Notable Leaders Make 2023 College Commencement Speeches on Long Island

commencement speech
Judith Spitz, Ph.D., the founder and executive director of Break Through Tech, gave a commencement speech at Hofstra University on May 21. (Photo by Antonio Giammarino, Jr.)

Over the past month, Long Island colleges held their annual commencement ceremonies, with speakers from politicians to business leaders offering 2023 graduating classes plenty of words of wisdom. 

Stony Brook University, Molloy University, and Hofstra University had three of the largest commencement ceremonies and hosted notable guests. Advice ranged from how to succeed in the graduates’ chosen careers to how to be a good person.

“Your generation is better equipped than any before to adapt to these changes, overcome the obstacles they present, and seize the opportunities they afford,” said U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), one of many politicians to speak at Stony Brook’s May 19 ceremony.

Schumer added, “Graduates, the key is not to fear of the unknown. Embrace it, relish it, soak up every possibility it has to offer. Cast aside your fears and your doubts. So my advice to the class of ’23 is simple: ‘Go for it.’”

Molloy’s main commencement speaker was Catholic Charities USA President Sister Donna Markham. She left Molloy’s graduating class with the message of “creating a society that is more compassionate and more respectful of differences.”

The board-certified clinical psychologist — who is set to retire this summer — addressed the audience on May 22 with messages learned from her career dealing with people suffering from mental health struggles.

“Bullying has no place in the heart of a learned woman or man…” she said. “Always seek what is true. Never waiver from what is the right thing to do on behalf of those who have been left out or struggle to make it through life … And always refrain from demonizing the one who may hold a diametrically opposite view from your own.”

Hofstra’s May 21 spring commencement, one of the largest on Long Island, featured two main speakers for its undergraduate ceremony: Gregory J. Hlibok, the chief legal officer for the communications service company ZVRS, and Judith Spitz, Ph.D., the founder and executive director of Break Through Tech, a company focused on advancing women and underrepresented groups in the technology field.

Hlibok, who was given an honorary degree for his work in promoting equity for those with disabilities, signed his address, and asked the students to continue to try and shrink the gap for opportunities for those who are deaf like himself.

“​​The only real barrier is the misperception of deaf people’s abilities … Yes the world constantly changes in front of you, but don’t lose sight of who you are, so stay connected, find your balance in life and live with a strong sense of purpose,” he said.

Spitz, while discussing the dangers of AI in regards to its unintentional bias against underrepresented groups, hopes that the 2023 graduates can work together to promote fairness in technology. 

“Are your teams diverse enough to be able to challenge basic assumptions about the very definition of fairness?,” she asked. “These are the tough questions you will have to ask and answer, and make no mistake about it. All of our futures depend on how you manage your way through them.”