Dr. Anthony S. Fauci and Noted Documentarian Stanley Nelson Address 2022 CCNY Graduates

Historic remarks on COVID, health disparities, social mobility, education and present-day politics and culture by CCNY 2022 honorary degree recipients Dr. Anthony S. Fauci and leading documentarian of the African American experience Stanley Nelson are captured in this special Commencement episode. City College President Vincent Boudreau introduces the speeches, recorded live on the occasion of CCNY’s 175th anniversary, at the college’s first in-person Commencement since 2019. Also hear from the CCNY valedictorian and salutatorian and distinguished guests including Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer.  

Host: CCNY President Vincent Boudreau

Speakers: Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer; CUNY Trustee Ken Sunshine; honorary degree recipient and documentary filmmaker Stanley Nelson, CCNY ’76; Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, director of NIAID and chief medical advisor to Pres. Biden; Valedictorian Rose Mary Biju; Salutatorian Ali Khalil; Chief Marshal Janet Steele; Provost Tony Liss; Gary Calnek, president of the Alumni Association of The City College of New York

Recorded: June 3, 2022

Episode Transcript

Vincent Boudreau

Welcome to From City to the World. I'm your host Vince Boudreau, the President of City College of New York. From City to the World is a show about how the work that we're doing at City College matters to people across the city and throughout the world.

If you were not able to attend our 2022 graduation that was held on Friday, June 3, 2022, we've got a special treat for you. This was of course, our first in-person graduation since the pandemic began in 2020. It was a thrill to have the College community on campus, the speakers that we always have, the pageantry, and of course the celebration of a new class of City College graduates. We were honored at this graduation to give out two degrees and have two commencement speakers. The first was Stanley Nelson, award-winning filmmaker, City College graduate. Most recently his film Attica won an academy award nomination and a tremendous film. We're super proud that he's a graduate of the college. We also had the honor of awarding a honorary degree to Dr. Anthony Fauci for the work that he did in COVID remediation over the course of the pandemic. You'll have a chance to hear both of their acceptance speeches and speeches of other folks that came to graduation. CUNY trustee, Ken Sunshine, Senator Charles Schumer was there and you'll be able to hear it all.


The Honorable Charles E. Schumer, senior Senator of the State of New York will now bring greetings to the 2022 graduating class. Senator.

Charles Schumer

First, to the class of 2022. Congratulations, you made it! Now, I'd like to thank President Boudreau, all the members of the faculty, the staff, the administrative people, all the way down to the people who keep the place clean at night. You have made City College of New York and the City University one of the greatest institutions of higher learning, not just in New York City, not just in New York State, not just in the US, but in the world. Congratulations and let me congratulate my friend, Dr. Fauci as well.

Now, I'd like to say a word to the parents. I know how you feel. A few short years ago, my wife, Iris. And I sat where you did and watched our daughter, Jessica get her diploma. It was one of the greatest days of our lives. You've been through a lot as parents, not easy raising kids, but now you get to watch all your blood and your sweat and your tears pay off as your son or daughter walks on this stage and becomes an adult before your very eyes. And parents, there's more coming. Last night, I was at the hospital at 2:13 a.m. and my daughter gave birth to my granddaughter. She's a beautiful little girl and her name by the way, is Eleanor, named after Eleanor Roosevelt.

Yeah, okay. Another word of thanks. Last week was Memorial Day, we're having a great time here, but there are a lot of young men and young women from this community who are in our armed forces and serving our country, often in dangerous places overseas. I see some of them over there, let's have a round of applause for them. One more serious note. In memory of those who tragically lost their lives in Buffalo, in Uvalde, in Tulsa, and from so many other senseless acts of gun violence that occur on our street corners, we must do everything possible to get these damn guns and these weapons of war off our streets, out of our communities. We cannot rest, we will fight till we achieve it.

Okay. Now, to this great class of 2022, the challenges of the last few years as you know, have really been unique. I'm sure when you enrolled at City College, you knew there'd be a lot of new experiences, but I'm sure you didn't count on a global pandemic. Yet here you are, having overcome all that, having earned a degree from one of the greatest institutions of higher learning in the world. You overcame immense obstacles to get here. Nothing and nobody can take it away from you. Of course, we have a lot more work to do. Little by little, we're seeing signs that life's returning to normal. It took a lot to reach that point. All right, they are great back there. As Senate Majority Leader, first, from New York, I worked hard to pass the American Rescue Plan, which put dollars in the pockets of millions of New Yorkers and hundreds of thousands of our little businesses so they could survive. Right now I'm pushing to get President Biden to forgive $50,000 in undergraduate and graduate student loans so that burden is not around your necks.

