Nikki Haley

Commencement Address at Regent University - May 6, 2023

Nikki Haley
May 07, 2023— Virginia Beach, Virginia
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Thank you. What a beautiful day here at Regent University. It's an honor to address the class of 2023. Congratulations on the end of this journey and the start of one that's even better.

This is an important day in your life. We are all so proud of you, and you should be proud that you made it this far. It's a great achievement. Take a breath—the classes are done, the tests are over, the grades are in and you cleared the bar. [applause] Now all you have to do is sit through one last lecture.

Well, I have some good news for you. They gave me 45 minutes for this address but I'm only going to take 12 minutes, tops. [laughter and applause] That's my graduation gift to you.

I know what's going through your head right now. I've been where you are, waiting to get your degree and get started with the rest of your life. I also know you're barely paying attention. I get it. TikTok is much more interesting.

But I think you should be aware of something. As president, I'm going to ban TikTok. [laughter and applause] Now I have your attention, right?

It's okay that you're distracted. You should be, at least a little. You're probably thinking about God's goodness in getting you here this far. You're thinking about his call in your life and where he takes you from here. Maybe you're daydreaming about the job you're about to start, or maybe your mind's on where you're about to move.

The future is on your mind. But before you get going I want to bring you back to the present and even remind you of your past.

That starts with your time in this special place. You've received an extraordinary education. Where other schools just fill your heads with facts at best, this school devoted just as much time to filling your heart with faith.

In these halls, you didn't just prepare for your career, you prepared to answer your calling in every facet of your life. You've trained to be leaders in the truest sense—people who will summon our society to follow the truth.

And so before I continue, please join me in thanking the faculty and staff who have formed you to be Christian leaders who will change the world. [applause]

Look at that—some of you are getting a standing ovation. That's wonderful.

And I want to give a special thank you to the man who's at the heart of Regent University. None of us would be here without Dr. Pat Robertson. [applause] That includes me. I'm very thankful for this invitation to address you today.

The truth is, few leaders have done more to enact the biblical commandment to train up the next generations in the way they should go. Even fewer have done so much to keep America on the straight and narrow. Dr. Robertson, I speak for everyone here when I say thank you for your faithful service to this institution and our great nation. [applause]

Finally, I want all of you to think of the people who helped shape you before you got here, the ones who shared everything they had to get you this far. I'm talking, of course, about your parents and your loved ones.

You may think this day is meaningful for you—and it is—but believe me when I say it's even more meaningful for them.

My husband, Michael, and I are blessed to be the parents of two beautiful children. Our daughter Rena graduated from college in 2021, and our son Nalin is in college right now. I know from experience that your family's hearts are bursting with pride. There won't be very many dry eyes in this crowd before the day is out. That emotion is beautiful. It springs from the deepest kind of love.

Your families are looking at you right now, so I want you to look back at them. Please get on your feet and show your families how thankful you are for their sacrifice and selfless love every step of the way. [applause]

From the moment you were born to the moment you arrived at the ceremony, you’ve learned the things that matter most. I'm not talking about reading, writing, and arithmetic. I'm talking family, freedom, and most of all, faith.

They are the building blocks of a life well lived. They're also the essential foundation of America. We need these values to survive if we want our country to thrive, and we're counting on you to stand for what's right.

A commencement speech is supposed to leave you with life lessons. I believe this is the most important lesson I can convey.

Your generation is the most important in American history. What you do will decide whether our country slides downward toward division and loss of purpose or moves upward together in pursuit of our timeless promise.

Graduates of Regent University, I am asking you to believe in America. It's the only way to make America better, and I'm confident that together we can bring out the best of America.

Now, I'm an optimistic person. I always have been, I always will be. My faith in my life have taught me there's no barrier we can't break and no wrong we can't right. That's as true today as it ever was.

In many respects, the challenges we face as a society have never been greater, but our capacity to overcome them is greater still.

Remember that as you leave Regent University and enter the real world, you're gonna find that things are, well, crazy out there. The challenges facing our country are even bigger than you know. We've reached a point in American history where common sense has gone out the window.

Think about it—we live in a time when men are playing in women's sports. We're told it’s progress. Believe me, it's not.

We live in a time when unborn babies are denied the most basic right there is—the right to life. We're told it's wrong to save them. We're told it's wrong to support their moms. But that's exactly what we should do.

Worst of all, as America prepares to celebrate the 250th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence, the very core of our country is being whittled away. Today, in the greatest nation in human history, we're told America is actually evil, that our history is racist and principles are rotten.

