Congratulations to the Class of 2020. Welcome graduates, families and friends to our Virtual Commencement ceremony. Joining me in celebration on this webcast are: UC San Diego Deans, Provosts and esteemed Faculty; our Executive Vice Chancellor, Elizabeth Simmons; and our distinguished commencement speaker—television journalist on the CBS News program 60 Minutes, Mr. Bill Whitaker.
We are so fortunate that Mr. Whitaker accepted our invitation to give this year’s commencement address. Highlights from his 30-year career in investigative journalism are impressive. Bill uncovered how Russian operatives hacked the 2016 U.S. presidential election. He broke the story on how the DEA’s efforts to curb the opioid epidemic were hampered by special interests. And he reported extensively on how race and policing in America is affecting communities across our nation.
These are the important issues of our time, and Bill covers them without zeal, without rancor, without pronouncement. He takes viewers on a journey, and through that journey, we learn. We learn about everyday people, about their struggles, and why they matter. Bill presents truthful, well-researched information with the utmost integrity. And the world needs integrity, especially in difficult times.
By integrity, I mean the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles. Moral principles like empathy, compassion, respect, and the recognition that every human being has inherent value. A person who possesses integrity understands these principles… and practices them daily.
Integrity is at the core of what we teach at UC San Diego. It compels us to look deeper at the world around us. It drives us to collaborate with people everywhere. And it helps us solve society’s most pressing issues. And how do I know you learned integrity? Because you are graduating today… as a Triton.
The journey to get to this day required from you great personal sacrifice over many years. It required the courage to step into a great unknown… to explore boundaries you didn’t even know you had. It required stretching yourself to learn and grow. And today… it requires celebrating.
You leave UC San Diego with a degree. You leave us as a well-rounded individual with a better idea of who you are and what you want to do. And you leave UC San Diego with integrity. It’s yours. You’ve earned it.
Now, I want you to go out into the world and practice it with absolute reckless abandon. Have integrity in everything you do. Practice it at home, at work, and at play. Practice it with strangers in your everyday actions—like getting coffee, driving, or buying groceries. But most importantly, practice integrity with yourself. You deserve your honest self. You deserve the best you.
Many of you are wondering what will happen next. The truth is, no one can say with a great deal of certainty. In both prosperous and lean times, we do our best. We make educated choices, review outcomes of those choices, learn from those outcomes, and evolve. I cannot predict the future, but I can offer advice that I hope will help you along the way.
Be confident in who you are. Always. Embrace everything about you—your race, creed, gender—everything. Be yourself. And know that you belong.
Acknowledge your luck. You worked hard to get where you are—no doubt—but you also had a lot of help. Help from parents, siblings, aunts and uncles, teachers, advisors, ministers, friends. Even the barista, the grocery store clerk, the bus driver—everyone who helped you get through your daily routine. Be grateful. And treat everyone with respect and dignity.
Understand that you are an individual within a larger ecosystem. Without the ecosystem, you cannot be an individual, and without the collection of individuals, there is no ecosystem. The two are interdependent. So, treat the ecosystem well to ensure every individual can flourish.
Change requires more than righteous indignation.It requires earnest collaboration. It requires you to listen without agenda. It requires you to look outside your own perspective in order to understand things you haven’t known before. It requires patience, dialogue and iterations of effort. And it requires compromise from everyone, including you.
Progress is measured in years, not days… and no matter what social media says, not in 240 characters. So, be prepared to spend some time to create lasting change. Be prepare to give and take input and adapt over time. You will change your mind… and often, if you’re living with integrity. Progress takes time, but effort is every day. So, keep moving forward, even if only by a millimeter. Just like your scholastic career, from first grade to today, all the effort will add up to something wonderful.
I am always so very proud of our graduating class, but this year especially so. You have proven not only that you can adapt, but also that you can thrive under extenuating circumstances. I honor your resilience, hard work and determination. You have inspired me, our faculty and staff, and I’m sure each other.
Today I celebrate you, your remarkable accomplishment, and the gift of your interaction with this university. You have made UC San Diego a better institution, and I am truly grateful. Congratulations.