26 Jun

If you weren’t able to attend the commencement ceremony, read on for a selection of advice, praise and wishes for the graduates.

You strengthen the labor movement

AFL-CIO President Emeritus John Sweeney to the graduates:

The shining example you provide for the current and future students strengthens the labor movement by demonstrating that education is one of our highest priorities.

Your ticket to change the world

Wilma Liebman to the graduates:

I am confident that the high ideals of NLC will inspire you to do great things. Remember that without struggle, there is no progress. Use your degree as a ticket to change the world. 

Liebman was granted an honorary degree for her years of service to working people and the labor movement. She served on the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) from 1997 to 2011, the third longest serving member in its history.

In 2009, President Obama appointed Liebman as chair. She over came political hurdles to bring back integrity to the work of the NLRB and justice and respect for the rights of union workers nationwide.

Re-Energize! Rethink!

Reverend James Lawson inspired the graduates to reshape ‘plantation’ capitalism, sexism and racism to create a future greater than they could imagine:

You and I have the power to change this country…We must not be weary; the best is yet to be…We have an unimaginable possibility to serve ourselves and others. With great joy and enthusiasm, pick up the cudgels of work!

The Rev. Lawson commended the graduates for going back to school:

You represent a generation of unusual graduates in this season of graduations. You have mixed work, family, friends and learning all in one package. This encouraged you in the direction of becoming a whole person. Fully alive; fully laboring; fully loving; fully living–because that after all is what this gift of life we’ve been given is about. Nothing less is worth living.

Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. called Lawson “the leading theorist and strategist of  nonviolence in the world.” Lawson was the architect of the sit in campaign and helped coordinate the Freedom Rides in 1961 and the Meredith March in 1966. For the last ten years, he has taught at UCLA.

You earned our admiration

Dean Daniel Katz, PhD. congratulated the graduates:

You have persevered in the face of complex and unpredictable work and family responsibilities; you spent your time and your money, and fought against your own self-doubts. For all of that, you deserve to feel proud and you earned our admiration. 

He explained that at NLC, it is a collective education that students receive, similar to how early labor leaders learned.

As graduates of NLC, you owe a debt to those that came before you and supported you throughout. Not one to pay back, but to pay forward by continuing to organize and inspire and educate, and to send more union members and their families to college.

…The future of the labor movement, our future, is in your collective hands, and your collective minds and your collective imagination.

What are your words of wisdom for the Class of 2012?