Advice for the Class of 2021: “Carry Berkeley With You”

After a long journey filled to the brim with unexpected twists and turns, the time has finally arrived for UC Berkeley’s Class of 2021 to graduate. Years of growth and transformation, beginning with the seemingly distant days of anxiously waiting for college acceptances, campus tours, and that fateful commitment to Cal, are now coming to an end under challenging circumstances that still feel unusual after all this time.

Despite these circumstances, the Class of 2021 showcased their admirable ability to persevere through even the darkest of days to reach the long-awaited light at the end of the tunnel. More importantly, the Class of 2021, throughout their years of transformation, created light of their own through the friends they made, the experiences they enjoyed, and the knowledge they accumulated at the number one public university in the world. The group of friends who will stay by their side even after this upcoming graduation, the first glances into a life away from home, their memories of Cal and the adventures it brings are all examples of this light. Although they traded their lecture halls for computer screens, it’s these moments of light that will define the Class of ’21’s Berkeley experience and shape their not-too-distant futures.

As the Class of ’21 looks to the future, it’s important to look to the past for one of the most valuable resources a college graduate can receive: advice. Throughout Cal’s history, the invitation of commencement speakers to deliver their wisdom to graduating classes has been a longstanding tradition. In looking back through the years of powerful speeches delivered at the UC Berkeley (or Blockeley) campus, one can find a plethora of valuable advice to bridge the gap between the Cal experience and a life beyond university. Here are key takeaways from some of Cal’s recent commencement speakers:

“Put yourself in the shoes of the less fortunate and have empathy. You are blessed to be graduating from one of the top institutions in the world. Not everyone has that opportunity.” —Maz Jobrani ’93

Stay empathetic as you navigate your future.

“If I could drive one point home with you today it would be to put yourself in the shoes of the less fortunate and have empathy. You are blessed to be graduating from one of the top institutions in the world. Not everyone has that opportunity. So when you come across others in America or around the world who are less fortunate than you, be open to them and try to understand their experiences.” —Maz Jobrani ’93

Uplift voices and share your own.

“Always look around the table and invite in voices that are not heard. And if you’re the one who can offer an unheard perspective, something that can move our shared humanity forward, have the courage to speak up, even when it feels difficult. Real progress requires moments of tension. If we approach these moments with generosity and curiosity, rather than resistance and blame, we can find entirely new ways forward.” —Wendy Kopp

“If I could drive one point home with you today it would be to put yourself in the shoes of the less fortunate and have empathy. You are blessed to be graduating from one of the top institutions in the world. Not everyone has that opportunity. So when you come across others in America or around the world who are less fortunate than you, be open to them and try to understand their experiences.” —Maz Jobrani ’93

Understand that we are stronger together.

“You are an active part of something bigger than yourself—more than previous years—you are a community. You can accomplish more together than you can alone. You’ll go on to do incredible things, but remember that building with others is essential to your success. Innovation starts when people come together, ideas are shared, and a common goal is established— creating amazing things that couldn’t happen alone.” —Lydia Winters “[E]very single one of us on this pale blue dot are inextricably connected and it is with this realization that we are all linked together, that no matter what race, gender, religion, or nationality—we all have a moral and ethical duty to each other.” —Min-Liang Tan

Stay curious.

“When you approach life with a curious mindset, you will find that there are always opportunities, even in a chaotic world where everything is upside down. Especially in a chaotic world!” —Justin Kan

Learn from our lowest moments to build a brighter future.

“Members of the Class of 2020, as you enter a society that is facing unprecedented tumult, these places of solace will have even more meaning for you. Find in them the strength that will allow you to face a world that has been torn apart, and to re-envision and reshape it into one that is more just and more beautiful.” —Carol Christ

Keep memories of Cal with you.

“Though your college career is reaching its end, I hope you will carry Berkeley with you—in the connections you’ve made, in the lessons you’ve learned, in the memories you feel in the blood and along the heart. I hope that this institution can remain a source of peace, calm, and hope for you in troubled times—and a place to which you will return often, both in person and in your mind’s eye.” —Carol Christ

By Joseph “Joey” Montoya, Class of 2021


What advice do you have for the Class of 2021? Drop us an email with wisdom and warm wishes for our newest graduates. We’ll share our favorites in Cal Connection and on social media!

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