WASHINGTON, DC - Today, Congressman Steny H. Hoyer (MD-05) delivered the commencement address to spring 2020 graduates of the University of Maryland, College Park during a virtual ceremony. Below is a transcript of his remarks:
“Thank you, President Lesley, and congratulations on your outstanding leadership and service. You have been, and will be, a wonderful representative of our alma mater.
“Governor Hogan, thank you for your sound and steady leadership.
“Regent Attman, I thank you and Chair Linda Gooden, and the members of the Board of Regents for your advocacy for this great university.
“President Loh, thank you for all you’ve done to enhance its academic standing. We wish you and Barbara great happiness and success in your retirement.
“To the faculty and staff of the university, thank you for continuing to make the University of Maryland, College Park a leading center of research, and for supporting your students’ learning and personal growth.
“Graduates, President Loh invited me to be your speaker at a Terps’ basketball game in early February. Like all of you, we expected to be back at the Xfinity Center today with some 15,000 graduates, parents, relatives, faculty, and friends. Like all of you, we expected your fellow graduate Anthony Cowen and his teammates to play in the Final Four. Neither was to be. Certainly, there is a lot that wasn’t to be this year.
“You are graduating at a time of great uncertainly. You’re worried for your health and the health of your loved-ones. You’re worried about record unemployment and what that means for your future careers. None of us has ever experienced anything exactly like this before.
“However, I want you to think back and recognize how many trials you and your class have already faced and overcome. Your college years have coincided with a period of division in our politics and society; COVID-19’s catastrophic attack on our health and economy; a reckoning with the climate crisis that will profoundly affect your generation; and we have been given a telling lesson on why achieving universally available health care is so important. And now, what ought to have been a day of celebration has been tempered by our commitment to defeat this virus and re-energize our economy.
“As a result, we are now celebrating one of the high points of your life --- virtually. To that extent, your graduation may be the most unique in Maryland’s history of graduations. We will not share hugs and high-fives; we will not go to restaurants with our families; and the pictures we take will not be at the Xfinity Center. That does not, however, in any way diminish your extraordinary achievement, which we recognize and for which we congratulate you today.
“Thomas Paine, at the onset of our revolution, said ‘These are the times that try men’s souls.’ You graduate in such times. I hope, in spite of these times, you will feel the togetherness and strength of this moment. And I hope you feel the pride that your families and loved ones take in your accomplishments – and take a moment to thank them for their support.
“While this moment in our history is unusual and uncertain, it is not the first time our nation has faced great challenges. When I graduated from Maryland, it was at the height of the Civil Rights movement, and our country was on the cusp of the Vietnam War. My fellow graduates and I were filled with a sense of accomplishment and pride, and also tempered with understandable apprehension. Vice President Lyndon Johnson was our commencement speaker. He urged us not to let the uncertainty of the times prevent us from having confidence in our own success, no matter the challenges. I say the same to you today. Challenge and uncertainty present us with an opportunity to prove that the light of our vision and hope reaches farther than the shadow of our challenges.
“Class of 2020, I know that you will meet today’s challenges – and those you face in the years ahead, with resilience and resolve. More than most graduating classes, the class of 2020 has had to be fearless. The months and years ahead will surely be challenging. The economy you are entering is struggling. However, you will be better prepared to navigate these challenging times because of the tests you faced at Maryland. Now you must apply the fearlessness you acquired at Maryland to your future endeavors. Whatever they may be, I pray they will contribute to the success of our country and to a greater unity and civility among our people in the years to come.
“I am convinced, graduates, as you begin your post-graduate lives, your actions and contributions will result not in our fellow citizens fearing the turtle but, rather, revering the turtle. Congratulations, and Godspeed!”