‘Let us stand together in the right place’

Convocation speakers urge the Class of 2021 to build a respectful, caring community

A view from the parents’ seats of the Aug. 24 convocation. (Photo: James Byard/Washington University)

The 1,780 members of Washington University in St. Louis’ Class of 2021 came together for the first time at the end of Move-In Day, Aug. 24, for an evening of house cheers and family hugs. The annual Convocation also provided the community an opportunity to reflect on the events of Charlottesville and to commit to a Washington University that is diverse and tolerant.

Here are some words of wisdom from the 2017 speakers:

Chancellor Mark S. Wrighton arrives at Convocation followed by student keynote speaker and Civic Scholar Molly Brodsky (left) and Student Union President Sydney Robinson. (Photo: James Byard/Washington University)

“We must also confront the reality that there are people who have embraced ideological views that are truly abhorrent. The United States of America allied with many other nations to confront Nazism in the 1940s. Today, we must have the courage to confront the neo-Nazism movement that threatens us from within, not just from abroad. I am reminded of the wisdom and strength of Abraham Lincoln, who said, ‘Be sure you put your feet in the right place, then stand firm.’ Let us stand together in the right place.”  — Chancellor Mark S. Wrighton (Read full address)


The Class of 2021 hails from 49 states and 22 countries. (Photo: James Byard/Washington University)

“This past summer has been a trying time for our nation and the world, as we have witnessed tragedy at home and abroad. Know that at WashU, we as a community are committed to respect, tolerance, civility and caring for one another. As you matriculate to this wonderfully diverse community that is WashU, I hope that you will ask yourself, ‘What can I do to make a difference toward creating a world where every human being feels valued regardless of race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, nationality or political perspective?’” — Lori White, vice chancellor for student affairs

Raymond E. Arvidson, the James S. McDonnell Distinguished University Professor in Arts & Sciences, addresses Convocation. (Photo: James Byard/Washington University)

“Our university’s motto is Per Veritatem Vis. It means ‘Strength Through Truth’ — three important words that should take you through your four years. But don’t reverse the order, which some of our politicians are doing as we speak. And that is using positions for power to develop truths that may or may not be evidentially correct. That’s the reason why we are going to make you take breadth courses. We are going to make you take courses in science, social science, the humanities, language and arts. Because you are the leaders of the future, and you need that breadth as well as depth to do that job properly.”  — Raymond E. Arvidson

Student keynote speaker Molly Brodsky, a senior in Arts & Sciences, addresses Convocation. (Photo: James Byard/Washington University)

“Right now, more than ever, in this week of hatred and injustice, it’s time to invest in those around you. Invest in your community and invest in this place. That may mean stepping into some news ways of living, listening and standing up. You may not have placed yourself in that box labeled activist or ally before now, but it’s time to act in ways that set the stage for what this campus and this country could look like. You can both create yourself and create this community.” — Molly Brodsky

New students show their spirit. (Photo: James Byard/Washington University)

“Look around. Your child is not alone here at WashU. Feel good that this is the right time and place to let go.”  —George Boozalis, a member of the Parents Council and father of five Washington University students and alumni

Thousands of parents filled the Athletic Complex to watch Convocation. Others watched the live stream from Graham Chapel, Edison Theatre, Tisch Commons and May Auditorium. (Photo: James Byard/Washington University)

“Parents: Listen carefully. Under no circumstances whatsoever should you watch ‘Toy Story 3.’ ” — Provost Holden Thorp

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