Graduates, let me just say, we all know this is a time of profound economic and social change. In the old days, when you graduated from college, the odds were pretty high you'd have the same job in the same field 40, 50 years. That's not true anymore. Most of you will have several jobs, many of you several careers. Along with these economic changes, the internet has put so much information at our fingertips, it's sometimes hard to figure out what's important and what's not, what's true and what's not. On the internet, unfortunately, often the loudest voices get the most attention. But good news class of '22 is this about our changing world, no generation is better equipped to overcome the obstacles that these changes present, to seize the opportunities they afford then yours is.

But right now, sitting in your seats, you may not be sure what's coming next. With so much of the world-changing so rapidly around you, sometimes it may feel like you're jumping into the abyss. But graduates, the key: don't fear the unknown, embrace it. Relish it, soak up every possibility it has to offer, and cast aside your fears. My advice to this great class of 2022 is simple. Go for it. And how do I know? Yeah, go for it. You're right. Come on Orange, let's get up and go for it. Oh, man.

Well, how do I know about these doubts? I remember feeling them when I was your age. When I was seated at college graduation many years ago, I had just learned that I'd won a scholarship to travel all around the world. All expenses paid for a whole year. For me, it was the opportunity of a lifetime. I came from a family that didn't have much money. My dad was an exterminator, I'd never been out of the country before, so what an opportunity. But at the same time, I met a girl and I fell in love. Ah. Graduates, I had to decide, do I go around the world on the all-expense-paid scholarship for a year, or do I stay home with the girl, my first true love? What would you have done class of 2022? President Boudreau, the class is divided. I stayed home with the girl. Don't clap now you romantics there in the purple shirts.

The story continues. That summer she went on a brief vacation and I went to the airport to meet her on her return. As soon as she got off the plane, I saw by the look on her face something was the matter. She dumped me by Labor Day. There I was, no scholarship, no trip around the world, no girl. I said to myself, "What a loser you are. You're never going to make anything of yourself." In fact, I sat in my basement in my house, moped around for several months, didn't even go out. But somehow I picked myself up, dusted myself off, and moved forward, and a few years later, I found myself seated at graduation once again, this time from law school. But on the way home from college, I told mom and dad I wasn't going to join the fancy law firm like we had planned. I told them I wanted to help my community, I told them I loved politics. I told them I wanted to run for public office, that was my dream.

Well, my parents were shocked. My mom was particularly disappointed. As I mentioned, I grew up in a working-class family. They struggled to send me to college and law school. The law firm, this fancy law firm was paying $400 a week, more money than my family had ever known. But my heart wasn't in it, my dream was to run for office. So at the age of 23, against very long odds, I ran for the New York State Assembly and I had three opponents. There was the party machine candidate, there was a neighborhood activist and then there was my mother who was telling all her friends not to vote for me. So as she said, I'd get this dumb idea of being an elected official out of my big thick head. Well, graduates, a few years earlier I sure didn't get that girl, but that November I won the election.

To this great class City 2022, on this day of your achievement, my advice; take the risk. We all have fear of failing. Don't let it deter you. For those of us who've gotten older, some of the toughest moments are what I'd call the what-ifs. What if I'd only done this? What if I'd only gone there? But you, I know you're about to cast off into the unknown and I know it's scary, but you've got amazing assets. One of the best undergraduate educations that anyone can get, families that are always going to have your back through thick and thin. Graduates, garner up your courage, garner up your strength, put aside your doubts, take a chance. And if you do, it is my hope, it is my fervent prayer and it is my confidence that every one of you, each of you will achieve true joy and true satisfaction and success in life. To this great class of 2022, congratulations, good luck, Godspeed, and don't forget: go for it!


City College is pleased to welcome all our special guests, today's graduates and their families, and our alumni. Ken Sunshine, trustee of the City University of New York will now bring greetings. Trustee Sunshine.

Ken Sunshine

Thank you, thank you. Good morning President Dr. Vincent Boudreau, distinguished faculty, guest families, and most importantly City College graduating class of '22. It is my pleasure to welcome today's honorary degree recipients, Dr. Anthony Fauci and Stanley Nelson.

Stanley Nelson, Jr. is an internationally renowned director, writer, and producer of documentaries examining African American history and experiences. He's a recipient of the 2013 National Humanities Medal from President Obama and a MacArthur Fellow. He has won three prime-time Emmy awards and many others. Most importantly, he's a City College graduate. Among his notable films are Freedom Riders, Wounded Knee, Sweet Honey in the Rock, Raise Your Voice, A Place of Our Own, and The Murder of Emmett Till. I've been privileged to work with Stanley and his wonderful wife, Marsha Smith over the years. We couldn't be honoring a more talented and worthy artistic visionary.

