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USM celebrates 137th Commencement with address by award-winning journalist David Brancaccio

image of David Brancaccio

The University of Southern Maine celebrated its 137th Commencement Ceremony on Saturday with more than 900 graduate and undergraduate students marching across the Cross Insurance Arena stage following remarks by award-winning journalist David Brancaccio.

In an address that referenced Star Trek, video games and astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, the public radio and TV host challenged graduates to think critically, ignore limits, engage the future and be kind. View a transcript of Brancaccio's full remarks here.

"Don't short-change yourself," said Brancaccio, who grew up in Waterville. "Beware those who sell you short. Watch out for fake being peddled as real, the short con. And don't be shortsighted."

To see videos about a dozen 2017 Featured Graduates and read their bios, go to USM's Commencement Page here. To see a compilation video of our 2017 Featured Graduates that was shown at the start of the commencement ceremony, go here

Brancaccio's remarks punctuated a three-hour-long ceremony that also featured student commencement speaker Hawo Mohamed, who talked about her family's flight from Somalia, their adjustment to Maine and her success as a student.

"We landed in Maine, a foreign, cold place, filled with very loud and very energetic people," Mohamed said. "Our journey as new immigrants to the United States began in 1995, and 22 years later, I am standing here today, with my cap and gown, as a college graduate."

Image of student speaker Hawo Mohamed

Mohamed majored in health sciences (pre-dental) and had a work study position working with the Maine Access Immigrant Network on their SmilePartners program which delivers dental care to New Mainers.

In her speech, Mohamed focused on the efforts among students to cherish both diversity and commonality.

"We all have a common theme," she said. "We grew to understand that the path to wisdom not only includes gaining knowledge, but also being honest, thankful, and humble.

During the commencement ceremony, USM President Glenn Cummings presented Brancaccio and civil rights lawyer Mary. L. Bonauto each with an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters from the University of Southern Maine.

Image of Mary L. Bonauto

Sam Collins, the chair of the University of Maine System Board of Trustees, praised Brancaccio's work as the host of American Public Media's "Marketplace Morning Report" and the ongoing work by Bonauto, the civil rights project director at GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders. In 2015, Bonauto successfully argued before the U.S. Supreme Court in the historic case Obergefell v. Hodges, establishing the freedom to marry for same-sex couples nationwide

"Mary, in a society that appears to be increasingly less civil and tolerant of diversity in lifestyle and opinions, I applaud the work that you do on behalf of individuals that otherwise would not have an advocate," Collins said. "And David, I can't begin my day without hearing the rest of the numbers on NPR from a fellow Mainer and cyclist. You both enrich the lives of others and set a standard of excellence to which every graduate should aspire.

USM Provost Jeannine Diddle Uzzi acknowledged student Lauren Lessard of Lewiston with the Senior Husky Achievement Award for leadership.

Dean Joyce Gibson with a graduating student

"Lauren is a compassionate yet incredibly driven young professional who truly gets the best out of those she associates and/or works with," Uzzi said. "This keen ability helps foster collaboration and inclusion and it truly helps contribute to great team success regardless of what environment she is in."

View more photos from Commencement on our Facebook page.

See WGME-TV's coverage here.

See WCSH-TV's story on graduate Andrew Kiezulas here.

See the Portland Press Herald's graduation story here.

See the Lewiston Sun Journal's commencement story here.

See the Lewiston Sun Journal's story on Senior Husky Achievement Award Winner Lauren Lessard here.

See WCSH-TV's story on Brancaccio's talk with USM Corporate Partners here