Michelle Moore, a federal environmental executive for President Barack Obama, urged graduates of the College of Professional Studies to remain focused on the “extraordinary importance of people” as they embark on their careers.
“That’s something that’s not always evident if you’re focused on environmental initiatives,” Moore said during the Saturday evening ceremony in Lisner Auditorium. People make small choices everyday that add up to the kinds of results studied for sustainability, she said.
Moore said, graduates should focus on what is abundant, including the dedication of those around them.
“The tendency seems to be to focus on what’s scarce,” she said, like fossil fuels or money. “[But] breakthroughs are often possible when you focus on what you have in enormous abundance.”
“Lead by example,” Moore said, adding that students should also take the time to celebrate extraordinary achievements.
Moore stopped twice during her speech, tearing up and saying she was overcome with emotion.
“I’m just so happy to be here with you all I keep getting choked up as I’m talking to you,” Moore said.
Moore told the graduates that the good they do in their lives and in their work is the only power that they have.
“It’s a legacy that exists in the content of our professions, it’s a legacy that supports our families, it’s a legacy that supports our world,” she said.
The graduation ceremony was only the fourth for the relatively new College of Professional Studies said Dean Kathleen Burke, which includes the Graduate School of Political Management.
Student speaker Maria Alvarado described “the unique passion for life” that CPS students share.
“Passion for life is very much like the passion you experience when you’re in love,” she said. “It can inspire you and make you want to change the world.”
Graduate Bernard Hall said he found Moore’s federal government perspective on the environment interesting in the wake of an environmental biology class he recently completed.
“It spoke to a lot of conservation efforts and our environmental footprint” learned about in class, Hall said.
Outside Lisner, graduates reunited with family and friends and in some cases posed with GW’s hippo statue.
“It was really nice to graduate and it all feels a little surreal that it’s actually done,” said graduate Beth Knight. “When I got here I thought I was signing away two years of my life and it was done in a flash.”