Top 10 Quotes from Drexel’s 2024 Commencement

Need some inspiration for facing what comes next? Drexel graduates heard words of encouragement, fortitude and advice at this year’s University-wide ceremony.
Sheryl Lee Ralph with arms raised while speaking at the podium at Drexel's 2024 Commencement.

Sheryl Lee Ralph gave the keynote address at Drexel University's 2024 Commencement ceremony. All photos in this story credited to Kelly & Massa Photography.,

In 2022, Sheryl Lee Ralph went viral for a historic, emotional and unique speech back when she won the Emmy for Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series for “Abbott Elementary” at the 74th Emmy Awards. 

About two years later, she spoke to Drexel University graduates as the 2024 University-wide Commencement speaker at a special graduation event — and her speech was just as inspirational, personal and heartfelt.

All the speakers at that June 14 ceremony shared their own stories, personal beliefs and ideas and hopes for the futures of not just graduates but the world they will inherit. Also addressing the Drexel graduates were Drexel University President John Fry and two undergraduate and graduate student leaders chosen to address the crowd on behalf of their class.

Here are 10 of the most inspirational quotes from this year’s Commencement ceremony at Drexel University:

1. Sheryl Lee Ralph:

“What I’m about to say is probably one of the most important things that you might hear today at this point in your life. Do not, I repeat, do not live your parents’ dream unless it happens to be your own. Do not live your mother’s dream. Do not live your father’s dream. Live the dreams you have for yourself. Your dreams, your goals and your aspirations are very important.”

2. John Fry: 

“Collectively, you represent a most reassuring vital sign. Graduates, you are going places where you will have the privilege to make lasting contributions to everyone whose lives you will touch.”

Drexel President John Fry on stage at Drexel's 2024 Commencement.

President John Fry on the stage for Drexel's 2024 Commencement ceremony.

3. Vivek Babu, 2024 graduate of biological sciences in the College of Arts and Sciences’ BS+MD Early Assurance Program and president of the Undergraduate Student Government Association:

 “Ultimately, the sobering reality of graduation is that we do not know where the future lies in six months, a year or even 10 years. But here’s what I am certain about: Without community, we are incomplete. When our achievements are rooted in collaboration, authenticity and mutual respect; when we stand in solidarity with those who share our pain and joy; and when we lift one another up in hopes of collective success, our lives are enriched with purpose, optimism and hope for the path ahead of us.” 

4. Sheryl Lee Ralph:

“Right now, as you step forward, remember that success is not in just grand achievement, but it is in small acts of kindness, courage and integrity. And it's not just about you reaching your own goals — it's about you making sure you bring others with you.”

5. Cimi Patani, who graduated this year with a MS in electrical engineering from the College of Engineering and formerly served as president of the Graduate Student Association:

“Have you ever beaten up yourself even after you achieved something, but you went on to compare yourself with others, not giving the credit that you deserve? Relatable, huh? I’m doing it right now. In this world where all advantages are temporary and all disadvantages are permanent, being grateful for your journey, your personal struggles and your personal growth … forces you to appreciate your life and be at peace. It keeps you grounded when striving for more, making even setbacks easier to handle.”

Vivek Babu speaking into a microphone at Drexel University's 2024 Commencement ceremony.

Vivek Babu addressed the crowd on the behalf of the undergraduate Class of 2024 at Drexel's Commencement.

6. John Fry:

“237 years ago and five miles north of where we gather today, our Founders created our Constitution, the charter for the world’s oldest democracy. At the end of the Constitutional Convention, Benjamin Franklin was asked, ‘Well, Dr. Franklin, what have we got? A republic or a monarchy?’ Franklin famously replied, ‘A republic — if you can keep it.’ Members of the Class of 2024: Our democracy and our planet are now yours to protect and to keep. I know both are in good hands.”

7. Vivek Babu: 

“There will be people who try to convince you that it’s a dog-eat-dog world where success demands selfishness. They will insist that your gain, your win, your success must come always at the expense of someone else’s failure. And let me be clear: I’m not going to tell you that they are fully wrong. There are indeed moments where bravery becomes non-negotiable and where we must fight tooth and nail for our dreams and build the future we envision for ourselves. But today, as we cross the finish line with diploma in hand, in rain, in sun and in wind, we are tasked with something far greater than ourselves: we are tasked with creating community.”

8. Sheryl Lee Ralph: 

“Honey, I do not look like my journey. I came off the rough side of the mountain. There were bad breaks, heart breaks, mistakes, disappointments. There were times I thought about giving up, but I learned a very valuable lesson. In this life, there is always somebody waiting right there to block you from your blessing. And that person is you. Nobody can ever, will ever, do a better job of standing in your way than you.”

9. Cimi Patani: 

“Would you expect yourself to run a marathon with a fractured leg? If your body is telling you something, listen to it intently. If you need rest, time, etc., be respectful enough to acknowledge that. Emotions are to be felt; respect that.” 

A screen showing Cimi Patani speaking at the podium at Drexel University's 2024 Commencement ceremony.

Cimi Patani shown on screen during her speech at Drexel's 2024 Commencement.

10. Sheryl Lee Ralph: 

“Switch on your moral compass. It will provide you with a lifelong sense of direction, choosing between right and wrong, and you do know the difference. That moral compass will keep you in touch with integrity in your personal and professional conduct.”