I was proud to deliver this year’s keynote address at the L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs Spring 2022 Commencement on Saturday, May 14. Personally meeting these passionate graduates and our future leaders gives me hope for our future.

Below is an excerpt from my remarks:

We welcome our new graduates as they join the ranks of more than 11,000 Wilder School alumni.

I know that this is an exciting time for our graduates and their families, as they celebrated this extraordinary accomplishment and embark on new journeys. Our graduates are emerging from their respective academic environments well-prepared for careers in public service, non-profits and many other disciplines across the fields of criminal justice, public administration, homeland security and emergency preparedness, and urban and regional planning.

To the Class of 2022, I extend my congratulations and sincerest best wishes!

Below are my complete remarks from the ceremony:

Dean Gooden, faculty and staff, family members, friends and guests, I know you join me in saying to the graduating Class of 2022, congratulations!

I want to say to you graduates, you are fortunate to have had the stewardship of Dean Gooden who has gone above and beyond, and against headwinds, making our school highly rated and regarded nationally and #1 in the state. Fighting against headwinds, she has set the example for you. She and our faculty, staff, and support personnel deserve a special showing of appreciation. Thanks!!!

You, graduates, are not “going out into the world”, you’re in it, and you’ve been in it for a long time.

Hopefully, your preparation here, at the wilder school, will further enable you to “fix it”. Oh, there will be those who’ll tell you that’s their job. Don’t waste time arguing with them. If you are not doing the job, do what you can to replace them. Identify with demanding what is right and criticizing what is wrong.

Know you’re right, then proceed. Be no respecter of parties, but demand what’s best for the people, all of the people.

And above all else, listen to the people. They are always ahead of the “leaders”. When you’ve achieved your academic goals, don’t stop learning; it is a never-ending quest; and it is wondrous.

Nowhere is the opportunity more existent than right here in the U.S. of A. Nothing has easily been come by; there have always been holes out of which to dig and mountains to climb, and there always will be.

Fashion new ideas by improving upon the present. Discard those entities that retard and stultify. Seeking advice is a guiding principle of learning; you learn every day.

Nothing makes me prouder than being met by someone who tells me that they are graduates of our school and how proud they are so to be.

You don’t have to go far to find what needs fixing; that’s the eternal quest. Going along to get along does not cut it.

You want to know how the money you send to the government is spent, and sound reasons therefor. Needless and reckless spending needs to be stopped at all levels of government. We must speak truth for the increasing rate of crime and not give bland excuses. Crime is on the rise, everywhere; and I don’t have to tell you as you get the “crime alerts” like I do throughout most days right here at VCU.

Making it real” to me means making it right. Our school is committed to preparing our students for solving our problems, not just talking about them.

I have found it to be a never-ending challenge; it is something from which you never retire.

Just yesterday, I spoke to the board of visitors relative to charting the right course for the VCU ship of state. I spoke of the need for the board to fulfill its obligation to represent the people, not the president.

I listened to the black education association speak about the 150% turnover in black faculty at VCU and other unaddressed concerns relative to black student recruitment.

I heard students speaking about how the increase in tuition affects them, hampering their opportunities to continue in their pursuits.

I heard them saying to the board that calls for “shared governance” fall on empty ears when the students, faculty and staff are not participating in the sharing.

I spoke of my involvement as a state senator representing Richmond in the founding of, and the need for an urban university.

“Making it real” is sloganeering; “making it right” sets the goal. It means acknowledging the problems and fixing them. That is a constant vigil. It means not just “speaking truth to power”, but also demanding truth to power. It also means an acknowledgment that the only thing constant in life is constant change.

It’s not going to be easy; nor has it been for your predecessors. There’ll always be the naysayers who haven’t and can’t, but will discourage you; don’t waste your time with them. Chart your course, and enjoy the beauty of living.

Commit to remembering those who made your better life possible. And make that inward commitment for others to have the chance so to do.

When a thing is right, the time is always right. You are right for the times.

I know what you can do because I know what I was able to do notwithstanding the prophets of gloom. Don’t just think about it, do it.

To the Class of 2022, I extend my congratulations and sincerest best wishes. Do it!!!

Stay tuned.

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