Elliott School graduates urged to be open, live up to their potential

Media Credit: Lisa Blitstein | Contributing Photo Editor

Anne Richard, former assistant secretary of state, delivers the keynote address at Friday's ceremony where she discussed the current political environment.

Speakers at the Elliott School of International Affairs undergraduate and graduate commencement ceremony Friday told graduates to write their own chapters in history.

Reuben E. Brigety II, the dean of the Elliott School of International Affairs, and other speakers encouraged graduates to live up to their potential and never be easily satisfied at the ceremony in the Smith Center.

Here’s what the speakers had to say:

1. ‘What you do matters’

Captain Russell Hartley, the student speaker who graduated with a master’s in security policy studies, told students that “what you do matters.”

He said students are now leaving with the responsibilities of making decisions, crafting policy and analyzing important information.

“Our decisions, policies, analysis and our recommendations will matter, because they will always be inexorably linked to someone’s life,” he said.

Hartley ended his speech by acknowledging that peers, family and friends of graduates also play an important role because they will be there to reassure graduates that the work they do matters.

2. Write your own chapter in history

Anne Richard, a former assistant secretary of state, delivered the keynote address where she discussed the current political climate. She said that students have chosen to care about current issues through the work they’ve done.

She said American students have chosen to be international by learning and caring about “what is happening beyond our ever more heavily fortified borders.” Through the travel they do, the languages they learn and simply by listening, graduates have invested in foreign issues, Richard said.

She also thanked international students for coming to GW and adding to the diversity of both the University and the District. She said those students have enriched the Elliott School and the community through their different perspectives and knowledge.

Richard said students should embrace their potential and “not be easily satisfied.”

“An important chapter in history is being written right now,” Richard said. “Be a part of it.”

3. Be open to disagreement and understanding

Michael Moore, a professor of international affairs of economics, who won the Harry Harding Teaching Award, encouraged graduates to be open to new ideas, opportunities and people.

“If a university should accomplish anything it should create graduates who seek to understand others, most especially those with whom they passionately disagree,” he said.

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