May 17, 2024

ICYMI: Warren Delivers Commencement Address at North Shore Community College

Lynn, MA - United States Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) delivered a keynote address at North Shore Community College (NSCC) today at the 58th annual commencement ceremony. 

Remarks from Senator Elizabeth Warren
As prepared for delivery
May 17, 2024

Senator Elizabeth Warren: Hello North Shore! 

Congratulations! I’m here to celebrate you!

President Heineman, thank you very much for inviting me to this year’s ceremony.

Today is the 70th anniversary of the historic Brown vs. Board of Education decision – a powerfully important day to remember that we still have much more to do to desegregate our society and our schools in particular, but also a day to remember that change is possible if and when we fight for it. It’s a great day to graduate.

So to our graduates, this is it! Our chance to celebrate an end to all those late-night cram sessions and the beginning of even more time to listen to Queen B knock it out of the park with Cowboy Carter – woohoo!

Now, here’s the thing. I have just two rules when it comes to commencement speeches: give one piece of useful advice, and keep it short. I know every minute I go over, is one more minute before you can crack open a celebratory beer – which, given the looks of you in row 4, you may have already started.

So to the class of 2024, you did it. Classes are over. Papers are finished. Exams are done. And you have made it to the finish line. One more time: Congratulations!

I think it is safe to say that it took a lot of help to get you here today. You wouldn’t be here without all the love from your family and friends – and maybe a few iced coffees from Dunkin. So let’s hear it for our families, our friends and our Dunkin!

And of course, we can’t forget the faculty, the adjunct professors, and the staff here at NSCC who helped you every step of the way. These are the people who taught you everything from anatomy to creative writing to the fact that despite what you learned as a kid, more people are in danger from heart disease than from quicksand. Let’s hear it for our teachers! 

The real reason I wanted to come here today is that I went to a commuter school that was a lot like NSCC. I got married while I was still in school. I worked to pay for tuition and books. I lived through the terror of being late for an exam because traffic was backed up. And, when life happened, I struggled to get enough credits and I had to graduate late. 

And it’s exactly those experiences that give me such deep respect for you today. You—the graduates—are the people who have mastered the hard art of making something happen – no matter what.

You all are people who have solved a million problems in order to walk across this stage today. You solved child care. Solved transportation. Solved two jobs—or maybe three. Solved a sick family member at home. Solved a tough math course and a lab class and a tricky schedule.  Solved it all to get here today. 

There were plenty of reasons to not enroll again next semester. Plenty of reasons to do something other than homework. Plenty of reasons to give up. But no matter how hard it was, you all pushed through. You hung in there and you made this day happen. Today is a celebration of all that brought you here.

It is also the foundation for my advice. You learned a lot in school. A lot from your teachers and your counselors and even your classmates. And I hope you remember all the formulas and rules and new terminology.  But I hope you remember something even more important: you can do anything. And how do I know that? Because you’ve done this. Despite the challenges, you are walking across this stage today—and the reason that is happening is because you have a very special skill set—you set goals, solve problems, and accomplish what you want. It doesn’t get much better than that. 

What comes next?  Some of you already have your next job lined out.  Some of you are signed up for another degree program.  Some of you don’t have a clue.  But either way, life will deal you a lot of twists and turns in the next few years.

So now comes the advice. Be open. Open to the unexpected. Make room for the improbable. Embrace the unlikely.

When I graduated from my commuter college, I didn’t say, US Senate, here I come. Nope. Not even close. You could actually call my plan the “get married at 19, drop out of school, get yourself back in school, have some kids, get yourself back in school again, get divorced, get remarried, move eleven times, teach school, and end up in the U.S. Senate” plan.

My plan actually felt like Velma from Scooby Doo looking for her glasses.

I never planned to get into politics. But the chaos of life not only upended my plans—it also opened doors. And when those doors cracked open, I figured, “How hard could it be? I can try this.” 

Just one example.  Several years ago, I was teaching law, and the phone rings. It’s from a former congressman who’d just been appointed to head up a commission to rewrite the bankruptcy laws. He thought I should go to DC and help him. I thought he was crazy. I didn’t know anything about politics. And I didn’t know anyone IN politics. I could think of a hundred reasons why I was not qualified to do this.

But I thought, hmmmm, if I could get through school with a baby on my hip, a toddler crying in the other room, a load of laundry in the washer, and dinner to get on the table, I could probably handle some Congressional committee in Washington.

It turned out that I was wrong. I hated that Congressional committee. Day after day, I fought the credit card companies, and I lost pretty much every battle. But I didn’t stay down. I scratched my way back, eventually setting up a new government agency that protected the little guy instead of the giant banks. Then I ran for office and became your US Senator. And now, I don’t win every time, but I win more fights than I lose.

So there’s the advice. Be open. Believe in the power of the unexpected. Believe in yourself.  Maybe you came here for a certification in nursing, but you look around and realize it’s up to you to organize the nurses for your union. Maybe you become a teacher and realize your passion is writing the books that teachers will use in classrooms. Maybe the guy you’re dating will turn out to be the guy you’ll marry – or divorce – who knows? I did both! Be open! 

An opportunity is an opportunity, and all the planning in the world can’t prepare you for what’s ahead. Nope. But the grit and perseverance I see in every single one of you today has prepared you. And c’mon, look at how that worked out for Travis Kelce – sure, he worked hard, but I’m pretty sure at the top of his bingo card he never had dating Taylor Swift.

This is your moment. Here's to you, Class of 2024! You are the future of America. Be open.  Have courage. And don’t be afraid of risks because our nation – our world – needs you.

And finally, graduates, always remember the golden rule of politics and life: don’t post on TikTok after midnight!

Thank you!