Notre Dame grads encouraged to be compassionate peacemakers

Published: May. 21, 2023 at 10:07 PM EDT
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SOUTH BEND, Ind. (WNDU) - Send a volley cheer on high, as the Notre Dame class of 2023 are now officially college graduates.

This marks the 178th commencement ceremony at the University of Notre Dame.

With Notre Dame Stadium serving as the backdrop, students were given words of encouragement as they go out into the world to test what they have learned at the university.

“Even though we are young forces in the world, we have powerful voices and strong opinions that can help others in ways we may never imagine,” says Notre Dame 2023 valedictorian Kristen Helen Friday.

Friday, who struggled with a speech impediment as a child, urged fellow graduates to be courageous, delight in uncertainty, and be a force for good.

“We are tasked for the rest of our lives with using our skills for the greater good,” Friday said. “We have learned the importance of risking failure, of seeking truth, and of taking leaps of faith, all for the purpose of being mindful, strong-willed, and contributing members of society.”

A co-founder of Notre Dame Women in Computer Science club, Friday encouraged fellow students in computer technology fields.

She was also essential in a project funded by Ford Motor Co. To develop a system that gathers data and improves alerts on vehicles in heavy-traffic areas.

Miguel Antonio Costa, Jr., the 2023 salutatorian, led the ceremony’s invocation. Costa was the first person from his family to attend college and served as president of 1stG ND, a club that assists first-generation and low-income students.

During his keynote address, Former Columbian President and 2016 Nobel Peace Prize recipient Juan Manuel Santos motivated students to leave their alma mater as peacemakers.

“Be compassionate, be tolerant, and be simply good people because out of compassion, tolerance, and kindness, a better world will be born,” says Juan Manuel Santos, President of Colombia from 2010 to 2018.”

Santos was influential in the effort to end the 52-year war between Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia, or FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia), and the Columbian Government.

“That is the goal of any peace process; to turn from weapons to words, from bullets to ballots, and from violence to freedom and democracy,” Santos said.

He spoke about the importance of working together instead of working alone.

“Human beings insist that only they, not their fellow humans, know the correct course of action,” Santos said. “It is better to be at peace than to prove to anyone that you are right. Work with peace in your heart, find peace in your soul, and everything else will follow.”

In closing, President Santos wished Fighting Irish graduates the best of luck in their future endeavors.

“I will be wishing you all the luck in the world as you leave this wonderful university,” Santos said. “So, Go Irish, and go class of 2023.”

Notre Dame undergraduate students were presented with 2,141 degrees on Sunday, and 3,200 degrees were bestowed upon students throughout the weekend. Attendance for the commencement ceremony was 24,800 people.

The 2023 Laetare Medal recipient is Sister Rosemary Connelly, R.S.M.

Sister Connelly is the former executive director of Misericordia, a Chicago-based non-profit that meets the needs of mild to profound developmentally disabled children. They currently have over 600 children in their care.

“May God bless and keep you. Congratulations,” says Notre Dame President Fr. John Jenkins, C.S.C.

Congratulations to all the 2023 Notre Dame graduates, honorees, and award recipients.

Click this link to view the entire University Commencement Ceremony.