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SPP Graduates Encouraged to Go Forth and Do Good at Spring Commencement Ceremony

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Commencement 2017

“You will, quite literally, change the world for the better,” Dean Robert Orr told UMD School of Public Policy graduates at the spring 2017 commencement ceremony on May 22. “We are very excited about the challenges, the opportunities and the success that we know lie ahead for our graduates.”

“Here in this country, we are suffering through a period of radical doubt about our institutions, our leaders, even our values. Inequality is at historic highs and growing,” Orr said. “But against this, we have many people, especially evident in this room, who do not accept this reality, who expect better. As your dean, I truly could not be prouder.”

[View opening remarks here]

Graduating students voted to select a fellow graduate to deliver a speech during the ceremony. This year’s student speaker was Philip Burton. “This has been more than an academic experience,” he said. “We all made a massive commitment by electing to enter the world as a public servant. We believe we can make a difference in this world.”

During his remarks, Burton also emphasized the sense of community the graduates had built during their time at the School of Public Policy. “Beyond the academics, we’ve also grown together,” he said. “We’ve all made it!”

[View graduate Philip Burton's speech here]

Students selected Associate Research Professor Thomas Hilde as this year’s faculty speaker. “Even if our government is temporarily reduced to an infomercial, you’ll be fine,” Hilde told graduates. “You’re well trained, you’re intellectually curious, your friends and family are proud of you. We’re proud of you.”

In his words of advice to the graduating class, Hilde added, “Maintain a sense of your own fallibility. You’re going to be referred to very soon as policy experts, let your expertise be sculpted by humility.”

“In conflicts between the vulnerable and the powerful, take the side of the vulnerable,” Hilde said. “All human beings have the same needs, worth and rights to dignity.”

During the ceremony students who received fellowships or were inducted into Pi Alpha Alpha were recognized. It was also announced that the winner of this semester’s Excellence in Scholarship Award was Matthew Binstead.

United Nations Deputy Secretary-General Amina J. Mohammed delivered this year’s commencement address. “I always love the energy you get in a room with so many young people,” Mohammed said. “The world needs your energy and your vision. The commitment that you have to doing the right thing is so necessary right now.”

She added, “Wherever you go, the world is going to depend on you to use your expertise to do good. We have no time to wait or to waste, we do live in a world that is seriously out of balance.”

In her speech, Mohammed gave students advice to take with them as they continue on in their careers. “We must always remember that each statistic is a person,” she said. “We must always give statistics a human face. It is important to have an idea of who these “no ones” are -- we have to care about them, because they are us. If you forget one person, you forget eight.”

“You are making a difference,” she added. “If we each do something, it really does add up to a lot. Communication is key to breaking the silence, but we need to do so much more. We need to connect the talk to the walk, and sometimes we need to run.”

In closing, Mohammed told graduates, “Make every step and milestone count, not only for you, but also for others who just happen to be born into different and difficult circumstances. Go forth and do good.”

[View Amina Mohammed's address here]

You can view photos from the commencement ceremony on SPP's Flickr account and the full ceremony video on the School's YouTube channel.

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Megan Campbell
Senior Director of Strategic Communications
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