Dr. Anthony Fauci is an American treasure. He was appointed director of NIAID in 1984, oversees an extensive portfolio of basic and applied research to prevent, diagnose, and treat infectious diseases. Through his own research, the development of effective therapies for a host of diseases, including AIDS, and through his leadership in public health, Dr. Fauci has saved the lives of literally millions of men, women, and children the world over. As we all know too well, as concern mounted over the spread of coronavirus, COVID-19, Dr. Fauci again took the leadership in mobilizing American science to confront a deadly threat. He has been a voice of sanity in an insane time, an advocate for science and fact over mythology and fiction and he has gotten us through among the most challenging times in our troubled nation's history.

But more than anything, Dr. Fauci is a true Brooklyn guy through and through. He embodies the qualities of brains, dogged determination to do good, and sticking up for the little guy, like real New Yorkers do, unlike some fake New Yorkers. To state the obvious in a very New York way, Dr. Fauci won't take any crap from anyone who lies, cheats, or doesn't believe in basic science. Today, we are honoring a true American hero.

Graduates, first and foremost, my heartfelt congratulations to all of you on behalf of the board of trustees of the City University of New York. Today represents a milestone in your life and you deserve high praise for your perseverance, resiliency, and bravery during these unprecedented times. You did it despite an ongoing pandemic, you did it on Zoom, distance learning, but like real New Yorkers, you overcame those and many other challenges. Today you've reached the finish line, but you're poised to start the next chapter of your lives.

As you look to the future, my only advice is to be bold and dream big. Be agents of change and make the world better for the next generations. Do better than my generation and do it in the greatest city in the world where we celebrate diversity, welcome immigrants instead of trying to keep them out. Be outraged at the proliferation of gun culture and the seemingly routine slaughter of even children. Be outraged at the increasing gap between the very rich and everyone else. Be outraged at the denial of science and the open defiance of vaccinations and masking. America can and must do better than that. Engage in your communities and serve your city and New Yorkers with pride and integrity. We expect great things from all of you. On behalf of CUNY and everybody at the City University of New York, congratulations class of '22.


Now first, we welcome you and to present his charge to the students, is the President of the City College of New York, Dr. Vince Boudreau.

Vincent Boudreau

Trustee Sunshine, distinguished guests, Dr. Fauci, Stanley Nelson, faculty, staff, family, friends, sisters, brothers, nieces, nephews of our students, graduates of the City College of New York. Well, you've heard me say it before, you all have, maybe not back there. You are on our campus on the 175th anniversary of the founding of this great institution. This is for me personally, my 30th commencement at City College. I started those commencements in 1992 doing I think, what a lot of assistant professors do walking down the aisle, looking for the students that I had taught. At that point, not very many had made it to graduation. Walk down the aisle and you'd say, "You made it, you made it. Oh, you made it." Sean Chinchance, I'm talking to you. Not true, not true.

But over the years, it became more and more difficult for me to think about commencement as the achievements of individual students that I taught. Not that I didn't value the individual achievements and you are being celebrated as individuals for the achievements that you've made. Coming to City College, for some of you will change the entire history of your family. Your children, your younger brothers and sisters, your nieces and nephews will look to you to validate the dream that they may have of a life of accomplishment, of a life of education, the possibility of college. If you are the first in your family to walk this path, you have made it incalculably more easy for those who follow you.

I saw all of that in the subsequent commencements over the years. But more than that, I started to see the commencements as being part of a single thing. Not the class of 2000, 2001, 2002, but the phenomenon every year of a generation of City College students moving into the world with the vision and the charge and the responsibility of this institution. There are in fact two City Colleges and you are at the moment where you are leaving one and joining another. Out in the world you will find yourself surrounded in positions of exaltation and quiet positions, with your colleagues, people you meet, people that will come up to you if you're wearing your City College gear saying, "I too came to this place."

What you all have in common by virtue of what you studied here and what you brought into the world, is the ethos of this institution. The fact that we were founded as a place to educate the whole people, because if we did not do that as a society, if we didn't do it as a city, we would be depriving ourselves of an incalculable amount of talent. You have asked questions that don't get asked any place else. We live in a society where the medical care that is offered to many parts of our population is inequitable. But generation after generation, we have graduated doctors dedicated to the idea of bridging that gap, particularly in the realm of primary care.

We live in a city and in a nation where educational opportunity is not equitably distributed. But from its founding 100 years ago, the school of education at City College has studied what it would take to bridge those educational equity gaps and in fact, over 90 years ago pioneered a curriculum devoted to promoting the welfare and education of inner-city children, particularly students of color, 90 years ago. Power, economic power, social power, cultural power is not distributed equally in our society, but we have and have had since the late 1970s programs in social science, now the Colin Powell School for Civic and Global Leadership, dedicated to bridging those gaps in power. In fact, the social sciences at City College were organized as such in the late 1970s as a specific response to the crisis of New York City at that time. Fixing gaps in equity is in our DNA.

