Category: University News

Title: 12 Pieces of Wisdom Commencement Speakers Offered Georgetown’s Class of 2024

This commencement weekend, the Class of 2024 heard from business executives, public policy savants, award-winning journalists and alumni as they earned their Georgetown degrees.

From Jerome Powell (L’79), chair of the Federal Reserve, who advised graduates to give back to their communities, to CBS journalist Norah O’Donnell (C’95, G’03), who reminded the Class of 2024 about the importance of quality relationships, this year’s speakers left graduates with nuggets of advice to take with them into their next stage of life.

Take a look at some of the words of wisdom from these speakers as Georgetown’s newest alumni go out to be people for others in a world full of need.

Sanjay Gupta getting his honoroary degree from PResident DiGioia and the dean.
Photo by Elman Studio.

Dr. Sanjay Gupta

CNN Chief Medical Correspondent and host of Chasing Life

“I’ll just say it, you’re smart. You’ve proven it. So instead, spend your time becoming wise. There’s a difference. A smart person knows the right answers. A wise person knows the right questions. Spend your time, graduates, asking the right questions, even if they seem dumb, because those are often the questions everyone else is too afraid to ask.”

Learn more about Gupta’s speech, and watch his address at the School of Medicine’s commencement ceremony on May 19.

Dr.  Patricia “Tish” Polgar-Bailey
 giving her commencement speech


Dr.  Patricia “Tish” Polgar-Bailey

Family Nurse Practitioner and Integrative Care Provider

“Class of 2024, please remember that there are no ordinary moments. Every interaction is sacred, you have everything you need. Resist the temptation to skim over the depths of your life, cultivate joy and do not lose heart.”

Learn more about Polgar-Bailey’s speech, and watch her address at the School of Nursing’s commencement ceremony on May 17.


Most Rev. Evelio Menjivar-Ayala at the podium giving his speech

Most Rev. Evelio Menjivar-Ayala

Auxiliary Bishop of Washington

“In your future endeavors, I would encourage you to always have the spirit of gratitude in your heart and often say those words we learned as young children, ‘thank you’ and ‘please.’ Whether you are in an entry-level position or as a manager of others, these simple gestures mean a great deal and contribute to a better work environment, better human relations and a better world. 

It also helps us appreciate everything, even small things and small acts of kindness, because we take everything as a gift and not necessarily as something deserved or earned. Everything in life comes as a gift, a gift that is not necessarily free.”   

Learn more about Menjivar-Ayala’s speech, and watch his address at the College of Arts & Sciences’ commencement ceremony on May 18.

Norah O'Donnell at the SCS commencement
Photo by Elman Studio.

Norah O’Donnell (C’95, G’03)

Anchor and Managing Editor of CBS Evening News

“This I know is true. Of all that I have done and learned through my education here at this same graduate school, from friends and family to interviewing the most fascinating people in the world, it is this: The quality of your life is built on the quality of your relationships. That’s it. That’s my thesis for a well-lived life.”

Watch O’Donnell’s speech at the School of Continuing Studies’ commencement ceremony on May 16.

Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala giving her speech as the crowd looks on at her
Photo by Elman Studio.

Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala

Director-General of the World Trade Organization

“So look beyond the bleak environment you see around you now and ask yourselves, ‘What solutions can I bring to the problems around?’ Whether it is protesting injustice so you can get change, or working to decarbonize our environment, or starting an enterprise to create jobs for yourselves and others, you can be an agent for change. You can bring solutions to the world’s problems.” 

Watch Okonjo-Iweala’s speech at the Walsh School of Foreign Service’s undergraduate and graduate commencement ceremonies on May 18.

Powell on a large projector screen on stage at commencement
Photo by Elman Studio.

Jerome H. Powell (L’79)

Chair of the Board of Governors, Federal Reserve System

“Each of you has the capability to achieve success in any field you choose. It is important that you also consider how to give back and use your gifts to make a difference. Reflect on the motto of this school: ‘Law is but the means; justice is the end.’”

Watch Powell’s virtual speech at Georgetown Law’s commencement ceremony on May 19.

His Excellency Mohammad Al Gergawi giving his address

His Excellency Mohammad Al Gergawi

Minister of Cabinet Affairs of the United Arab Emirates

“Remember to serve always with empathy and to dream big and always have hope, have a bigger purpose than yourself, and believe in the goodness of people. May you design a brighter future for humanity.”

Learn more about Al Gergawi’s speech, and watch his address at the McDonough School of Business’ graduate commencement ceremony on May 17.

Imani Perry getting her honorary degree on stage with President DiGioia

Imani Perry (L’02)

Henry A. Morss, Jr. and Elisabeth W. Morss Professor of Studies of Women, Gender and Sexuality and of African and African American Studies, and Carol K. Pforzheimer Professor at Harvard Radcliffe Institute

“As scholars, our capacities for discernment and inquiry can and should be organically shared as we exist in relations of care with the people around us. That’s the thing about education: when you have it, you can touch everyone in your midst with it because education is a seed as well as a blooming. It is the product of an individual receiving instruction, of course, but if you choose to put it to purpose in every facet of your life, it also makes you a teacher not just as a job but also as a vocation.”

Watch Perry’s speech at the Graduate School of Arts & Sciences’ commencement ceremony on May 17.

Ann Misiaszek Sarnoff giving her commencement speech

Ann Misiaszek Sarnoff (B’83)

Board Member of PayPal, Cineworld and WTA Ventures and Former Chair and CEO of Warner Bros. Entertainment

“You will have a bad boss, maybe two. You will take a job that you realize is not a good fit, and you will have personal setbacks. What do you do when those things happen — call mom or dad? Of course, you do! But as much as they love you, your parents probably won’t be able to give you all the help you’ll need. Your own history and constitution — including your special underdog status as the original COVID-19 graduation class from McDonough — will help you ski through those bumps.”

Learn more about Sarnoff’s speech, and watch her address at the McDonough School of Business’ undergraduate commencement ceremony on May 18.

Dr. Toyin Ajayi giving her speech in Gaston Hall

Dr. Toyin Ajayi

Co-Founder and CEO, Cityblock Health

“Go forth into the world. Consider your education only half complete. Spend this next chapter figuring out how to be trustworthy, and hopefully, one day, trusted. If you do this right, you will deliver on a promise of real impact on the most existential and important challenges of our lifetime. Good luck, my friends. We’re counting on you.”

Learn more about Ayaji’s speech, and watch her address at the School of Health’s commencement ceremony on May 18.

Todd Park giving his speech

Todd Park

Co-Founder and Executive Chair, Devoted Health, and Former U.S. CTO

“Service in the public interest truly transcends sectors. One can advance the public good from many seats. Public service isn’t a narrowly defined set of roles. Rather, it’s a mindset. It is a heartset. It is a calling. It is a call to work for causes greater than yourself, to protect, to advance and improve the lives and well-being of others both now and for generations to come.”

Watch Park’s speech at the McCourt School of Public Policy’s commencement ceremony on May 16.

Dr. Nkosazana Clarice Dlamini-Zuma giving her speech in GU Qatar

Dr. Nkosazana Clarice Dlamini-Zuma

Minister in the Presidency for Women, Youth, and People with Disabilities of South Africa

“Today we are not only celebrating your academic foundations but your potential to make a difference — to your families, your communities, your countries, and also to be ambassadors of Georgetown University Qatar. You must be agents of change in the world. We hope that by the time you are my age, your children and your grandchildren will be living in a better world, one that you would have contributed to create … with other young people across the world.”

Learn more about Dlamini-Zuma’s commencement speech at Georgetown University in Qatar on May 9.