Anwarul Karim Chowdhury, the former president of the UN Security Council, encouraged University of Massachusetts Boston graduates Friday to embrace the differences that surround them and to use that diversity and understanding to their advantage.
“You should be proud that your alma mater values and provides a learning environment that not just respects differences but excites curiosity and embodies civility,” Chowdhury told the nearly 4,000 graduates under sunny skies on the university’s waterfront campus.
His message was especially apt at UMass Boston: The college said the graduates represented more than 100 countries — over half of the world’s recognized nations.
Chowdhury, a Bangladeshi diplomat renowned for his work on behalf of women’s rights and advocacy for the poor, told students they were privileged to have an education that prepared them to be “independent, creative, and compassionate citizens and leaders who will shape the quality of the individual and social life with the global perspective.”
He urged students to look into themselves, in a world where material possessions are often the be-all and end-all, to find a space for spirituality.
“I’m confident you will make every effort to rid yourselves and your fellow men and women of the evils of intolerance and prejudice, ignorance and selfishness that compel us to repeat the cycle of violence,” he said. “Your positive goals should not be achieved at the cost of others. Recognize the positive in others and value others.”
Chancellor J. Keith Motley congratulated the nearly 2,500 undergraduate and 1,400 graduate students, and reminded them that every step forward in life is a step in the right direction.
“Class of 2012, I am so pleased and proud, first of all to be your chancellor, but to help to usher in the next phase of your lives,” Motley told graduates. “Truly it has been a season of bold steps. Steps towards revitalization, steps toward growth, steps toward renewal. And while they are certainly not the end of the line, they are the steps that can be built upon to realize a new vision.”
He told students that along with their degrees they will have the support of their fellow students as they journey onward.
“Should you ever doubt your ability to take bold steps, I urge you to turn to one of your classmates and draw inspiration and courage from one of them. They are right there next to you, people going on to change the world,” he said.
Friday’s ceremonies ended with the traditional tossing of the caps, followed by photographs along the water.
Despite a challenging job outlook, many graduates said they were excited to set out into the world with a degree and new perspective on life.
“It’s all about perseverance and moving forward,” said Maira Jamil, 24, a Pakistani immigrant and recent graduate. “Trying hard and just doing what you love. You see the goal and move toward it no matter what.”