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‘Set Sail for Far Horizons’: Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis Addresses BC Graduates at Commencement

Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis urged Boston College’s Class of 2022 not to follow the words of a famous Greek song that translates to “I’m afraid of the things that will happen to me, without me” during his commencement address on Monday.

“I have such great faith in your generation to not repeat the mistakes of the past,” Mitsotakis said. “But in order to do so, in order to fulfill your solemn duty to pass on to your children a better one than the one you inherited, you need to do things differently.” 

University President Rev. William P. Leahy, S.J., kicked off the ceremony by welcoming the audience members in Alumni Stadium as well as the 1,000 who watched through the YouTube livestream. He also presented Mitsotakis and four other individuals with honorary degrees.

“This commencement is a time for us to think about the future and how we can and must respond not solely as individuals, but also as members of a global community,” Leahy said. 

Leahy spoke on various global issues in his speech—including human rights violations occurring in the Russia-Ukraine war—which he said require “engagement and just solutions” in order to be properly addressed. 

“We live in a world and nation that desperately needs people of intelligence, faith, and commitment to work for the good of society; to root out racial, social, and economic inequality; and to strive to end violence, poverty, and illiteracy,” Leahy said. 

In his commencement address, Mitsotakis quoted multiple historical figures, including Václav Havel—the commencement speaker at Mitsotakis’ graduation from Harvard University in 1995—and famous Greek writer Nikos Kazantzakis—who Mitsotakis said spoke of a renewal of personal responsibility. 

“Kazantzakis wrote, ‘Tell yourself I alone will save the world, and if all is lost it will be my fault,’” Mitsotakis said. “It is this sentiment that led me into a life of public service as an elected member of parliament, and it is this underlying message of collective responsibility and individual actions that I hope your generation will carry forward.” 

Mitsotakis advised the graduating class to begin its post-college journey engaging with its civic duties. 

“For those of you who are contemplating public service, I wholeheartedly encourage you to pursue that path because if the best and brightest don’t enter the public domain, then you are leaving space for others to do so,” Mitsotakis said. 

Mitsotakis also referenced writings from Sophocles’ Antigone that placed a civil responsibility on “ordinary” citizens, telling the graduates to utilize their education to improve the world. 

“Reinventing democracy for the 21st century may sound like a tall order, but this is the challenge ahead of you,” said Mitsotakis. “And I urge you—don’t leave it to others to ensure the survival of our democratic ideas.” 

Following the academic procession, the 2022 commencement ceremony began at 10 a.m. in Alumni Stadium. After the main commencement exercises, students received their diplomas at individual school ceremonies. 

Nolan Ziemniak, MCAS ’22, said he has spent time imagining life after BC ahead of the commencement ceremony. He said he looks forward to working and having a nicer place to stay, but he will miss people from the University.

“I’m definitely gonna miss waking up next to like my best friends every day,” Ziemniak said. 

After graduation, Maddie Wildes, CSOM ’22, said she is staying in Greater Boston and will not be a stranger to BC.

“[We] definitely already talked about coming back to games next year, and that makes it better for sure, knowing that we’ll be back,” she said.

Ziemniak said graduating is an experience that is filled with “love and hate.” 

“I love that I get to graduate, but I hate that I get to leave all my friends … and kind of move on in life,” he said.

Wildes said experiences such as the Red Bandana football games and ALC Showdown stand out as core memories of the past four years, but she said she also found joy in the smaller moments like eating dinner on campus with friends or traveling into Boston. 

Matthew He, MCAS ’22, said he looks forward to “just being out there in the world.”

“It’s scary. It’s an uncertain world but, you know, just embracing it, just diving into it headfirst, meeting the challenges,” He said. “I think BC has [prepared us well to] encounter these upcoming moments in our lives.” 

Just as Mitsotakis drew lessons from the history of ancient Athens throughout his speech, he referenced an ancient Greek spirit that “rejoiced in life” to inspire the graduates that sat before him. 

“The best advice I can give you is to not worry about the winds and storms you may encounter as you embark on life in the real world—human beings were not made for safe harbors,” Mitsotakis said. “Set sail for far horizons, and I can guarantee you it’s going to be a great adventure.”

May 24, 2022
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