Now when I was at the United Nations, I heard plenty of countries attack America. It's their favorite pastime, and it usually comes from dictators, murderers, and thugs. They found out quickly that I wear heels not as a fashion statement. I wear them for kicking.

I expected to hear criticism of America at the U.N., but I never imagined I would hear it from so many of my fellow Americans. Patriotism and pride are disappearing. A self-destructive self-loathing is spreading fast.

Now, you won't find this crisis at Regent University, thank God for that, but you do see it in lots of places. Your friends at other schools have been hit over the head with lies about America. A lot of them held to the truth, but too many probably didn't.

My son is a junior in college, and I watch him writing papers he doesn't believe in just to get an A. That's wrong, but what's so much worse is what our youngest children are hearing in the classroom.

Think of a five-year-old at the start of kindergarten. If she's white, she's told she's bad and if she's brown or black, she's told she'll never be good enough and she'll always be a victim.

I can't imagine what would have happened if I had been told I was a victim when I was five. it might have put me on a different path, a path of anger and resentment, not optimism and faith.

That's what we're doing to a whole generation. Ninety percent of students today are being taught to hate America. They should be taught the truth about America—that this is the greatest nation in the history of the world [applause]—and they should be set on a path to help America achieve our full promise. Our country deserves our love and hard work. It always has and it always will.

Which brings me back to you, the class of 2023. These are far from the only challenges that are facing our country. There are many more. Some are close to home. Some are on the other side of the world. But all of them affect you and they can all be overcome.

Your faith should give you that hope. Your belief in God should always inspire your belief in America. It does for me, and it's kept me going all these years.

I don't know where you're going to find yourself this time next month, much less five or ten years from now, but I do know wherever you go and whatever you do you can use your voice for good.

Some of you will be in graduate school. It will likely be different than your experience here. It might be less friendly to your values, but stand strong. Don't give in or give up on what you know is true.

Some of you will start your first post-college job. That'll be different from Regent, too. You might feel pressured to abandon your beliefs, but stand up for yourself. Stand up for what's right.

If each of you does this, you'll be amazed at what happens and where God takes you. You'll rise to the top of your field, given an incredible opportunity to change minds, win hearts, and move our country in the right direction.

You'll build strong, vibrant families, passing on the truth to the next generation.

You'll find yourself doing things you never expected and having more impact than you ever imagined.

And who knows—you may even find yourself running for president.

God has destined each of you for great things and I firmly believe that with his help and your hard work, America's greatest days are still ahead.

My optimism for the future is grounded in my past. I'm the proud daughter of Indian immigrants. Fifty years ago, my parents came to America in search of a better life. They found it in Bamberg, South Carolina, population 2500. Nobody knew who we were, what we were, or why we were there, but my parents knew and every day they reminded me, my brothers, and my sister that even on our worst day we are blessed to live in America.

I've seen that blessing in countless ways every day of my life. As a brown girl growing up in a black and white world, I saw the promise of America unfold before me. As the proud wife of a combat veteran, I saw our people's incredible courage and love of freedom.

As governor, I saw our state move beyond hate and violence and lift up everyone in peace. And as ambassador, I saw that America is still the standard. Where we lead, the world follows. When we speak, the world listens. Who we are, the world wants to be.

I'll never forget the day as ambassador when I stood on the Simón Bolívar Bridge between Colombia and Venezuela. I watched thousands of Venezuelans walk by holding their babies in the hot sun for hours just to get the one meal they might have that day. Where they came from, they had been killing zoo animals for food. They were fleeing socialism and yearning for freedom.

When I left the bridge, the families started to gather around me. I didn't understand why they flocked to someone they'd never met and then it hit me—they didn't care who I was. They cared where I was from. In me they saw America and in America they saw hope.

That's why my parents came to America. To this day, they're proud of that decision. I want to make sure they always are, and I want you to be proud of America, too. You deserve to live in a country that respects your faith, protects your freedom, and gives you every opportunity to achieve your dreams.

If that's the America you want to live in, then live out the values in all you do. I'm sure you will. After all, you've spent the last few years preparing. As graduates of Regent University, you are uniquely ready to fulfill your calling, and I have faith you will help renew our country. Let's do it together.

Congratulations once again to the class of 2023. God bless you, God bless Regent University, and may God always bless the United States of America.

Thank you. [applause]

Forbes Breaking News. “'A Self-Destructive Self-Loathing Is Spreading': Nikki Haley Urges Patriotism In Commencement Speech.” YouTube video, 16:22. May 7, 2023.

Regents University. “Commencement 2023.” YouTube video, 2:26:23.