The Commencement of the Notre Dame Class of 2018

Author: Amanda Skofstad

Editor's note: For full transcripts and videos of speeches click here.

The University of Notre Dame celebrated its 173rd Commencement Ceremony Sunday (May 20) in Notre Dame Stadium, with an audience of approximately 21,000 family members, friends, faculty and graduates.

The ceremony started after a one-hour rain delay. President Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C., and Thomas Burish, Charles and Jill Fischer Provost, welcomed the guests and introduced the speakers.  

Salutatorian Harisa Spahić offered an invocation on behalf of the graduating class, and, in his valedictory address, Andrew Grose connected his early experiences as a drummer in the Notre Dame Marching Band to the joys and challenges of finding and creating one’s own rhythm — both academically and spiritually.

“After we started getting in step with Notre Dame, we began composing our futures,” Grose said. “We began to think critically about the issues that inspired us, like sustainable development, rare diseases and international affairs.”

Grose, a member of the Glynn Family Honors Program with double majors in preprofessional studies and Spanish, spoke about the comfort of finding his rhythm as a student — and also the productive discomfort he encountered during his summer service-learning trip to El Salvador. He and his teammates worked with a pediatric health nonprofit located near the Honduran border, and Grose was asked to lead a mom and toddler song time, which required him to summon lessons from Our Lady’s University about having faith and taking risks.

“When I finally stood before the circle of mothers and their grinning babies, the songs we sang together began to unlock a deeper rhythm within me,” he said. “As we shared in song, I also earned the trust of the patients we cared for.”

Grose also reminded fellow graduates of the risk-taking legacy of former Notre Dame President Rev. Theodore M. Hesburgh, C.S.C., who died in February of their sophomore year.

“Three years ago, when we lined Holy Cross Drive and silently accompanied Father Hesburgh’s funeral procession, we were listening together for the charge Hesburgh had entrusted to us,” Grose said. “To continue our endless conversation by listening to our neighbors, grasping their hands and extending our hearts. To imagine beyond our comfort zones and to take risks. This was the song Father Ted was — and still is — playing on repeat.”

In his introduction of Judge Sérgio MoroFather Jenkins referenced the University’s close ties to several South American countries, noting that in his visits to Argentina, Brazil, Chile and Mexico, the topics of ethics and values came up repeatedly in conversations with educators, church officials and researchers from many walks of life.

Father Jenkins quoted Nobel laureate Mario Vargas Llosa, who said, “There are many admirable people in Brazil, but if I had to choose just one of them as an exemplar to show the rest of the world, I would choose Sérgio Moro in a heartbeat.”

“Our Lady’s University reached the same conclusion last year when we conferred the Notre Dame Award on Judge Sérgio Moro at a ceremony in São Paulo,” Father Jenkins said. “By addressing the pernicious problems of public corruption in a judicious but unyielding way, Dr. Moro has made a marked difference for all Brazilians and for humankind in our universal thirst for justice.”

In his speech, Moro said he realized how truly small the world is after asking himself what a judge in a Latin American country has to do with a distinguished university in the United States. He pointed to the groundbreaking legal work of G. Robert Blakey, a Notre Dame bachelor’s and law graduate and William and Dorothy K. O’Neill Chair in Law Emeritus, who is the nation’s foremost authority on the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization Act (RICO).

Moro noted that Blakey’s work with RICO heavily influenced Brazilian legislation on organized crime and corruption, including Moro’s own renowned “Lava Jato Operation,” which resulted in the imprisonment of several prominent Brazilian leaders.

“Everything is connected in this small world, and you could have a reasonable expectation that what you do here in the United States, or more specifically at the University of Notre Dame, could have a positive impact abroad, all around the globe,” Moro said. “This makes your responsibilities even bigger.”

Moro reminded the graduates always to fight for the common good, especially when faced with dynamics of deep inequality.

“Never forget to act with integrity and with virtue in your private and public life. Never stop fighting for these values within your community. Never give up on demanding virtue and integrity from your government.”

Moro received an honorary degree, along with five others: Cardinal Blase J. Cupich, archbishop of Chicago, who was appointed by Pope Francis to the Congregation for Bishops and the Congregation for Catholic Education; William M. Goodyear, a member of Notre Dame’s Board of Trustees, a Fellow of the University and the retired chairman and chief executive officer of Navigant Consulting; Kamal Hossain, an internationally renowned jurist who is considered the father of the Bangladeshi constitution; Margaret Murnane, professor of physics and electrical and computer engineering at the University of Colorado; and Louise Richardson, the vice-chancellor (chief executive) of Oxford University and an Irish political scientist.

Sister Norma Pimentel, M.J., champion of immigrants and executive director of Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley, received the 2018 Laetare Medal, the most prestigious award given to American Catholics.

Sister Pimentel recounted her own experience as the child of Mexican immigrants and encouraged the graduates to accept God’s call to stand in solidarity with those who need protection and to be a voice for the voiceless.

“Today our country, our world for that matter, is divided, polarized in two opposing sides,” Sister Pimentel said. “Those who believe we are called to primarily defend and protect ourselves — and those who believe we have a moral responsibility to defend and protect everyone we can.”

The ceremony concluded with a benediction by Cardinal Cupich, who observed that this year’s Commencement fell on Pentecost and prayed for God to inspire the graduates with the Holy Spirit.

He said: “We need this generation, Lord, to be the next greatest generation to uplift those burdened in poverty and oppression, to welcome the stranger and the immigrant, to fight bravely for justice, much like that great generation of their ancestors did in the last century.”