The Class of 2018 graduated at Boston College’s 142nd Commencement Exercises on Monday. Wilton Daniel Gregory, the Archbishop of Atlanta and this year’s Commencement Exercises keynote speaker, encouraged the graduates to foster a more just society by understanding the positive effect that their words can have on others.
“Words are powerful vehicles,” Gregory said. “Words can bring tears, and they can incite rage. Words can heal, and they can also inflame.”
Citing the modern day Black Lives Matter and #MeToo movements, he explained that social media has provided a platform for words to incite both positive and negative passions among people. Black Lives Matter, for example, are three words that he said some have found “encouraging,” and others have found “agitating, if not threatening.”
“The challenge we face is making sure that our words do not contradict our actions, our hearts, or our faith,” Gregory said. “We must all strive to ensure there is a consistency between what we say and how we live.”
He also cited events of violence in Las Vegas; South Carolina; Parkland, Fla.; and most recently in Santa Fe, Texas. He said that the words used to describe the perpetrators of these acts identify them as “other.” Rather than treating these individuals with this attitude, Gregory suggested that we work to address their troubled mental states and the “hostile environment of hatred” that likely prompted them to carry out these acts.
“‘No foul language should come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for needed edification, that it may impart grace to those who hear,’” Gregory said, citing the letter of St. Paul to the Ephesians.
University President Rev. William P. Leahy, S.J., also gave welcoming remarks at the beginning of the event. He encouraged the graduates to recognize and be grateful for the individuals who had a meaningful impact in their lives up until this point in time, including their family members and BC faculty.
“This ceremony marks an end and a beginning for the graduates,” he said. “One phase of their lives is over and new opportunities await them.”
Leahy explained that the world needs people of “intelligence and commitment to work for the good of society” and that BC has never been in a better place to prepare its students for this type of service. He cited inequality, violence in governments, and partisan politics as examples of daunting problems which a Jesuit education can prepare its graduates to tackle.
“You graduates of the class of 2018 have great talent and promise because of who you are and what you have experienced in our community,” he said. “I urge that you give to others from the abundance that you have received and put into practice the principles, values, and beliefs of a Jesuit education that continue to shape Boston College.”
The University also presented honorary degrees to Drew Gilpin Faust, the outgoing president of Harvard University; Rev. Joseph Duffy, S.J., former University Secretary and BC ’50; Kendall Bridges Reid, an award-winning HBO documentary producer and BC ’79; and Alberto Vasallo III, president and CEO of El Mundo Boston and BC ’89. Christopher Reynolds, MCAS ’18, was awarded the Edward H. Finnegan, S.J., Award for his dedication to improving global health.
Featured Image via Commencement Exercises Webcast