The Class of 2022 graduates

Speakers at the commencement ceremony highlighted the need for hope and community in the graduates’ futures


Courtesy of Wake Forest

The Class of 2022, newly-graduated, throw their caps in the air.

Connor McNeely, Editor-in-Chief

After a college experience featuring COVID-19, a fertilizer fire, a hotly-contested presidential election and more, the class of 2022 received their degrees on Monday, May 16.  

After these years of preparation, toil, trial and victory, you are ready for what is to come. You are ready to step into this moment with courage, resilience and the spirit of Pro Humanitate.

— Provost Rogan Kersh

The commencement ceremony was largely focused on hope and resilience. In his commencement address, CNN host and DreamCorps founder Van Jones stressed the importance of avoiding negative and polarizing outlooks presented on TV news networks and social media.

“What I discovered was that what we are telling you every day in cable news is not true,” Jones said. “I want you to understand something. If you just look at the algorithms on your phone, if you just look at TV news, you will think something that is a lie. If you believe what you see on the screens, you will think there are just too many awful people.”

Jones then pointed out the need for an optimistic perspective toward individuals different from graduating students.

“The biggest problem which nobody is telling you about is that there are so many awesome people in both parties,” Jones said. “You don’t have an awful people problem as much as an awesome people problem.”

Jones’s address was outlined in three central points that informed his personal journey to affect change.

“First of all, be a bridge; second of all, don’t just make a point, make a difference; third of all, be encouraged,” said Jones. “You are the most diverse generation of Americans ever, in the most diverse democratic republic ever. And you mostly get along … Don’t let algorithms fool you and don’t let the news fool you. What you’re doing every day is a miracle in human history.”

Jones closed by encouraging the graduating class and reflecting on their momentous accomplishments.“If my father were here, he would tell you about an America where everything we take for granted seemed difficult and impossible,” Jones said. “But it wasn’t. Tomorrow is more important than yesterday. COVID-19 didn’t win. You won. As you win, you will see that there are other people who look very different from you that want to win too. If you win together, we will all win together.”

The commencement ceremony began with the procession of the graduating class and a welcome and opening remarks given by President Susan Wente.

Wente reflected upon the united calling of the Wake Forest community and its potential for change in the larger world.

“This is your community, this is a place that has catalyzed so many things in you so that you can go forth and catalyze good in society,” Wente said. “It is not simply a degree that is being conferred upon you. It’s a calling, the calling of Pro Humanitate.”

Wente also emphasized the need for graduating students to share their talents and education with society.

“You are entering a world that needs your expertise and knowledge – a world that craves your leadership and character,” Wente said. “So take what you have learned and share it generously with the world.”

After these remarks, the university conferred upon Eddie S. Glaude Jr. an honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters. Glaude is a distinguished professor of African American Studies at Princeton University and acclaimed author of “Begin Again”.

The ceremony concluded with two addresses. The first was delivered by outgoing Student Government President Ally Swartzberg. Swartzberg began by thanking her family, friends and mentors, highlighting the interdependence of the Wake Forest community.

“In each and every moment that the gravity of your dreams became a little too overwhelming, I bet that you can point to one or two, or maybe even ten Wake Forest people who walked by your side and reminded you that you got it,” Swartzberg said.

Swartzberg ended by underscoring the necessity of love and personal relationships over professional and personal accomplishments.

“None of my accomplishments mean anything in a vacuum,” Swartzberg said. “It doesn’t matter how smart, popular or successful you are if you aren’t happy or loved by others.”

Provost Rogan Kersh, in his last address in that role, delivered closing remarks to the graduating class, encouraging students to step forward into the world with excitement.

“Now gathered together again, you are, and we are a Wake Forest family. We are ready to see how you will leave this home of yours and chase after your next adventures,” Kersh said. “After these years of preparation, toil, trial and victory, you are ready for what is to come. You are ready to step into this moment with courage, resilience and the spirit of Pro Humanitate.”