This message originally appeared on Dr. Rao’s President’s Posts Blog on Saturday, May 11 2019:
VCU awarded more than 5,200 professional, graduate and undergraduate degrees and certificates today to nearly 5,000 graduates who were recognized at the universitywide and unit-level ceremonies. It was an honor to celebrate the accomplishments of the graduates along with their families, loved ones and friends.
Good morning, Class of 2019! It’s my honor and privilege to celebrate your accomplishment with your family, friends and loved ones.
You met your goals. You have put in countless hours studying and working to develop yourself as a person. You collaborated with colleagues in the classroom, lab, studio, and clinic, and you conducted research and volunteered in our communities.
Because of your dedication to excellence, you are graduating from a place in awe of your abilities and potential. The stories of your successes are still buzzing around campus.
While earning your degree in and outside of the classroom you redefined the American Dream to truly represent who we are today.
U.S. Poet Laureate Rita Dove said, “The American Dream is a phrase we’ll have to wrestle with all of our lives. It means a lot of things to different people. I think we’re redefining it now.”
Your scholarship, advocacy and volunteerism are all redefining the American Dream to be more inclusive and cognizant that we live in a world that has thankfully, changed dramatically since writer James Truslow Adams first penned the phrase in 1931.
Proof of change taking place is in front of us and VCU is where the redefined American Dream happens.
The other week, I took part in an awards ceremony honoring members of the university community who went above and beyond what was expected of them as they work toward a learning and healing community that is more equitable and inclusive.
The winner of the capstone award recognized for their scholarship, emotional intelligence and solid common sense is a third-year student who according to her nominator, “advocates for marginalized and vulnerable groups across the university community.” They were stunned to receive the award. The rest of us were not.
As an advocate for all human beings, the honoree challenges us to think about our existential purpose as a place of higher learning and healing. And you do too.
You taught me that you firmly believe in setting aside the traditional college formula of going to class, taking tests and graduating.
You are entrepreneurial and have taken your personal interests and passions and used them as a tool to solve age-old problems that matter to all of us, not just some of us.
You recognize the importance of the arts in recovering from trauma. You have collaborated across disciplines to develop better ways to address the effects of trauma.
You are a full participant in the Richmond community through collaboration with your neighbors and through volunteerism—8.7 million hours in all!
You did all of this while earning your degree. You did all of this because you belong to a group destined to be the most-educated generation in American history.
Class of 2019, along with your professors, mentors and loved ones, I dream of the amazing things you will do. As healthcare providers, social workers, engineers, artists, creative entrepreneurs, communicators, educators, community leaders and scientists I know you will continue to achieve great things that will have great impact on our world. We are all incredibly proud of you.
Congratulations on behalf of the entire community at VCU.