University of Pennsylvania - Commencement 2023 - Liz Magill Speech

🎁Amazon Prime 📖Kindle Unlimited 🎧Audible Plus 🎵Amazon Music Unlimited 🌿iHerb 💰Binance



  • Thank you Reverend Howard.

Hello amazing class of 2023.

(audience applauds)

This is my first time up here

and I am so proud that my first commencement

is with your class.

All right, before we go any further,

echoing Reverend Howard,

there’s something we’re called to do

to start this ceremony.

Today, of course, culminates your individual paths at Penn

but you didn’t walk alone.

Sorry, you just sat down, but graduates,

would you please rise again?

All right, you all to my left,

look into the stands where your friends and family are.

You all to the right, please do the same.

(audience applauds)

All right, now you can be seated again.

I think you see what I see,

you see an army of people

who lent you their love and their support

toward your success.

Your families, your dear ones, your spouses,

your partners, your friends, your mentors.

We start by thanking all of them

for helping get you to this great day.

Yes, alright.

(audience applauds)

The volume of your cheers, the scope of your army,

the community that helped carry you here,

they illustrate my message today, success is not solitary.

That story of the genius going it alone

and changing the world,

that genius exists of course,

but the solitary nature of her achievements,

that’s a bit of a myth.

Even the once in a generation genius,

she had people who nurtured her, who sparked her creativity,

who helped her surmount barriers to success.

Our ability to do big things, things that are great,

and things that are good,

depends on the community around us.

You have a recent example, think about the pandemic

and how you all persevered.

I doubt you, your parents, your loved ones,

miss doing everything on Zoom.

But think about it, we had to separate from one another,

we had to isolate,

and you made a commitment in that time to connect,

to engage remotely in your coursework and with your peers,

to check in with loved ones and with friends,

to sing and play in virtual performances, boosting morale.

And of course, for some of you graduating today,

isolation was not an option.

You had clinical responsibilities

to your patients and your clients in your care.

Yes, indeed.

(audience applauds)

And their health and wellbeing came before your own,

to the admiration of us all.

But through it all, that solidarity with others

allowed you not only to survive,

but to thrive and much of it on Zoom.

There was, I think, a secret to that success.

Let me give you an image, think about a very large rock,

it’s a rock that stood between you and your diploma.

Too wide to skirt, too big to lift, too heavy to roll.

But moving the rock is what you had to do.

This is a story as old as our species.

From our earliest days, one of our defining features

has been our drive to do things

beyond the ability of any one individual.

Our earliest tools were things that amplified our strength

and our reach.

Tools like the fulcrum and the lever.

If a person has a stick long enough

and a fulcrum at the right spot, they can move great weight.

We know how levers work,

thanks to the ancient Greek inventor, Archimedes.

He was the first to discover the mathematical proof

for what in physics is known as the force multiplier.

Now, get back to your rock.

You push, you heave, you might even swear, you kick it,

but the rock doesn’t budge.

But then you bring to bear your lever,

your force multiplier,

and voila, the rock moves aside.

Your path clears and your diploma is in reach.

Of the principle Archimedes discovered

and its profound implications, he had this to say,

“Give me a place to stand and I will move the world.”

Force multipliers obviously go

beyond our mechanical inventions,

I’m talking today about the power of our social inventions,

community is a force multiplier,

your place to both stand and move the world.

The idea encompasses your family, both related and chosen.

Those people who when they heard

of your dreams and your goals, helped you attain them.

It’s the friend by your side,

bouncing ideas, pulling all nighters,

and not pulling their punches

when you needed that tough love.

It’s the mentor, the teacher, the coach, the director,

who understood who you wanted to become

and devoted extra time to help elevate your game,

to hone your skills, to advance your research.

It is the multitude, who in numberless ways,

amplify your strength and your reach.

And this isn’t a one-way street,

you benefit, but you contribute as well,

you are a forced multiplier for others,

helping to amplify strength and reach of those around you.

This kind of community is what Penn is all about.

We get the word university from the Latin, universitas,

which means the entirety or the whole.

We all bring our insights, our skills,

ourselves to the table,

and together we’re able to do so much more

than one of us could do alone.

Exhibit A, maybe the best one,

is the fact that we are now here in person.

Jokes about Zoom aside,

we’re not together logging into a web stream

because of the collaboration of two remarkable

Penn scientists, Dr. Katie Karikó and Drew Weissman.

(audience applauds)

Supported by an extensive and innovative community

at Penn and beyond,

they created messenger RNA technology

that enabled the COVID vaccines

and will enable so much more,

and they made today’s celebration possible.


(audience applauds)

Exhibit B, what drew you here to Penn?

An undergraduate, a graduate, or a professional student,

you came here to excel by working with other people

who are here for the same reason,

to do great things and be the best person you can be,

in tandem with others,

learning from others in classes, in labs, in clubs,

collaborating with others in the arts, athletics, and more,

even when you were kicking back and having fun.

Heyday, Spring Fling, Econ Scream, the carnival.

So many moments that comprise your Penn experience.

These truths are also baked into your Penn heritage.

They connect you directly

to one of the most prolific force multipliers of all time,

Benjamin Franklin

A French admirer called Franklin,

the Archimedes of his country.

And in 1751, he was cooking up

yet another revolutionary idea.

At that point,

his greatest hits included unlocking

the secrets of electricity

and lightning’s relationship to it,

founding the nation’s first public library,

its first volunteer fire department,

and of course, founding this university.

Next, he decided to pitch his fellow Philadelphians

on another first, a public hospital for the poor,

funded by the community.

He printed a proposal to help drum up support

and it was a rhetorical masterclass in persuasion,

but I’m gonna paraphrase only lightly

one of the most striking lines.

He observed,

“The good we can do separately

is small compared to what we can do collectively.”

One more time.

“The good we can do separately

is small compared to what we can do collectively.”

(audience applauds)

To do great things like enduring pandemics and ending them,

to do good things,

like improving the lives of those around us,

and to contribute just as we benefit.

Please remember that community is a force multiplier.

It is our place to stand and our means to move the world.

All right, at the beginning I asked you to stand again,

now I wanna put the shoe on the other foot.

Please, everyone here, friends, families, loved ones,

trustees, alumni, faculty, staff, and guests,

our big Penn family, please stand with me

and give it up for the amazing class of 2023.

(audience applauds)