In architecture, we graduate builders who understand that the built environment must reflect the aspirations of the whole people. In science, we have scientists that in their research, in the things they imagine, are focused on asking the questions, finding answers to puzzles that bedevil our society, particularly the under-resourced corners of that society. And you can go discipline by discipline, school by school, classroom by classroom, student by student, graduating class, after graduating class and you find the same thing. We are known as one of the nation's leaders in promoting social mobility and we do that in two ways. We do it first of all, in your lives, in the lives of the 175 years of people that have studied in this institution.

You may think on this graduation day that you are what you are going to become, and you are not. You will continue to learn, you will continue to grow. You will take the tools that you acquired at this institution and become smarter, more accomplished, more dedicated, more experienced as the years go on. You have no idea where that journey will take you. But I will say this: carry with you the ethos of this place, execute those skills in the service of the whole people. Understand that you graduate not from any kind of college, but a college that is a fundamental institution of our democracy.

Now let me ask you, do you feel it? We have graduated Supreme Court justices, engineers, that have built our city, doctors, scientists, the heads of industry, secretaries of state, Nobel Prize winners, inventors of vaccinations. Do you feel part of that legacy? Do you understand that those people were exactly in the position that you are right now and when you leave this place, you are as much a part of them as they are part of you? Carry City College with you. We will never forget you, you are our hope and our joy. Congratulations graduates!


The Provost of The College, Dr. Tony Liss, will present the candidates for the honorary degrees. Provost Liss.

Tony Liss

President Boudreau, I have the honor to present the degree of doctor of fine arts honoris causa, Stanley Nelson.


Mr. Stanley Nelson, a 1976 CCNY alumnus, is the leading contemporary documentarian of the African American experience. His films combine compelling narratives with a rich historical detail to illuminate the under-explored American past. Mr. Nelson's latest documentary film is the Oscar-nominated Attica, with Traci A. Curry, on the 1971 prison uprising. His other films include the Emmy-nominated Tulsa Burning: The 1921 Race Massacre, with Marco Williams, Crack: Cocaine, Corruption, and Conspiracy, and Miles Davis: Birth of the Cool, which was Grammy-nominated for the best music film of 2020. In addition, Mr. Nelson's The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution, is the first comprehensive, feature-length, historical documentary portrait of that organization, as well as a timely look at an earlier phase of black activism around police violence in African American communities.


Mr. Stanley Nelson is a MacArthur genius fellow and received the National Humanities Medal from President Obama in 2013. The City College of New York recognizes Mr. Nelson's outstanding career in documentary film and his dedication to crafting profound and deeply researched documentaries that spotlight African American history and experiences. The City College of New York is proud to honor Mr. Stanley Nelson with the degree doctor of fine arts honoris causa.

Stanley Nelson

Congratulations to the class of '22. I had no idea that this would be an emotional experience, but I'm a graduate of City College, class of '76. That's the only degree I have, I didn't go to USC or UCLA, or NYU after that. That's all I needed, was a degree from City College. I graduated in January and so I received my degree in the mail. It was a little folded-up piece of paper. I didn't come back to the graduation, so this is my first City College graduation and it's an emotional one for me.

I also have to give my bona fides. I was raised on 148th and Riverside, my mother was a SEEK librarian at City College for 20 years, and my sister, Jill Nelson also graduated from City College. I live on 143rd and Convent Avenue. Our office is on 144th and Hamilton Terrace, so City College is in my blood. As I look out at your beautiful faces and you are beautiful, it's just incredible to see you and see those beautiful faces, it's your world now. It's your world, love it, take care of it, change it because it's yours. Congratulations again, to me and the class of '22. Congratulations.

Vincent Boudreau

Hold up now. I, your President, messed up. I was supposed to say, to make it official, Stanley Nelson, by the authority vested in me by the Board of Trustees and the City University of New York, I hereby confer upon you the degree of Doctor of Fine Arts honoris causa. Congratulations, now it is official.

Tony Liss

President Boudreau, I have the honor to present the degree of Doctor of Science honoris causa to Dr. Anthony Fauci.


Dr. Anthony S. Fauci is the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, NIAID, and chief medical advisor to the President of the United States. As NIAID director at the United States National Institutes of Health, Dr. Fauci oversees an extensive research portfolio focused on infectious and immune-mediated diseases. As the longtime chief of the NIAID Laboratory of Immunoregulation, Dr. Fauci has made many seminal contributions in basic and clinical research and is one of the world's most-cited biomedical scientists.

Dr. Anthony S. Fauci was one of the principal architects of the President's emergency plan for AIDS relief, PEPFAR, a program that has saved millions of lives throughout the developing world. In 2008, President George W. Bush awarded Dr. Fauci the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian award in the United States, for his PEPFAR work. At the start of the Biden administration, Dr. Fauci began serving as one of the lead members of the White House COVID-19 response team and as President Biden's chief medical advisor. The City College of New York recognizes Dr. Anthony S. Fauci's outstanding career in biomedical research and as a medical advisor, as well as his dedication to the highest ethical standards and moral principles through his service. The City College of New York is proud to honor Dr. Anthony S. Fauci with the degree doctor of science honoris causa.

