Johns Hopkins University - Volodymyr Zelenskyy Makes Surprise Speech at 2023 Johns Hopkins Commencement



  • We could not be prouder that he’s joining us today

from Ukraine where he is leading the struggle

to keep his country free and Europe safe.

Welcome, President Zelenskyy, to Johns Hopkins.

(audience cheers and applauds)

  • Thank you.

Thank you very much.

Thank you, Mrs. Applebaum,

for such a generous and yet brief introduction.

Mr. President Daniels,

Mr. Chairman of the board of Trustees, Forster,

dear students, faculty, parents, and guests

of the university on this day.

First of all, graduates of the class 2023,

congratulations on reaching this honorable milestone,

Graduation Day at one of the world’s greatest universities.

And if some of you are a little bit worried about

whether my speech may delay

your long-awaited graduation moment,

I want to assure you that I will also try to be brief,

perhaps not as brief as Mrs. Applebaum was at the beginning,

but anyway, I will not be too long.

The time is the essence,

and it is the essence that I would like to talk about today.

One of the most common truisms on earth

is the advice to value, or at least not waste time.

Why has it become so widespread?

Every person eventually realizes

that time is the most valuable resource on the planet,

not oil or uranium, not lithium or anything else, but time.


The very flow of time convinces us of this.

Some people realize this sooner,

and these are the lucky ones.

Others realize it too late

when they lose someone or something.

People cannot avoid it.

This is just a matter of time.

Now you can look back at the time you have spent here

at the university studying.

Did you get everything you needed from it?

You have even more than time ahead of you,

a whole lifetime.

These are the careers you will build.

This is your parents’ pride, which they have every right to,

if they raised the children who graduate from Johns Hopkins.

These are your families who, I wish you this,

will bring you love.

These are your children and grandchildren

who will inherit a piece of your soul.

Will you be able not to waste this time of your life?

This topic seems trivial,

but these are very, very difficult questions

for every person.

How you answer them is how you live.

And while it is still possible to find new deposits of oil

or lithium, and if in the future of humanity

can start mining resources in space,

it is still purely science fiction

to live longer than has been given.

But why am I talking about this now?

Recently, I was on the frontline again

in one of the most fiercely fought areas of the frontline,

again, the Russia occupies.

I went to personally award the best fighters

and to congratulate our marines

on the Day of Marines of Ukraine.

And you know, the front in Ukraine consists

of very, very different people

who are fighting for freedom and independence.

These are people of all ages,

and among them are exactly the same folks as you are now.

Some of them have already passed their graduation ceremony

and others are only dreaming about it.

They and you have similar hopes for life,

similar expectations from life.

But there is fundamental difference

that comes down to the question of time.

The time of your life is under your control.

The time of life of our force on the frontline,

the time of life of all Ukrainians

who are forced to live

through this terrible Russian aggression,

unfortunately, is subject to many factors

that are not all in their control.

Where will the next Russian missile

or another Iranian killer drone hit,

which Russia is so fond of launching at Ukraine?

Will our air defense systems

be able to save all the lives at risk?

What moment in the battle can be the most risky

and which one could be decisive?

And how long will this war last?

We are trying, we are trying to get a grip

on the time of our lives,

what is happening to us.

And by the way, if anyone here

is going to become a politician,

remember, that this is exactly what your job will be,

to master time, to make the time of your people

and country’s life under the control

of your people and country under any circumstances,

so that your people receive an answer

to any question about

what the time of their life will be like.

They may calm times,

when it is a simple task for politicians.

They may be very, very restless politicians

who complicate similarly simple tasks

so that they create real prizes.

There may be different things,

and unfortunately, there may still be wars.

Of course, I do not wish anyone to feel

like they are in my shoes,

and it’s impossible to give a manual

on how to go through life so as not to waste its time.

However, one piece of advice always works:

you have to know exactly why you need today

and how you want your tomorrows to look like.

You have to know this when you are a politician

and have to achieve a certain goal for your country.

You have to know this when you are a soldier

and you have to defend your position,

so that the whole country is protected.

You have to know this when you just have to go through life.

Sometimes, however, when you are young

and when you are a student, you still need to waste so time.

What is life without it?

But only sometimes,

and when no one else depends on you.

I’m proud that Ukraine is not losing a single day

in its defense against Russian terror.

Every day we do everything, everything to become stronger,

to give more protection to people, to save more lives.

The United States has also not lost a single day

in helping Ukraine repel the Russian aggression.

President Biden, a strong bipartisan coalition in Congress,

and most of all the American people

have, like the generations before them,

risen to these occasion and are leading the free world

to secure freedom in Europe.

We Ukrainians believe that free and secure Ukraine

is a final step in the struggle

to liberate Europe from the evil of tyrannies.

This struggle that brought your great-grandparent

to the shores of northern France some 80 years ago,

and I have no doubt you will all soon become great doctors,

lawyers, engineers, and titans of new technologies

and new businesses.

Also, I’m certain if you among you will heed the call

to serve and become members of Congress,

cabinet secretaries, and yes, yes, maybe president one day.

Of course, after President Biden. Of course.

And please somebody of you, please, we don’t need surprises.

And I’m certain you as your forefathers

will continue to lead the free world,

and this century will be our century,

a century where have freedom, innovation

and democratic values reign,

a century where tyrannies that repress their own

and seek to enslave their neighbors

will vanish from us once and for all.

But all of our tomorrows

and the tomorrows of our children and grandchildren

depends on each of our todays.

On each of our todays.

Thank you, Johns Hopkins, for your attention.

Thank you very much.

Thank you, America, for your support.

Slava Ukraini!

(audience cheers and applauds)

(audience cheers and applauds)

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