Penn President Amy Gutmann, Commencement 2019

(audience applauds)
– Amy G! Amy G! Amy G!
– Thank you. Thank you. Good morning! Good morning, class of 2019! You look fabulous!
(audience cheers) Whoa! Though many of you may, maybe you feel a little bit tired. Last night some of you were
out to dinner with family, some of you were up late packing, and some of you went out
with classmates and friends. And this is Penn, I have to ask, how many of you managed to do all three? (audience cheers) Okay, I thought so. But did anyone here last night
find time to turn on the TV? (audience cheers)
Maybe turn it on to HBO? (audience cheers) Are you ready? (audience cheers)
Are you ready? It’s time for a special
edition of Game of Thrones. (audience applauds) Graduates, all of you today sit on either side of a great divide. To my right, Southern Alliance. Among you are several great houses. Arrayed on the field are
members of House Engineering. (audience cheers) House Nursing. (audience cheers) House Wharton. (audience cheers) Houses Medicine to Dental. (audience cheers) Law to Design. SP2 to Education. (audience cheers) And Annenberg to Vet. (audience cheers) (laughs) All of you to my right
form the Southern Alliance. Now to my left, the Northern Alliance. (audience cheers) Your great– (audience cheers) (Amy laughs) Your great houses may be few, your great houses may be
few, but man, are they big. (audience cheers) Arrayed on the field, as you can see, are the many members of House College and House Arts & Sciences. (audience cheers) All of you to my left form
the Northern Alliance. We have two sides, and spoiler alert, we’re
going to do battle. But instead of a battle with spears, this will be a battle of cheers. (audience cheers) Whoops! Who left a Starbucks cup here? (audience cheers) Not supposed to be here. Oh well, oh well. We’ll figure that one out later. I’m going to call on each
of your alliances in turn. When I do, you need to make, I hate to ask this, I know how hard it is, but you need to make
the most noise you can. The side that cheers the loudest wins. Okay, ready? Okay. Let’s hear it from the Southern Alliance. (audience cheers) Impressive, impressive. Okay, now let’s hear it
from the Northern Alliance. (audience cheers) All right. Also impressive. Both sides gave it your very best shot. Now it falls on me, but I’m
not going to call a winner. Instead–
(audience booing) Instead, I ask you to consider this a window into the human heart. (audience laughs) Listen up. Here we are, proud members
of the Penn community, this beloved community,
yet when called upon, how readily we divide to
do battle for our side. Game of Thrones became a global
phenomenon for many reasons. We obsess over the characters, we love the dragons and the drama, but its deepest attraction is allegorical. In the walls of ice,
in the thrones of iron, we see a mirror for our times. We recognize our own world where too many live for their tribe alone, where too often we listen
only to those who think, look, and believe as we do, where the game seems rigged against open and free expression. We hear too few dissenting voices and we consider too few conflicting views. But remember, none of this is inevitable. We can glorify our own tribe
to the exclusion of others, we can build up our walls and we can cast down
those who are different, or we can better use the
strength in our hearts and the power in our hands. Our many identities and beliefs,
we make these our threads. Our diverse backgrounds and
goals, they become our loom. From this world of differences, we can weave a tapestry of communities. Weaving–
(audience applauds) Yeah. (audience cheers) Weaving is hard work, especially when we
interlace many into one. Our identities may clash,
our beliefs diverge, we disagree over where we wanna go. We argue about the best way to get there. But when together we
embrace the challenge, the cloth of human understanding
grows more resilient. We craft something stronger by far, by far than iron thrones and walls of ice. (audience applauds) (audience laughs) As many of you may know, I am a first-generation college graduate. (audience cheers) And proud of it. My family had very little money. We lived in a small town. And try as I might to fit in, I always felt like an outsider, and often was treated as one. My father was an immigrant, and the only person around who spoke with a strong foreign accent. In elementary school, I
was the only Jewish girl. (audience cheers) And one day, I remember this
vividly, in fifth grade, I learned just how
easily false stereotypes about minorities can arise. That’s when another blond-haired, blue-eyed girl moved into my class. My best friend Diane took one look, turned to me and said, “Oh, she must be Jewish too.” (audience laughs) My hometown may not have
understood or celebrated diversity, but it treated me and
my family respectfully. I never took that for granted, given my father’s escape
from Nazi Germany. My parents even joined with others in neighboring towns to
create the first synagogue. (audience cheers) Wonderfully dedicated and caring teachers helped prepare me for college,
and I couldn’t wait to go. But when I finally arrived on campus, I was in for a surprise. In fact, I was stunned. I had never before in my life felt poor. As a scholarship student, suddenly I was surrounded by people who were so astoundingly rich. I was also fascinated by
these and other differences: different faiths, politics,
ethnicities and culture. And sure, at times it was uncomfortable. There were many moments I
just wanted to turn around and go back home to my
mother’s warm embrace and also her great home cooking. And like every one of
you, every one of you, I made the best, most
important choices of my life. I would pick up the threads of differences to weave myself a new community. This would become my cause,
my mission, my identity. I had found my purpose
rooted in beloved community. I was inspired by the work
of Dr. Martin Luther King. He called upon us all
to embrace inclusion, love and justice. He preached the soul force
of nonviolent protest. He warned against the perils of tribalism, of clinging to the familiar, and holding sacred the status quo. King famously addressed his– (audience applauds) Go ahead. (audience cheers) He famously addressed his
letter from a Birmingham jail not to his jailers, but
to his fellow clergymen. He challenged them to
reject the status quo. In King’s words, we find the
essence of beloved community recognizing that injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are tied–
(audience cheers) Yes, injustice anywhere is a
threat to justice everywhere. (audience cheers) We are tied, he wrote, in a
single garment of destiny. Now, one of our seniors graduating today grew up just a few miles from here, close at hand, but a world away. Penn was an unfamiliar place. Just weeks after she accepted our offer, her father suddenly passed away, and then only months
into her freshman year, she lost her mother. Family is our very first community, the rock on which we build our lives. Hers shattered in the passing of a season, but she persevered, honoring her parents’ memory by embracing a new community, a university where we pride ourselves on the tapestries we weave. She championed educational
access, leading Penn’s first-generation low-income
student community. Any FGLI students here today? (audience cheers)
(Amy applauds) Last fall, we learned that this senior had been named a 2019 Rhodes Scholar. (audience cheers) We could not be more proud. Her name, of course, is Anea Moore. Anea, would you please stand up? (audience applauds) Each and every one of you today left behind comforting
familiarity to come here to Penn. You embraced a more
intellectually challenging, inclusive, and demanding world. You have woven a rich tapestry
of friends and memories. Now the task before you: stay at the loom. Speak out and stand up. Weave together a world better,
freer, and more inclusive. Just as there are no dragons, there is no Northern Alliance
or Southern Alliance. There are many overlapping
and intersecting threads woven into a beloved
community of humankind. Together, you weave that
beautiful, beautiful, multifaceted garment of human destiny, empowered by your Penn education. So now, as befits this joyful occasion, I ask everybody to stand together
as one beloved community. Families and friends,
faculty, university leaders, stand with me and show our profound pride in the class of 2019. (audience cheers)

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