Roughly 5,000 graduated students and 15,000 of their guests gathered on the National Mall this past Saturday to celebrate the graduating classes of 2020 and 2021.
Commencement had been postponed because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but students and their guests had the opportunity to come back to campus this weekend to celebrate their academic accomplishments.
Here is a glimpse of the celebrations as well as some remarks from the class of 2020 and 2021:
Graduate stands amongst the crowd to look for his family during the ceremony.
Lizz Bolaji graduated with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and mass communication with a minor in Spanish in 2020. She currently lives about an hour away in Virginia and said it was fun to be back in the city.
“I love the fact that this feels like a real graduation, not just like peanuts thrown at us,” Bolaji said. “I think it was really fun. It was a little hectic at the beginning but I think Liz Warren was a really good speaker. Honestly, ten out of ten I’m pretty happy with it. It was a good experience.”
Although unable to attend in person, Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, was one of three people to receive the President’s Medal during the ceremony.
People give a standing ovation to Cindy Liu, one of the recipients of the President’s Medal, who encouraged all graduates to overcome the unique social challenges the past few years have brought during her speech.
Emily Hitchner and Jenny Hyde both graduated from Columbian College of Arts and Science with a master’s degree in public policy and women’s, gender and sexuality studies. They both traveled back to D.C. to celebrate together since they have not seen each other in a year and a half.
“It was worth it to come and see Emily because I’m in Hawaii now,” Hyde said. “We are really far apart so it’s not easy to get to visit friends.”
Cindy Liu, an associate professor at the Milken Institute School of Public Health, was awarded the President’s Medal for her work in helping create and run the COVID-19 testing facility on campus.
Fidan Baycora graduated with a bachelor’s degree from the Elliott School of International Affairs. She said since graduation, she has spent time at home with her family but it felt good to be back in D.C. to graduate in person.
“It’s a little bittersweet because my dad passed away two months ago,” Baycora said. “My hat says in Turkish, ‘for you dad,’ since he was from Turkey. It’s a bit sad that he could not be here to see it, but still so nice to be back for everything.”
A graduate embraces his family after the ceremony.
Mariamawit Lisanu graduated last May with a bachelor’s degree in computer science from the School of Engineering and Applied Science. She currently lives in Texas and flew back for graduation.
“I am glad I came back,” Lisanu said. “It was worth the trip.”
President LeBlanc takes a photo of the crowd on the National Mall at the beginning of his speech to remember the day.
Fata Acquoi graduated with a master’s degree from the Elliott School of International Affairs in 2020. She said she was excited that her family came out from all over to celebrate with her this weekend.
“I’m so happy to see them here and to have this opportunity. We were so sad with the virtual commencement in 2020, knowing that we worked hard, especially with a master’s program,” Acquoi said. “I’m so excited that GW allowed for this opportunity and it’s been 200 years so it just makes everything a lot better.”
A graduate cheers after the ceremony.
Caps were thrown into the air at the end of the event.