Top 5 Inspirational Quotes From Drexel’s 2023 Commencement

Speakers at the June 16 University-wide ceremony shared more than just words of wisdom. Here's what President John Fry, Executive Vice President, Nina Henderson Provost Paul Jensen and University-wide speaker and honorary degree recipient Yannick Nézet-Séguin had to say.
President John Fry at the podium at Commencement.
Drexel University President John Fry addressed graduates at the 2023 Commencement ceremony. Photo credit: Kelly and Massa Photography.

Graduation quotes are meant to be one last way for students to learn from their university before leaving as alumni of their alma mater. For Drexel University's Class of 2023, that meant hearing what leaders of Drexel University as well as one of Philadelphia's cultural institutions had to say. During the University-wide ceremony held at Citizens Bank Park on June 16, the people who addressed Dragons at the podium shared messages of encouragement, advice, lessons learned and hopes expressed.

Here are five of the top inspirational quotes from Commencement:

1. Drexel University President John Fry:

For all of us, a commencement ceremony is a joyful affirmation of hope — even in the face of adversity and disruption. And let’s face it: it’s getting harder to remain hopeful about the future of our democracy and planet when adversity seems to be rapidly gaining ground. And with climate change worsening, social division deepening, artificial intelligence creating uncertainty and economic volatility becoming a fact of life, there is plenty of disruption to go around. It's also not easy to stay upbeat when longstanding support for American democracy’s bedrock values of patriotism and community engagement are eroding — especially among young adults. 

Those were the unsettling findings of a recent Wall Street Journal/University of Chicago survey, which surprisingly received limited media attention and commentary.

Was I troubled to read that Americans are growing less patriotic and civic-minded? Yes, I was.

Am I alarmed to see our country deeply divided as core pillars of our democracy, including free speech and the rule of law, are under siege? How can I not be?

Still, I have a reason to remain confident in America’s capacity for problem-solving, community-building and civic renewal. And that reason is right in front of me: this class of graduates.

Gathered before me is a group of incredibly talented and determined individuals who navigated waves of unprecedented disruption, volatility and trauma — and built a track record of considerable real-world experience and impact. 

I see before me the humane citizens and talented scientists, professionals, artists, scholars and leaders who can repair our broken democracy, drive innovation, and harness advances in technology toward solving existing problems — without creating new ones.

2. University-wide speaker and honorary degree recipient Yannick Nézet-Séguin, who is the Philadelphia Orchestra music and artistic director:

Dear graduates, you are about to build the program of your lives. Choose the repertoire well. Be creative and, once again, be bold. Embrace your beliefs and your interests. Seize with urgency and passion the subjects you have chosen, and always be receptive to new ones. Be sure to leave space also to the next generation to be just as inspired and to challenge new norms. Program your lives with joy and openness. Sit next to someone different than you. Make your choices and build a better world. I, for one, can’t wait to experience it. 

Provost Paul Jensen addresses graduates in front of people with caps and gowns and 2023 on the white background.
Executive Vice President and Nina Henderson Provost Paul Jensen, PhD, at Drexel's June 16 University-wide Commencement.  Photo credit: Kelly and Massa Photography.

3. Executive Vice President and Nina Henderson Provost Paul Jensen, PhD:

I have no doubt that today is a day of many emotions: joy and pride, anticipation, nostalgia, excitement and probably some relief! Do not let this moment pass without appreciating the efforts that got you here.

Yannick Nezet-Seguin speaking, shown on the video board at citizens bank park.
Yannick Nézet-Séguin, the music and artistic director of the Philadelphia Orchestra, encouraged the Class of 2023 to be creative and bold in their post-graduate endeavors. 

4. Yannick Nézet-Séguin

The question we must ask ourselves is: How can we respond to all this madness? Especially in a world that seems increasingly divided. For me, the answer is simple: It's with music and I believe it. And, for you, well, the answer lies within you. Now is your time to seek it, to pursue it and to implement your vision for a more inclusive world. You can help carry the torch of change, unity and compassion.

5. Yannick Nézet-Séguin:

This is your moment to be actively inclusive. On my own playlist, the music of Beyoncé, Jill Scott and Lil Nas X is shuffled with that of Mozart, Bach and Florence Price. I choose beauty of expression, of course, and inspiration and originality over style or genre or era. And I am captivated by artists who have something to say, something personal. You, too, have something important to say — each and every one of you. This is your chance to seek your own expressive voice, with your own words. Give those words space and time and share them generously and widely.