U.S. Senator Cory Booker Tells Graduates to Use Their Power to Impact the World

Nearly 2,400 students celebrate their degrees at 193rd commencement ceremony

U.S. Sen. Cory Booker

--Exhorts graduates to “stay faithful” to their values

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U.S. Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey told the Class of 2016 to “stay faithful” during his keynote address at William Paterson University’s 2016 undergraduate commencement ceremony on May 20 at the Prudential Center in Newark. A capacity crowd of more than 10,000 family members and friends packed the ceremony to celebrate with the graduates.

Sen. Booker encouraged the graduates to consider how they live their values everyday can make a difference.  “We underestimate the power we have to impact the world,” he said during a passionate 20-minute speech.  “I get frustrated when I see people give in to cynicism, who surrender to what is instead of taking responsibility for what could be.”

“What matters most is how you live your values with those around you,” he continued.  You will hit points in your life where you will stumble but failure isn’t final if you don’t give up. Make a commitment to live your values—stay faithful.  Hear our nation calling to you.  You may not change the world, but you will make a difference.”

In her comments to the class, President Kathleen Waldron commended the Class of 2016 on their numerous accomplishments.  “It is with special joy that we watch you cross the stage today,” she told the 2,374 graduates.  Noting that only 33 percent of adults in the United States have earned a bachelor’s degree, she reminded them that they are among a select group. 

“You have a special responsibility to use your education for the greater good of society, to be civically engaged individuals, and to be ethical and moral people,” she said.  “Make the best of your future.  Continue to seek opportunities, advance your education, and make a difference in the world.”

Valedictorian Julie Edewaard who will receive a bachelor’s degree in English and Asian studies, summa cum laude, told her fellow graduates to persevere.  “In my past, I’ve had people tell me I wasn’t strong enough, smart enough, or good enough.  And for a long time, I believed them and let them corrupt my confidence. But with the help of people who actually believed in me—my family, my friends, my professors—I have let those negative voices become my strength and my empowerment…Perseverance and the support of our loved ones and the ones who believed in us are what got us here today and they are what will help us in the future.”

During the ceremony, Miryam Wahrman, professor of biology, Michael Principe, professor of political science, and Mark Ellis, professor of sociology, were honored for their outstanding achievements in research, scholarship, and creative expression; teaching, and service, respectively, as the recipients of the 2015-16 Faculty Excellence Awards. More than a dozen alumni from the Class of 1966 processed with the graduates and were acknowledged for having just celebrated their milestone 50th reunion.