2023 UCLA College Commencement


Graduates, families, friends, guests, and our distinguished speaker: Welcome to UCLA, the nation’s #1 public university!

As UCLA’s chancellor, it is my great honor to preside over this celebration. For today we pay tribute to the exceptional…the sensational…the unshakeable UCLA Class of 2023.

Truly, this day belongs to all of you — and I hope you feel a very keen sense of pride and accomplishment.

But no one reaches this day on their own. So let’s have one more round of applause for all those who have stood by you, with love and support, and who have helped you arrive at one of life’s great milestones.

Today’s event is often described with two different words: “Graduation,” and “commencement.” And those two words show us the dual nature of this celebration.

The first, “graduation,” frames this ceremony as a capstone or culminating experience. It asks us to look back in time and reflect upon where we have been over the course of our journey.

Graduates, you might think back to the joyous moment when you received your offer of admission to UCLA, those first few tentative steps onto the campus, or your initial meetings with new roommates — full of goodwill and maybe just a bit of awkwardness.

You might think of the English class you took on a whim that sparked a love of modernist poetry; or how your time in a robotics club inspired you to dive deeply into kinetics and kinematics. You might recall the way a late-night discussion with a friend transformed the way you look at an issue, or reflect on the sense of genuine community you felt doing the 8 clap alongside cheering fans at a Bruins game. You might think back to one particularly special moment pausing in the sculpture garden, on a warm spring evening, when the light was fading and the jacarandas were in bloom.

While I am sure you have had your share of magical moments here, I recognize that your UCLA experience was marked by much more. You also saw a world wrenched apart as the COVID-19 pandemic took hold. You may have felt the whiplash of moving back in with parents, turning a kitchen table into a classroom, taking up a new role as a caregiver, or grappling with feelings of isolation and fear.

Beyond the pandemic, your experience of UCLA was set against the backdrop of historic events including a hugely polarizing U.S. presidential election, a brazen siege on the Capitol Building, a powerful women’s rights movement in Iran, and a troubling invasion of Ukraine. In the wake of George Floyd’s killing in Minneapolis, you witnessed an upswell of attention to longstanding issues of racial injustice. Here in California, you felt the effects of climate disasters like wildfires and excessive heat. You saw an era of pronounced economic growth and a period of significant economic contraction. You witnessed the emergence of ChatGPT, and the first stirrings of a massive social reckoning with the power of AI technology.

All of these experiences shaped your time at UCLA, affecting the decisions you made with regard to coursework, pastimes, and your burgeoning career.

Ultimately, these experiences also shaped you. They etched on you resilience and adaptability. They gave you a greater respect for science and truth, and a recognition of the dangers of misinformation. They reinforced a need to fight for this planet’s future, and asked you to approach new technology with thoughtfulness and care. And even as they stirred up anguish, they endowed you with compassion and empathy, as well as a commitment to justice and the greater good.

I mentioned that today’s event goes by the name “commencement” as well as the name “graduation.” And while “graduation” asks us to look back at where we have been, the term “commencement” invites us to look forward to where we are going.

Members of the Class of 2023, the world is certainly full of intractable problems — problems that are deeply-rooted, that have many dimensions, and that span national borders. But crises are also moments of immense possibility, when the traditional order can be shifted and new thinking applied to old problems. Shaped by your experiences and your commitment to the common interest — and with your UCLA degree in tow — you are incredibly well positioned to enact this change. I have full faith that you will do so.

As you prepare to leave UCLA, I hope you will retain the ties that bind you to this institution and its community. You are the newest members of the UCLA Alumni Association, and through this network you will find like-minded peers, free classes to continue your education, and all kinds of resources to help you throughout your lives.

I also invite you to view this historic era in which we live as a chance to rebuild anew. Bruins are nothing if not marked by optimism, and it is in our DNA to look at the world as one that is ripe for constant reshaping.

Graduates, let me once again offer you my deepest gratitude and my best wishes. I hope the education you have received here will serve you well — and that you will use it not just to benefit yourselves, but to benefit all of society.

Congratulations to the UCLA Class of 2023. I wish you much success and the very best of luck. And with that, I offer one last GO BRUINS!