Rector Frank M. Conner: The Hope You Give

UVA Rector Rusty Conner: “We are at a point in this nation’s history where we need to cast off the ways of the present. We can no longer afford to continue as we are if we are to achieve this nation’s promise.” (Photo by Dan Addison, UVA)
May 18, 2019

The following remarks were delivered by University of Virginia Rector Frank M. “Rusty” Conner during 2018 Final Exercises:
What a beautiful sight this gathering is to behold – both in vision and in spirit. To our graduates, let me offer our warmest congratulations and admiration. 
Throughout the year we look forward to this day with great anticipation, for today we see the culmination of years of dedication and we sense the possibility of your future.
We are thankful for your decision to attend this University in the first place, as you have contributed mightily to its uniqueness. You have made this University your own and it is better as a result.
Today is a day of joy for you and for those who have accompanied you on this journey as you complete this phase of your education and this chapter of your life. And there is much for which we all are grateful in your arrival to this day – most importantly, the person you have become and the constant support of your families, your friends and your fellow students, and the extraordinary dedication of our faculty and staff.
Today is also in the truest sense a day of hope, and it is the hope we have for you and the hope you give to us and others that I want to acknowledge. For you see, hope is one of the fundamental emotions that sustains one’s life and that of our society. Without hope, little is possible. 
Our founder envisioned this day not as an end to your time here, but as the commencement of a lifetime of learning devoted to furthering the human condition. It was his hope that his revolutionary experiment in education would sustain the nascent democracy he helped create and lead to a better world. 
And so as we celebrate what you have accomplished I want you to know, I want you to understand, I want you to remember that because of who you are, because of what you have accomplished, because of your time on these Grounds, you give us immense hope for the future – your future and that of our nation.
For each of you, we hope that your life is one of meaningful accomplishments, supportive and sustainable relationships, and a feeling of worth and fulfillment in your endeavors. 
We hope that whatever path you choose in life, you never fail to remember the importance of service to your fellow human beings – because it is your calling after earning a degree from this University, as well as the genesis of everything we hope for each of you. 
Your promise, in turn, gives us hope for our nation and the world community. We are at a point in this nation’s history where we need to cast off the ways of the present. We can no longer afford to continue as we are if we are to achieve this nation’s promise. 
You are entering a world with enormous challenges, and yet with enormous opportunities. But we will fail to realize those opportunities if our desire is to dwell on our differences, rather than celebrate our commonality; if our instinct is to condemn those with whom we disagree, rather than seek to understand our disagreements; if we allow the continued devolution of community in favor of individual resentment and grievance; if we further, rather than eliminate, the inequities and injustices in our society; if we remain silent when circumstances demand that we speak; and if we fail to recognize the humanity in each person in all things that we do.
The hope you give us is that you will go forth from this day with the knowledge that your days at this University were not designed simply for the purpose of starting you on the path to mastering excellence in one field or another, but rather for a greater purpose of applying your knowledge, your skills and your heart for the betterment of this world. 
In doing so, you will find your true potential and your true fulfillment. And you will give much-needed hope to our nation and world community.
On behalf of our faculty, our president and our visitors, I thank you for your contributions to this community, I wish you well as you move on, and I look forward with confidence that throughout your life the hopeful challenge of our Rita Dove in her poem “Testimonial” remains your compass: 
“The world called, and I answered.”
Godspeed to you and to your families.

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Anthony P. de Bruyn

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