Ukrainian Ambassador to the United States Oksana Markarova urged Boston College’s graduating Class of 2023 to ask, “What is it that gives us strength?” during her commencement address on Monday.
“It is you who will be saving our world and taking your University motto ‘Ever to Excel’ to everything you will do in life,” Markarova said. “And you will need all the knowledge, all the faith, and all the strength to be able to do it.”
University President Rev. William P. Leahy, S.J., began the ceremony by welcoming the roughly 4,400 soon-to-be BC graduates, as well as their families and friends watching from the stands in Alumni Stadium or a YouTube livestream at home. He also presented Markarova and four other individuals—including Jerry York, BC ’67—with honorary degrees.
“Our world today desperately needs people of intelligence, faith, and commitment to work for the good of society to help root out racial, social, and economic inequalities, and to strive to bring an end to poverty, illiteracy, and prejudice,” Leahy said.
After offering a round of applause for faculty and staff and family members, Leahy also referenced the Russia-Ukraine War as a call for the graduating students to help make change for the better.
“You are more needed now than ever,” Leahy said. “You are now called to use your gifts and talents for the good of others, to help make our world more just and more at peace.”
In her commencement address, Markarova said responsibility, action, and love are the three most important tools people can wield to make the world better. Markarova also spoke on her experiences as an ambassador amid the Russia-Ukraine War.
“On the one hand, our heart was there with the people who fought on the frontlines,” Markarova said. “On the other hand, our role here is to talk to our partners here, so I will be here to ensure that not only all my friends and partners know what the truth is, but also to convince why it’s important for all of us and ensure support.”
Markarova called the war a fight—not just for physical land or national identity—but above all, for democracy.
In the press conference following her address, Markarova emphasized that all nations have a shared responsibility to rise to the occasion during this conflict because of its implications for democracy as a whole.
“A free Ukraine has always been a thorn in Russia’s side,” Markarova said. “A strong, successful, democratic, European Ukraine is the worst nightmare Russia has had.”
Following the ceremony, Caroline Bald, MCAS ’23, wiped away loose tears as she exited the stadium and reflected on her four years as a student. She said her most important takeaway from her college experience is to make the most out of the relationships and organizations at BC.
“I’m really just super thankful for my time at BC,” Bald said. “I have no regrets at all. And I think I’ll miss the people the most, my friendships.”
Markarova concluded by telling the graduating class that love is a force for good and urged students to remember the University as a place of freedom as they look ahead.
“Freedom is not a given, democracy is not a given,” Markarova said. “We all have many battles to fight, many obstacles to overcome, many challenges to see through. Where we all together will get strength to do it is in our responsibility to take action for what we love … At that moment you all will become truly extraordinary.”