Mayor Elliott Tells Wheeling University Graduates to Make a Difference in the World
WHEELING, WV – JULY 25, 2020 — Wheeling Mayor Glenn Elliott told graduates of Wheeling University Saturday, “this is your time to make a difference … what you do now, in times like this, could come to define you for the rest of your lives.”
University President Ginny R. Favede conferred undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees on more than 200 students during Wheeling University’s 62nd Commencement exercises, held for the first time on Bishop Schmitt Field. Originally slated for May 2, the ceremony was postponed due to the COVID-19 outbreak.
Elliott, who just began his second term as mayor of Wheeling, served as the Commencement speaker and was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters.
The Georgetown Law Center graduate told members of the class, “you are living through something that is both remarkable and harrowing. Something that will be talked about for generations to come. And something by which all of us may ultimately be judged by posterity.” He told the class, this is a time for action, not a time to sit on the sidelines.
The Wheeling Mayor referenced the 1960s when the Nation was in the midst of broad social change. “Who do you think was the driving force behind that change at the grass roots level? To a large extent, it was young, recent college graduates who were disenchanted with the way things were and who demanded something better. Not only for themselves, but for their brothers and sisters across racial and socio-economic dividing lines.”
Elliott said “I cannot help but sense an apathy among many of you that I find disconcerting. A sense that our politics is broken, all politicians are by definition corrupt, and any active participation in such a failed system is beneath you … Rather than rejecting politics or those who practice it outright, why not try to change both for the better? As engaged citizens. As community leaders. And perhaps, as candidates yourselves. Your only limitation in this regard is your imagination.”
The Mayor ended by telling the graduates, “Each of you will step off this campus equipped with everything you ever need to make a difference in the world around you. You have choices before you that have been non-existent for young people throughout much of human history. And, for better or worse, you are living in times of great consequence. This is not the time for indifference. This is not a time to take a pass on civic engagement. This is not a time to shrink from your obligations to your community. The decisions you make today will be judged by people not yet born. People who will inherit the world that you leave them. If you believe you are living at a time when our politics is broken, when our institutions are failing us, when our best days are behind us, what are you going to do about it?
Valedictorian Kenzie Lee Schroer of New Lexington, Ohio, told her classmates the events of 2020 will always be a part of their lives.
“We cannot change (what happened). What we can change, is the way we handle and respond to these events. Look at how much we were able to get through. We can use each and every one of these events as motivation to get through whatever challenges come our way. All successes come with some failures, and all positives come with some negatives. The difference between us and others is the way we react to the negatives and implement their outcomes into our lives,” she explained.
Schroer said she found a devotion by Christian Author Joyce Meyer that was meaningful and shared it with the graduates. “She says, ‘we will go through things in life, but the things we go through are the very circumstances, challenges, and situations that make us people who know how to overcome adversity. We do not grow or become strong during life’s good times; we grow when we press through difficulties without giving up.’ As Meyer’s words suggest, it is up to us to choose our attitudes and actions during these difficulties.”
She added, “We will be the class that everyone remembers and will always be applauded for our strength and courage during these difficult times. Although things got a little blurry in, what we thought would be the year of perfect vision, we were able to come out on top.”
The valedictorian said everyone may want to hit the ‘delete button’ on this year, but reminded her classmates, 2020 has been a learning experience. “As one chapter ends, and the next begins, always remember that you determine the outcome of your life. Using these uncertain, difficult, and stressful times for growth will help you push through all adversity, challenges, and hard times that come your way.”
President Favede, who received an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters, told the graduates, “This is the day I promised you. Today is your day. You have envisioned goals for yourselves and set yourselves to the task of achieving them, and now, you’ve done it. You have earned the honor and distinction of ‘a college graduate.’ You have all persisted despite the obstacles you encountered and today you should feel great pride for yourselves and gratitude for those family and friends who have helped you in this momentous achievement.”
The President added, “I am extremely proud of you. I know that wherever you go, the values of your Wheeling University education will shape the world for the better. Now, as you move on, please remember that you will always be members of the Cardinal family. Wherever your exciting pursuits take you, please come home to your alma mater often to share your news, your memories and your dreams. Most importantly, continue to let your light shine each and every day.”
Rishaun Hall, a member of the Black Student Union and part of the University’s Jesuit Strong program, thanked the President and University “for working diligently to make sure that our dream of walking across this stage became a reality. Class of 2020, I want you to reflect upon how, in the midst of a global pandemic, our school made it possible for us to celebrate one of our most crowning moments in our young professional career. They said what good came from Nazareth, some would even say what good could come from this pandemic? Well, Class of 2020, this is an auspicious occasion.”
The Philadelphia native said when he came to visit the campus five years ago with Cristo Rey high schools from across the country, he never imagined his “life would truly change forever. I met great individuals from this program that I will never forget, and will always have a place in my heart … The Jesuit Strong program was a pilot program (at Wheeling) that sent over 30 Cristo Rey students from urban neighborhoods to college with over 92 percent of their tuition covered. Keeping alive not only the Jesuit philosophy of being a beacon of light to their community, by helping others and seeing God in all things. And in the times that we are in now, seeing God in all things has become one of the most difficult tasks to do in this country.”
He asked his classmates to come to their feet. “Look to the left of you, now look to the right. The people that you see love you. Some even risked their lives to come here to celebrate the moment in time that will never be forgotten, the Hero Class.”
PHOTO CAPTION: Wheeling Mayor Glenn Elliott served as the speaker at Wheeling University’s 62nd Commencement Ceremonies. From left are: Mayor Elliott, Wheeling University President, Ginny R. Favede and class Valedictorian, Kenzie Schroer.