Graduates and their families gathered in a humble setting off Virginia Avenue May 14 in a celebration of faith.
The University Interfaith Baccalaureate Service, held at Western Presbyterian Church, aimed to celebrate the power of faith in academia. Five student speakers spoke about their religions and were joined by keynote speaker and Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist Colbert King.
University President Steven Knapp reflected on a variety of faiths, drawing from the Quran, Hindu texts, the Old and New Testaments and Confucian texts to elaborate on the necessity of compassion.
Knapp introduced keynote speaker and Washington Post columnist King, who spoke about growing up in Foggy Bottom and attending church services at the K Gym. King asked students to remember their school and to think beyond possessions.
“The human soul should not be based on human possessions,” King said. “The true question is not how much, but of what sort.”
King touched upon a variety of topics, but he settled on the need to reflect and move forward.
“What matters to you, to me, today is not where we were before, but where do we go from here,” he said.
Graduating seniors Andrew Buonopane, Jehan Morsi, Bobak Tavangar, Noble Freeman and Melinda Michaels reflected on their time at GW, and each student stressed the importance of community in their continued devotion to their faiths.
“We need to rediscover how to talk about the things that matter most with the people who matter most,” Buonopane, a Catholic, said of faith.
Associate Dean of the GW Law School Alfreda Robinson kept the service light with a congratulations to all of Knapp’s “children.” Jumping off of the joke, Tavangar turned away from his parents to thank the president for his college years.
“Apparently we are all children of Steven Knapp, so the thanks goes to you, sir,” Tavangar, representative of the Baha’i tradition, said.
Joking aside, Freeman, whose godfather’s death kept his father from attending the ceremony, discussed the need to connect through tradition and their shared community.
“Regardless of the journey we are about to embark on…we all cling to a certain amount of intimacy…[that] is beyond joy or grief,” Freeman said.