Back to search

'Help others achieve their dreams,' graduates told

Obama administration official is commencement keynote speaker

On a breezy, sunny morning, Cecilia Muñoz urged the graduates of California State University, Monterey Bay to maintain the quest for learning that brought them to the university.

Ms. Muñoz, an adviser to President Obama and director of the Domestic Policy Council, was the keynote speaker at the university’s May 17 commencement.

Approximately 1,440 students were awarded bachelor’s and master’s degrees and teaching credentials before a capacity crowd of 8,000 in the university’s stadium.

Ms. Muñoz reminded the audience that CSUMB students contribute 60,000 hours of community service each year and urged the graduates to build on that spirit of service as they leave the university.

“This should come with a word of caution – that spirit of service may become your life’s work,” she said. She advised graduates to continue to engage with the people around them, “especially those who are different from you.” And, she suggested that they indulge in a little peace and quiet every now and then.

Her last piece of advice: “Always be grateful to the people who got you here, and pay it forward by helping others achieve their dreams.”

Director of the Monterey Bay Aquarium Julie Packard urged the graduates to action.

Ms. Packard was awarded an honorary doctor of science degree at the ceremony. She and the aquarium have become a force for advancing ocean conservation worldwide through the aquarium’s exhibits and programs, and its work in scientific research, education and public policy.

“The ocean is central to our lives,” she said. “It’s our pantry, our lungs, our playground. It’s a massive driver of global commerce and an incubator for innovative technologies that will drive our future.”

She told the students “unless we wake up and attend to the nature that sustains us, we won’t be able to pursue our dreams and aspirations, whatever they may be.

“You have the power for change,” she reminded them. “Use it.”

The ceremony opened with the traditional welcome in Spanish, Japanese, Chinese and Vietnamese, delivered by the members of the faculty. Student speaker Alijah Jade Marquez, winner of the President’s Award for Exemplary Student Achievement, was next on the podium. She reminded students that everyone has the ability to impact the world, by saving the life of a friend or influencing the lives of millions. “No act is insignificant,” she said.

Dr. David Anderson from the Division of Social, Behavioral and Global Studies, and Dr. Josina Makau from the Division of Humanities and Communication, were awarded emeritus status acknowledging their service to the university.

Read Ms. Muñoz’s remarks here

View a photo gallery here