Vincent Boudreau

Dr. Anthony Fauci, by the powers vested in me by the trustees of the City University of New York, I hereby confer upon you the degree of Doctor of Science honoris causa. Congratulations.

Anthony Fauci

Thank you so much, President Boudreau, for that kind introduction. And let me express my heartfelt gratitude to you and to the members of the board of trustees of the City University of New York for this distinguished honorary degree. Particularly meaningful for me to having received this from a great professional Mister now, Stanley Nelson. Thank you, Dr. Nelson, it's a pleasure to be here with you.

Members of the faculty, distinguished guests, family members, and friends of the graduates, and you, the 2022 graduating class of The City College of New York, it is my truly great pleasure and honor to be here with you today in this wonderful city and to speak at your commencement. Let me say, I am thrilled to be here in New York, my old hometown. Some of you may know that I was born and raised in the Bensonhurst section of Brooklyn and I had the good fortune to attend Regis High School over on the east side and later went to medical school and did my internship in residency training at Cornell University, New York Hospital, now referred to as Weill Cornell Medicine, right here in New York City.

For these reasons and more, I treasure my New York City roots. For me, City College has been a New York City landmark and a beacon of light for aspiring students since it opened as the Free Academy, 175 years ago. Far into its now second century, your institution's steadfast commitment to educational access for all has been extraordinary and well noted. Yours is not an ivory tower university cloistered from the world, but a visionary urban college integrated into the world. A dynamic institution at the forefront of social change, an institution you should be justly proud to graduate from. I know I would've been, if I graduated from this place. For decades, people like many of you graduating today, from widely diverse and often modest backgrounds, and frequently born in other countries, have pursued the varied academic pathways available at City College to help create, as you've heard from other speakers, a fulfilling and better life.

Because I am a second-generation Italian American of immigrant grandparents, I feel a kinship to many of you. Both sets of my grandparents came to America from Italy at the turn of the 20th century, speaking not a word of English. I am forever grateful that they passed on to my parents, who imparted to me and my sister, as I imagine many of your parents did to you, how important education is to anchor yourselves and forge a rewarding life in this wonderful, beautiful country of ours.

Let us talk about today's graduation. I have been privileged to deliver commencement addresses over more than three decades. Often, I have begun by recalling for the audience like yourselves, my own graduation from college. Describing some commonalities of experiences in our shared rights of passage. Clearly, that would not be appropriate in addressing your class. We cannot escape the fact that the COVID-19 pandemic has profoundly upended your college experience. Your very presence here today at graduation is testimony to your extraordinary resilience, resolve, and character that enabled you to complete your studies and to graduate amid immense difficulties and uncertainties.

Together, your class faced one of the most traumatic public health crises in human history. I have the highest esteem for each and every one of you, your professors, and the leaders of this fine institution for pulling together and employing the best of your collective ingenuity, your passion, and your perseverance to find a way through the hardships posed by this pandemic to get to this very bright day of your celebration. This has been your experience for now nearly two and a half years. Let us now look forward and reflect briefly on a few of the issues now challenging our society that you will be confronted with. Some of these accentuated by the COVID-19 pandemic. I believe that your education here at City College and the spirit of the student body that you have been part of have prepared you to address these challenges and I want to share some thoughts with you about this.

First, the concept of public service and social responsibility. As you know, City College has a legacy of notable alumni, many who have gone on to prominent careers in public service. Among these notables include my late dear friend, former Secretary of State Colin Powell. Henry Kissinger, another iconic secretary of state, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, the former United States Senator, and Felix Frankfurt, a former associate justice of the Supreme Court. And of course, the great scientist, Jonas Salk, who although not a career public servant, developed a polio vaccine that helped alter the trajectory of public health.

I just hope, I hope that some of you will just consider following the example of these distinguished alumni in entering a career in public service for there is a need in our country for a better reflection of our racial, ethnic, and cultural diversity among leaders in public health, including in my own field of science and medicine. We need you, but regardless of your chosen career path, there are pressing societal issues exist that none of us as individuals should ignore. In many parts of our country, communities are undermined by poverty, violence, drug addiction, inadequate healthcare, discrimination, and despair. Societies around the world are beset by additional problems that pose great challenges, such as uncontrolled endemic disease, poverty, starvation, infant mortality, refugee populations, violence against women, and the reappearing specter of genocide, most recently manifested by the immoral and deplorable invasion of Ukraine by Russia.

