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Rep. McGovern urges defense of democracy at UMass Amherst commencement

Engineering graduate Ethan Williams of Leominster wears a mortarboard displaying his desire for completion as he sits among approximately 7,000 undergraduates who graduated Friday evening from the University of Massachusetts Amherst.Josh Reynolds for The Boston Globe

Representative Jim McGovern called on graduates “not to give up on democracy” at the UMass Amherst graduation ceremony Friday.

McGovern, a Democrat who represents Amherst as part of the Massachusetts Second District, spoke to about 7,000 graduating students and 20,000 guests at McGuirk Alumni Stadium, according to a news release from the university.

“I won’t tell you what to believe—but I will tell you that you have been given an incredible gift—a world class education,” McGovern said. “My question to you now is, what are you going to do with it? What are you going to do for democracy?”

McGovern was one of the last people who evacuated the U.S. House during the Jan. 6 capitol insurrection.


House Rules Committee Chairman Jim McGovern, D-Mass., center, joined at left by Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla., the ranking member, considers contempt of Congress charges against former President Donald Trump advisers Peter Navarro and Dan Scavino in response to their refusal to comply with subpoenas, at the Capitol in Washington, Monday, April 4, 2022. J. Scott Applewhite/Associated Press

“I’m asking you not to forget that part of living a meaningful life is about being part of a community. And giving back to that community,” McGovern said. “It will be tempting to let someone else do the work … to step back, throw up your hands and say, ‘not my problem.’ But if democracy just means leaving it to someone else, then our country is not going to work for you. It’s going to work for fewer and fewer people.”

“It’s going to work for those who are willing to rig the system to overturn elections,” the congressman said. “So I’m asking each of you—all of you—not to give up on democracy.”

Graduates also heard from university Chancellor Kumble R. Subbaswamy and student speaker Emily Przybyla. Honorary degrees were conferred to scientist and entrepreneur Jerome Paros, South African democracy activist Albie Sachs and former UMass Amherst chancellor Marcellette G. Williams.

Christopher Huffaker can be reached at christopher.huffaker@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @huffakingit.