here today to celebrate an amazing cohort of graduating students, to recognize their accomplishments, and to mark a new chapter in their personal and professional lives.

So, before we go any further, let me say to our seniors, to the class of 2022: YOU DID IT. Let’s hear it for them.

I also recognize our masters and doctoral students joining us today whose degrees were conferred at individual hooding ceremonies over the weekend.

Graduates, you also have done it! And you are ready. Let’s hear it for our graduates.

Today represents a number of firsts: This will be your first college degree or your first graduate degree in a given discipline.

For myself, it is my very first Wake Forest graduation, and for all of us,

this is the first commencement here on Hearn Plaza since 2019.

Commencements are commonly thought of as the celebration of an “ending” — specifically the end of a set of studies and the awarding of degrees as recognition of such.

But the word “commence” actually signifies “a beginning or start.” Today represents the first day in which you move forward to fully use all you have learned here.

All students here today are unified by the fact that something in each of your lives is commencing.

Another important unifier is that you each conducted your studies amidst tremendous upheaval and uncertainty, due especially to the Covid-19 pandemic.

You needed to successfully navigate an entirely new learning landscape. And now you are prepared to inherit a truly complex world — full of challenges, but also incredible opportunity. 

While obtaining your degrees, you have exemplified courage, patience, adaptability and resilience.

And these characteristics will serve you for the rest of your lives. Together they form a well of excellence from which you will continually draw.

Please know I am proud of you. And on behalf of Wake Forest University, please know that we are proud of you. You have earned this moment today and we congratulate you.

Of course, you didn’t do this alone. And so this moment is not yours alone. It is shared by those with you today in person. Look around. And I am certain, it is also shared by those who cannot join us here but are thinking of you on this special day.

I know that each of you appreciate how your friends and family have been instrumental to your success. They supported you, believed in you and helped you across the finish line. Please join me in recognizing them.

And of course, faculty and staff at Wake Forest also supported and believed in you. Our faculty led your learning with passion, poise and dexterity, despite constraints and pressures that we could not have foreseen at the beginning of your studies. Our staff devoted themselves to making this day possible – from your meals in the Pit, to advising, to programming, to our beautiful spaces. Please join me in recognizing our amazing faculty and staff.

Again, I ask you: Look around. This is Wake Forest. This is your community. This is a place that has catalyzed many different things in you, so that you can go forth and catalyze good in society.

It is not simply a degree that is being conferred upon you — it is a calling. The calling of Pro Humanitate.  

This is a shared calling — one that you have embraced as students when you arrived here, and one that you will carry on as graduates and alumni of this great university.

You are entering a world that needs your expertise and professional knowledge, a world that craves your leadership and character.

So take what you have learned … and share it generously with the world. This is a solemn responsibility, especially when we can see so clearly acts of violence around the world.

And this weekend, as a nation, we found ourselves once again reading the news of a horrific, racially motivated, hate-motivated mass shooting. This time in Buffalo, New York, but an occurrence that is painfully …. unspeakably too commonplace in our society.

Where do we find hope? Where do we find catalysts for good in society?

In our graduates — We know you can make a difference.

We know you are future leaders with integrity, who will be innovators and problem solvers, who will be healers, and not only stand with those who grieve, but also channel empathy, sadness and outrage into helping the communities you will join — whether you stay here in Winston-Salem, or moving to Pittsburgh, Orlando, El Paso, Charleston, Los Angeles, Buffalo …. so many places.

You can make a reality the vision of a world that is free of violence and hate, a vision of peace that we must all work for.

For humanity – I charge you:

  • Be a force for good
  • Be a catalyst for good!

We know you are ready for this next step!

And, I truly look forward to remaining connected with you, to partnering with you in your future endeavors, and celebrating your many achievements yet to come.

But first, we celebrate the achievement before us: your graduation.

Again, from the bottom of my heart — congratulations. You have earned this moment. Cherish it. Share it. And remember it.

Together, we are Wake Forest.

View video of the speech as part of the Commencement ceremony.

Categories: Speeches