Kathy Hochul

Commencement Address at University at Albany - May 14, 2022

Kathy Hochul
May 15, 2022— Albany, New York
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Good morning graduates, are we fired up today or what? Oh, I can feel the energy. What an exciting day for you. And first of all, to your parents, you can finally put away the checkbooks, the money is yours. You don't have to send it off to this institution. Go have a good time, go to Disney World, whatever you're going to do once these kids are gone.

So, to parents and family members, you've also been on this journey, and you inspired in your children and your loved ones the desire to better themselves. And I find it phenomenal that one third of the graduates here today are first time graduates of any institution. So, thank you families for the inspiration you gave to them.

President Rodriguez, yes, leadership matters. And we're so proud to have you at the helm of this institution as we are about to transform the entire system of SUNY into a place that people, yes, it has finally achieved its full potential and we're going to work together.

Great to have the Majority Leader for the entire country's Senate, but our very own Senator Chuck Schumer, you'll be hearing from him very shortly, what a leader he is as well.

We also have Tom Junod who is going to be your speaker today, can't wait to hear about that. And also, our student speaker, Che-Doni Platt. Thank you,everybody. And I'm going to be brief. Here's what I need to tell you.

You were students during a pandemic, did you happen to notice that? Okay, I just want to see whether you noticed anything different for a couple of years there. Very few young people or anyone out in the world is going to be able to lay claim to what you had to endure.

You started off as freshmen, life was good, you're making friends, going to go on for four years, figure it all out later. You know, party a lot, have a good time, learn something once in a while. That's all right. But then all of a sudden, the world came crashing in and you're no longer in person. Where are those friends? Where is that person you're going to ask out on a date? Where did they go?

And all of a sudden, you don't have that connection with teachers and friends. And it was tremendous isolation, as you had to endure the unthinkable. But the point is you did endure. You thrived, you survived. And I'm telling you, when you come back here, to your 50th anniversary, you know what year that's going to be? Figure it out math students.

[The year] 2072. You're going to come back and say, can you believe what we went through? But I'm telling you right now, and you don't know this yet, it is making you stronger, more resilient. Because no matter what comes your way - and a lot of bad stuff's coming your way, a lot of good stuff too - but no matter what happens, you're going to say, you know what? It's not as bad as being at college during a pandemic and I survived that.

So always use this as your touchstone of how you can handle anything that comes your way, you're prepared. But also, you have the blessing of having this institution behind you. Everybody in this country knows that this is one of the finest public research institutions, not in the state, but in the entire country and use that label. That's going to connect you with alumni and others. That's going to get you a job, my friends. So, use that as we continue to even strengthen the reputation of our SUNY education.

I'm going to leave you with one question, because I know you don't want to hear from me, you want to get out of here and party. I know life's waiting for you. I get it. I get it. But here's something I'm going to ask you. You have the gift of an education, a lot of people don't. And my question to you is when you do come to that reunion in 50 years, make sure you show up, ask yourself a question now that I'm going to call on you to answer on that day. Did my life make a difference? Did I do something to better the lives of others? Did I use my degree to lift people up? Did I join in the fights of my day? Did I stand up and fight for the right for women to have self-determination over their bodies? Did I stand up and fight for that? Were you part of that fight? Are you part of that fight today? That's going on right now. Are you part of the fight to protect Mother Nature from further assault, so it's there not just for you, but for your children someday? Are you part of that fight? Did you stand up?

Did you stand up and help people living in poverty? New people come to this country in search of the American dream who just feels so knocked down and disrespected. Did you fight for a criminal justice system that is truly a just system? Did you fight to make sure that there's educational opportunities for everybody, not just yourselves? These are just a few of the areas I'm calling on you as mostly New Yorkers, I know some of you came from around the world and other states, but you're all New Yorkers in my mind. You need to stay, you need to stay. I'll help you find a place.

I want you to be part of this family because we have so many great things to do. It's within our grasp. And we have that moral responsibility to take the torch that has been passed to us that started in the state in 1848 with women's rights and the right to reproductive freedom. That started in New York, three years before Roe V. Wade. The right to love who you choose and to marry who you choose. This is New York, the birthplace of the LGBTQ movement. The environmental movement started here. The labor movement started here. That happened here by people just like you.

That's what you need to answer over your lifetime. Did I make a difference? Think about that now. You have no excuses, you have no excuses. And I expect that of you as your governor and also the first mother to ever be in this job, because I know how powerful mom guilt is.

So, I'm putting it on your shoulders, students. Get out there and do great things. Thank you for the honor of addressing you today. Take care everybody.

Governor Kathy Hochul. “Governor Hochul Delivers Remarks at the University at Albany Commencement Ceremony.” YouTube video, 33:38. May 14, 2022. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kRYFDoi9vNE

New York State. “Video, Audio, Photos & Rush Transcript: Governor Hochul Delivers Remarks at The University at Albany Commencement Ceremony.” Retrieved July 7, 2023 from https://www.governor.ny.gov/news/video-audio-photos-rush-transcript-governor-hochul-delivers-remarks-university-albany.