Now some of you may devote your careers to directly addressing these or other social issues. Understandably, most of you will not. Yet standing up for social justice and contributing to the social good and bettering someone else's life by doing so can be incorporated into your own lives regardless of whether you do this as a professional career. Dr. Stanley Nelson is not a professional public service, but what he does is serving the public. Please take this into serious consideration as you leave City College because each and every one of you can do that, which leads me to my next point of discussion: health inequities.

We cannot escape the spotlight that COVID has shown on one of the great failings in our society: the lack of health equity. As a physician, I feel that I must highlight this for you today. Mere weeks into the pandemic this was glaringly obvious to me. Over the course of the pandemic, longstanding disparities that undermine the health of racial and ethnic minorities have been starkly exposed. Many people in minority groups work in frontline jobs that do not allow employees to socially isolate or to work from home. So each day, essential workers face a tough choice: to put their lives and that of their loved ones at increased risk of COVID-19 by going to these high risk jobs, or to put their livelihoods at increased risk if they chose not to.

Additionally, many people in minority groups who get infected with the coronavirus are more likely to become severely ill because these groups, in general, have higher rates of underlying medical conditions, such as hypertension, diabetes, obesity, among others that increases the chances of hospitalization and death. Importantly, we must remember that these conditions are not genetically determined by race. Nearly all of these conditions are closely related to the social determinants of health experienced since birth, including the lack of access to a healthful diet, to healthcare, and tragically obstacles and prejudiced experience because of the undeniable racism that persists in our society.

We must not let our collective memory of the health inequities revealed during this pandemic fade. Together, we must engage our wisdom, courage, empathy, and imagination to support health equity and to tackle entrenched elements of injustice manifested in so many subtle and sometimes overt ways, to help heal the cultural disease of racism and its downstream negative effects on health. Just as we worked to heal the viral disease of COVID-19, if ever there was a time was right to undertake this enormous challenge, it is now.

Next: leadership. The world you are graduating into is wounded and changed from a few years ago, but is recovering slowly. As we transition into our new normal, as it were, I am confident that many of you will play important leadership roles in shaping this process. You cannot do it alone, but it cannot be done without you and your leadership. What I mean by leadership is not necessarily designated positions of leadership with a title. Rather, leadership can be acquired through life lessons and experiences, and is a moral bearing that may take many forms, including the quiet and subtle leadership of your own example. Another important period of your life has been and continues to be lived under a specter of this historic pandemic. However, I have great faith that this experience will strengthen you and hone the leadership skills that are critical for our future, which brings me to my final point of discussion, which truly troubles me greatly and for which the country and the world truly needs your help.

I refer to the normalization of untruths. It is blatantly obvious that we are experiencing a deepening divisiveness in our nation, fed by a flagrant devaluation of the truth. While genuine differences of opinion or ideology are part of a healthy society, increasingly we are hearing, reading, and seeing outlandish statements and pronouncements propped up by deliberate distortions of reality. Fabrications, conspiracy theories, and outright lies are becoming commonplace from radical fringe groups, as well as from people who you would hope would know better, and you know who they are.

Yet segments of our society have grown increasingly endured to such falsehoods while the outrage and dissent against this alarming trend have been relatively muted and when voiced are regularly castigated. If you remember nothing else of what I say today, I appeal to you, please remember this. It is our collective responsibility not to tacitly accept the normalization of untruths. Because if we do, we invite danger to ourselves, our families, our communities, and our country. This is how a society declines into a way of life where veracity becomes subservient to propaganda, rather than being upheld as our guiding principle. Each of us has a responsibility to counter this divisiveness that is tearing us apart, reject the politicization of science that denigrates evidence and facts, and the rigorous process of scientific investigation that continually reveals new data and truths.

Apply your skills in critical thinking that you have learned here at City College to discern those weak arguments from the strong and to renounce pronouncements built on untruths and outright lies. Resist the temptation, however, to let differences of opinion about which you might feel fuel hostility. By seeking and listening to opinions that differ from your own, our connections can be revealed, our differences can be explored, misunderstandings can be clarified and a respectful path forward can be found.

In closing, I want to put aside this serious business for a moment to celebrate you, all of you, on your day of graduation. Your professional lives are taking shape upon the rich educational foundation that you have acquired here at the City College of New York. While you are pursuing your professional aspirations, I encourage each of you to find time in your daily lives to embrace that which brings you happiness and joy. Allow yourselves to cultivate this joy as much as you do your professional accomplishments. Think upon your future as that stated by the American political theorist, John H. Schaar and I quote, "The future is not some place we are going to, but one we are creating. The paths are not to be found, but made and the activity of making them changes both the maker and the destination."

I have no doubt that you in the City College of New York class of 2022 are going to be leaders in strengthening the bonds in our society and in safeguarding truth, justice, diversity, and equality in building that bright future together. And so congratulations to you, your families, and your loved ones, good luck, and God bless you.


