Dear members of the University of Michigan family, campuses and community,

Today we’re celebrating our final commencement ceremonies. We’ve had 53 across our three campuses, and I’d like to congratulate each of you on the successful conclusion to another academic year, and to thank you for all that you did to make our finish memorable, meaningful and even magical.

I’m so proud of our graduates. They achieved this milestone through brilliance and excellence, as well as exceptional grit and determination, and I’m so pleased that they had the opportunity to celebrate this moment with their families and loved ones.

Your efforts supporting their success were so important. For many of our undergraduates this was their first commencement ceremony after high school graduations were disrupted by the pandemic four years ago, yet what was disrupted, together we achieved.

We have accomplished so much this year, and that is thanks to all of you – to your perseverance and excellence, and to your relentless and unstinting commitment to our university.

However, I would be remiss if I failed to state that this has been a challenging year for our world, our nation, and our university. As with so many other campuses around the country, the tempest of war and tumult of protest has caused many difficult hours and moments of uncertainty.

Yet we are Michigan.

We can rise. We can show a better way. We can make our world a better place.

So this fall, as part of our strategic vision, we will be embarking upon our Year of Democracy and Civic Engagement.

As we do so, we will connect, we will engage, as we have never done before. We will strengthen and augment our lines of communication internally and externally. Our university leaders from both central administration and the schools and colleges of our campuses will enhance opportunities for conversation, for listening and answering questions on a regular and ongoing basis.

And via our strategic focus this year on Democracy and Civic Engagement we will open new spaces and new opportunities for discussion and dialogue, for engaging together on difficult issues of interest with respect and humility.

You will hear more from me in the weeks ahead on our plans for the Year of Democracy and Civic Engagement. I am grateful that a group of academic leaders and faculty members have already volunteered to be part of this effort.

This is our tradition at the University of Michigan.

Since our founding more than two centuries ago, we have had difficult discussions and great debates with activist students and engaged communities.

Yet we have risen.

Amid the discord and cacophony of the day, we have come together, we found solutions, we have created a beautiful symphony.

I’m confident we can do so again today.

So as we offer our final congratulations to our graduates, and look ahead to our Year of Democracy and Civic Engagement, let us again remember who we are – heirs to an acclaimed tradition – and even more, the University of Michigan.

Thanks again, and please enjoy a restful, relaxing and restorative summer.


Santa J. Ono