MAYOR ARRIGO’S COMMENCEMENT SPEECH AS PREPARED FOR DELIVERY:
To the Class of 2017:
Congratulations. You’ve made it to one of the most significant milestones of your life - high school graduation.
So take a moment to be proud of yourselves for everything you’ve accomplished.
And let’s all take a moment to show our appreciation for your parents, your teachers, and all of your loved ones. Because without their support, today would not be a reality.
Class of 2017: get ready. The challenges you face are only just beginning.
Regardless of your next step, you are heading out into a world that is challenging and complicated.
It’s hard not to feel like our country is more divided than it’s been in a long time, on just about every issue imaginable.
People feel like they have license to say nasty things about one another just because they look different, or speak a different language, or worship differently, or don’t agree on every political issue.
For decades, it felt like the world was getting more peaceful, more cooperative, and less prejudiced. But it hasn’t quite felt that way over the last few years.
But here’s the good news: you have the ability to change this.
The world right now is pushing everyone - especially people in public life - to the extremes, whether it be on the far left, or on the far right. We’ve sorted ourselves into groups, and you have to agree with everyone in your group on every little thing, or else you’re out.
I’m asking you, the class of 2017, to reject this trend toward division.
This should be easy for you, as Revere High School graduates.
In our city you’ve already been exposed to perspectives of people from all over the world, with different viewpoints. Continue to seek out the views of others.
This is especially important for those of you heading to college this fall.
College campuses are becoming highly polarized places, where only the loudest and most extreme opinions are heard. Not only that, you hear more and more stories of people trying to silence others who disagree.
This is not how we will unify our country. This is not how we’ll solve the many problems we face as a society.
We are not going to be able to address those problems unless we reject viewing everything through a partisan or ideological lens. We are all in this together, and nobody has all the answers.
So here’s my challenge to you as you head off to the real world.
Read writers who disagree with your opinions. Listen to people who have different perspectives. If someone is saying something you disagree with, don’t shout them down - ask questions. Learn why they feel the way they do. And learn how to stand up for yourself, and explain how you feel - without putting others down.
If you ever feel like you’re the smartest person in the room - find a new room. There are always people to learn from - people who know things you do not.
You all represent the most highly educated generation of Americans, ever. You’re going to need to put that education to good use, because we’ve got a lot of work to do.
Now, before I let you go, I’d also like to leave you with a plug for the importance of paying attention to what’s going on at the local level.
I know that whatever the President is tweeting about today gets all the headlines.
But at the end of the day, the things that really impact your life each and every day are decided at the local level, by people like me, and the others on this stage.
Your local elected officials make decisions on everything from your schools, to your public safety. We’re responsible for making sure your streets and sidewalks get paved, and that your water stays clean. Our job is to plan what your city - our city - is going to look like in 5, 10, or 20 years. This is incredibly important work.
I know a lot of you are going off to college, and that will be a great opportunity for you to broaden your horizons and think globally. But after college, I hope many of you will feel the pull of home, and come back here to Revere.
Either way, you’ll settle down somewhere. And that place will have its own set of unique issues and challenges.
So my message today is this: wherever you land, get involved. Pay attention. Ask questions. Respect those who disagree with you, but never be afraid to fight for what you believe in.
None of these things are easy to do. But i know you have what it takes. You’ve made it this far. Now go out and make the world a better place. We’re counting on you.
Thank you. And congratulations!