The valedictory address will now be given by Rose Mary Biju, valedictorian of the class of 2022. Following the address, Mr. Gary Calnek, President of the Alumni Association, will present Miss Biju with the Alumni Association's Medal of Excellence.

Rose Mary Biju

First and foremost, I want to acknowledge that without the grace of God, I could not be here with you today. With that being said, congratulations class of 2022. Thank you, President Boudreau, Dean Green, Miss Scala, Dr. Fauci, honored guests and the entire platform party for the opportunity to speak today. I want to also thank my family, my mom, my dad, and my brother. Rosh, who's eight years old and has been in a terrible mood today, so can we give a round of applause for Rosh? Okay, he's starting to smile now. That's good. My friends, many of whom I see right now, thank you so much for being here and my many mentors at City College for your continued support and love.

I never thought I would start this speech with a quote because I didn't want to be cliche, but here we go. Mother Teresa said, "If you want to change the world, go home and love your family." Go home and love my family to change the world. When I stand here before you today, I see our future novelists, engineers, our future lawyers, workers, physicians, our future thinkers together in one space. And I'm in awe because for each of us to come to this moment took dedication, hard work, commitment, some tears, or many tears, and many moments of resilience. I mean, do you remember the sleepless nights cramming for exams? Let's just say physics wasn't exactly my strong suit. Do you remember the restless days working on that project, that paper, that PowerPoint, producing, designing, creating to gain the knowledge and skills necessary to become who we desire to become? I mean, why else would we do wonky for so many hours a day?

I expected Mother Teresa to say, "If you want to change the world, do it," as Nike would say, but she didn't. She said, "Go home and love your family." In this country, driven by the desire to be productive and accomplish, we often forget and need to be reminded that our worth is not dependent on our work. I really love your energy and originality - she's great. Our worth and value solely resides in our humanity. But do we recognize this? Do we recognize that our worth is equal in value to the person sitting next to us? In a society that values financial success, what we wear, how we look, it's easy to allow those things to dictate our worth. But wouldn't you agree that the homeless person on the street has equal value as you and me because does he not also desire the very thing every human heart desires, to love and to be loved?

When we look at the problems of today, we as future leaders, teachers, inventors, future parents, and healers, let us be driven by a desire to treat each person with the worth that is granted them through their humanity. Let us build, think, write, cook, create, and heal to bridge the gap in our communities where love is underserved. Areas where there is darkness, where one's humanity is forgotten due to poverty, pain, prejudice, discrimination, or hate. To provide this very thing we must see there is no us and them. There is only us, many humans journeying together in this boat of life, longing for the very same thing, to love and to be loved.

If we find common ground and recognize this very intrinsic desire of every human heart, regardless of the problem we try to tackle, we can have peaceful discussions, we can have conversation. Conversation that is not emotionally charged, jarring or accusatory, but one that understands that the deeper longing of both hearts desire the very same end, to love and to be loved. Yet to accomplish this, we must bring peace and resolve the way we see each other. How can we end homelessness if we see the homeless as less human? How can healthcare be a human right if some people are seen as less human? How can we tackle the problems of society when the units that make up society, the family, are disordered?

This is where we can affect change. Can we look at our mothers and fathers and love them? Can we treat them with respect and dignity regardless of our disagreements and recognize that they are human and not less? What would happen if we each went home and worked hard to create a peaceful home? I say worked hard because trust me, I know. A peaceful home is no small endeavor because love is a choice after all, although sometimes a difficult one. I would argue this is the key to a peaceful society. Family units where children are loved and formed in love, because these children go on to love others in their schools and in their communities. When this is disordered, well, as they say, hurt people, hurt people. When we're hurting, the world gives us many ways to escape reality and just be absent. Let us choose to be present in our families and with each other. With the education and knowledge we have, let us intentionally choose to love, to produce a peaceful home and a peaceful nation.

During the isolation we faced in the past few years, depression rose. For many of us classes became difficult. For others, family issues resurfaced. But more than ever, we recognized that we need each other. Look at the person sitting next to you. We all carry something. I love that, everyone's head just turned. We all carry something. Some burdens, some wounds, some hurts. Despite the pain, we are not alone because the problem of one person, one family is a problem plaguing an entire community, an entire nation. Let us then be graduates of peace, advancing with our knowledge the ability to understand one another and truly listen to one another, recognizing this life is not about you versus me. It's about us, our families, our communities, our society, our nations.

As graduates of peace, we're called to tackle the roots of these wounds in our communities, to restore peace in the family, to order the disordered. As graduates of peace, we're called to enter into the need, to better study and understand the problem because where there is deep need, there we find our purpose, there we find our meaning. As graduates of peace, there we can create practical solutions, there we can serve. So as graduates of peace, as human beings who can see the worth, value, and dignity of every human life, let us rise to the challenge and the need present before us because we graduates of peace are necessary, we are needed. After all, there is only us, many hearts craving the very same thing, to love and to be loved. Who else if not us, will rise to the challenge? Thank you.

