Governor Gretchen Whitmer speaks at OU commencement

Governor Gretchen Whitmer served as the keynote speaker at the commencement ceremony for Oakland University graduates of the College of Arts and Sciences on April 28. In Whitmer’s address, she emphasized the importance of building community, making mistakes and learning new things.

Cheers rang throughout the O’Rena as Joseph Jones, Vice President of the OU Board of Trustees, introduced Whitmer as the orator.

Whitmer’s ability to find common ground by working across partisan lines was cited by Jones as the hallmark of her leadership capabilities. Jones also touched upon the governor’s commitment to increasing access to academic opportunities and improving the quality of educational settings for students statewide.

“I need you to know that in these very partisan times, Governor Whitmer has proven herself again and again as a leader, bridging partisan divides and working to get things done for the people of Michigan,” Jones said.

The Whitmer administration’s recent higher education initiatives were also highlighted by Jones. He explained equitable access to higher education is a common goal both university faculty and administration strive for.

Whitmer took Jones’ position at the podium with a warm welcome from the crowd. The governor opened her speech by sharing a personal connection she has to OU. Whitmer’s grandfather, Dr. Dana Whitmer, worked as a special assistant to the university president and served on the foundation board in the mid-1900s.

Building upon this personal anecdote, Whitmer acknowledged the importance of support systems for college graduates. She emplored each student to thank the people who believed in them, as the support of friends and family is a major factor in one’s college success.

The governor then took a moment to recognize the feeling of uncertainty many new graduates experience.

“A story doesn’t really make sense while you’re living it,” Whitmer said. “It makes sense when you look back on it. Your time here at Oakland University is an important chapter in your story.”

Laughter arose from the crowd as Whitmer recounted OU’s peculiarities. From Hamlin Hall’s unreliable elevators to the vicious geese around Bear Lake, all graduates could relate to experiencing these eccentricities.

Notable OU alumni, who now work as a part of Whitmer’s administrative team, were also recognized at the commencement ceremony. With this, Whitmer encouraged the graduating students to live and work in the state of Michigan.

“Being a part of a group of people who look out for one another is vital to your social, your mental, your emotional wellbeing. It’s what binds us together and it’s what makes us human,” Whitmer said.

Whitmer used this theme of community to remind students making mistakes is a part of human nature. According to the governor, it is imperative to respond to honest mistakes with grace and tolerance to maintain a sense of unity within society.

“If you want to go fast, go alone,” Whitmer said. “But if you want to go far, go together.”

Whitmer’s words sent the new graduates from OU’s College of Arts and Sciences on their postgraduate endeavors with strong optimism.