Dr. Evan Wolfson Tasked Graduates to ‘Pick Up the Baton’

Students gathered at UIC Pavilion to celebrate the graduation of NEIU’s Spring 2016 class.

With the lack of a budget looming over the 2016-17 academic year, keynote speaker Dr. Evan Wolfson struck an empowering note.

As he was awarded an honorary doctoral degree from NEIU, Wolfson, the president of Freedom to Marry, led the charge in the fight for marriage equality. According to slate.com, Wolfson launched a campaign that strategically targeted democratic states to work their way up to the Supreme Court decision that changed America.

Wolfson explained how the LGBT community took their point of discrimination and changed popular opinion on it. He described marriage as the “preeminent language of love” and how his campaign changed the hearts, minds and the law on a national scale.

He evoked the same spirit that won the battle for gay rights to send the graduates into the world.  Pulling anecdotes from his fight for marriage equality, the award winning musical “Hamilton,” and other notable figures, Wolfson gave the graduates a blueprint and mission of how to change the world.

“We the people can form a more perfect union. We can speak out and organize and work. We can help our sisters and brothers, our fellow citizens rise to the better angels of their nature. We can create and claim power, come together, and achieve democratic change,” he said. “And so through struggle and sacrifice and stumbles, through many noisy battles, and millions of quiet conversations, through a winning combination of the Constitution’s human rights guarantees, a decades long movement, a strategy, a successful campaign.”

The graduates listened as Wolfson told them, “There is nothing America needs more than a diverse community of students prepared for leadership and service in a dynamic multicultural world.”

There was no illusion about the challenges that await the new leaders as they go into the world.

“The promise of our Constitution, of our country, is something that we Americans of every generation in every century have always had to work for,” Wolfson stated.

NEIU has provided their students with a unique education at the most diverse university in the Midwest. The world needs the skills that students have acquired. Wolfson quoted Senator Julian Castro’s statement that “the American Dream is not a sprint or even a marathon, but a relay. Our families don’t always cross the finish line in the span of one generation, but each generation passes on to the next the fruits of their labors.”

According to slate.com, Wolfson helped a non-gay attorney representing a same-sex couple – who sued the state of Hawaii for marriage recognition – take the couple’s case to the state supreme court in 1996.

He urged the new graduates to pick up the baton and carry on the fight for the true American Dream, civil rights and equality for all, as Wolfson quoted from the poet Richard Blanco, “Every story begins inside a story that is already begun by others.