Commencement season has wrapped up, and it’s always a pleasure to watch our graduates head to their next steps.  Over the past two weeks, 35,000 students have walked across a stage to receive their diplomas, and all told, the UNC System will confer nearly 54,000 degrees for the 2017-18 academic year.

Nothing is more gratifying than seeing our students’ hard work come to fruition.

We’ve had an increase of six percentage points to our graduation rates since 2011. That means thousands of students who may not have completed their degrees in years past are now starting their careers, or beginning graduate school to continue their education. It means they are now ready to give back to the state of North Carolina as taxpayers and to bring their expertise home to the communities where they will live.

I had the chance to speak to our graduates at Elizabeth City State University and Forsyth Tech Community College and my message was simple but pressing:

“The future of our state and nation, the quality of our public discourse, and the integrity of our democracy depend on you. Even with all the time policymakers and politicians spend on shaping education policy and our nation’s future – nothing they do is as powerful as you. Your decisions, the way you conduct yourselves as professionals and as citizens will determine what kind of state you live in, what kind of neighborhood you build, and what kind of society you pass on to your children.”

You can read my full remarks here for ECSU and Forsyth Tech.

Commencement season is a special time, because at its core, it’s about optimism. It’s about acknowledging that change is possible and that our graduates have the power to shape our future.

Take a look at some of the most memorable moments from Spring 2018 Commencements.



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