Across the country, tens of thousands of college graduates have recently heard their commencement speakers wax wisely about success and achievement. Yet a few people had another message in today’s political climate: Stand up for what’s right.
The Nation collected excerpts from speakers at commencements around the country telling students about what it means to be young in the Trump era, the importance of social-justice work, and, in one case, what it means to be a Syrian refugee in the US.
Here are their words.
Linda Sarsour—CUNY School of Public Health, June 1
What does it mean say we say we are social-justice activists and organizers committed to justice and equality for all people? It means that we made a decision that we will never be bystanders. We in this room together must commit to never being bystanders to poverty, lack of jobs, health care, sexism, violence, discrimination, racism, xenophobia, Islamophobia, anti-Semitism, and homophobia. We will stand up; we will speak truth to power no matter the consequences. We will demand change, we will center those most directly impacted because they and we, who are closest to the pain, are also closest to the solution.
Preet Bharara—New York Law School, May 25
About a week ago, a law student from a different law school I think, tweeted to me a question. It was, “Do you have any tips for law students in the Trump era?” I thought about a couple of witty responses, and then I responded as follows. I said, yes: Study hard. Learn the law. Hone your craft. Refute nonsense. Amplify truth. Keep the faith. Give back. I think that was pretty good…. I hope that’s good advice in any era and decent advice for any profession. But the limits of 140 character are significant because I realized later I forgotten one especially important two-word piece of advice and that is do justice.
Senator Elizabeth Warren—University of Massachusetts Amherst, May 12
It’s easy to say, “I don’t like politics,” or “I don’t like any political party.” I get it. I never even considered running for student government when I was your age, and I already had grandchildren by the time I ran my first Senate campaign. And believe me: There are days when I leave work so frustrated that I want to spit. But the decisions that get made by your government are important and far-reaching. And it is no longer possible to assume that democracy will work if most Americans simply wait until election time to learn a little about the candidates and otherwise ignore what’s going on.