Gary Calnek

It gives me great pleasure to welcome you to the Alumni Association and congratulate you on your exemplary academic record, as well as the comments you made.


The salutatory address will now be given by Ali Khalil, salutatorian of the class of 2022. Following his address, Mr. Khalil will be presented with the City College Alumni Association's Medal of Excellence. He will be presented by Mr. Gary Calnek, President of the Alumni Association.

Ali Khalil

Good morning to the class of 2022. Thanks to everyone for coming and supporting us today in this wonderful event. President Boudreau, our distinguished guests, Dr. Anthony Fauci and Mr. Stanley Nelson, Senator Schumer, professors, families, friends, and of course, today's graduates.

To be honest with you all, I haven't thought about standing here today. All I was worrying about just graduating and focusing on the next step and maybe that's why I'm here. There are people who have supported me during my journey, and I wouldn't be where I am today without their support. Number one, first and foremost, I'm thankful for what God has given me and he continues to give me far more than I have ever imagined. Number two, I'm thankful for my parents. My dad, who's right there, and my mom, who I wish she was here today. But also there are people if I did not mention their names, then I wouldn't be giving them what they deserve. Professor Issa Salame, Professor David Lowman, Dean Susan Perkins, Tessa Miller, Professor Kevin Hall, and Miss Teresa Scala. And of course, someone who is a warrior, someone who is great, Mrs. Talley, our great advisor.

When I was thinking about this speech, I was like, "How can I get the energy of the audience?" I was like, "I should speak about Angelina Jolie." I was thinking, "Wouldn't it be great to be a perfect person like Angelina Jolie, LeBron James, Elon Musk, Kamala Harris, or even Dr. Fauci?" We think they are the perfect people, but I bet they had their struggles too. Right, Dr. Fauci? So don't strive for perfection, but rather aim for progress and understand that there will be struggles and there will be difficulties. The road is very long and bumpy, but at the end of it, it is very rewarding.

I struggled a lot with language when I came here to this country in 2016. I faced great difficulties communicating with teachers and students, but I'm very thankful where I am today. My advice for you is to focus on what makes you successful and don't focus on what prevents you from reaching that success. I'm going to tell you why is this important. I'm studying to become a doctor and I know there are a lot of years ahead of me. Years of stress, maybe not ideal lifestyle for others and them. But I'm doing it because I love it because I want to make a difference just like each and everyone of you here today want to make a difference, but in their own way.

The thing is, if I allow myself to falter because of these things, then I will give up on my dream. Then each and every one of you here today will give up on your dreams too. So don't be afraid of anything, we all have our up moments, but we also have our down ones, which I'm sure you will surpass. I told you that language was one of the barriers I encountered when I came to this country and my dream was to get into four years college. My first letter was a rejection from Hunter College. Hey, Hunter, how are you? Well, my second letter was acceptance from City College and I'm proud where I am today.

I'm not telling you it will be easy. No, no, no, it will not be easy. But I'm telling you, it will be rewarding. I'm telling you young generation, you can do it. And it does not matter how many stops you're going to have in between or what path you're going to take. All that matters at the end is that you reach your dream and dream is work in progress. It's achieved with discipline and consistency and to understand that life does not become tougher, we become stronger. The people we meet and the chances we take make us who we are, this strengthens our character.

You all should be proud, you earned the right to be here. All of you possess different talent. Some of you will be doctors, some will be engineers, some will be teachers, some will be preachers, and many more. I want to tell you if you are thinking day and night about your dream, you are on the right path as long as you supplement those thoughts with the right actions. Young graduates, years have passed and progress was made and more is on the way.

But something very important, once you reach your goal, remember people who were there for you when you needed them the most. Reach back when you can and share your expertise with others and make sure to be humble, no matter how far you advance in your career. And help others, because as Denzel Washington says, "There is nothing better than that. The gratification you get, not even jewelry, not even money can replace it." My dad always says, "It's a circle and one day you'll find the person who will help you during your difficult situation."

We are now thinking we're done with City College, we are really not. I figured that one of the best ways that we can give back to our community, City College community, is by doing our best in our careers because no matter where we go, we are representing City College. So be persistent, work hard, and don't give up. Be persistent, work hard, and don't give up because years will pass faster than you think and you'll look at the progress you have made and you will say, "Thank you that I haven't given up." So be strong, be committed and be persistent. Thank you all and congratulations to the class of 2022.

Gary Calnek

It gives me great pleasure to welcome you to the Alumni Association and congratulate you on your exemplary academic record.

Vincent Boudreau

Thank you for listening to City College's 2022 commencement ceremony on From City to the World. I want to give a special thanks to Seamus Campbell who made the audio available. Thanks for listening everybody.

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