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Graduates urged to change the world at Ohio State commencement

More than 12,000 degrees conferred at spring 2023 ceremony

The threat of rain did not stop graduates of The Ohio State University from celebrating their achievements at the spring 2023 commencement Sunday. In fact, the weather – rain and wind broken by beautiful sun – provided a metaphor for the triumphs and tribulations faced by the class of 2023.

Spring 2023 commencement at The Ohio State University



“This is an extraordinary class,” said President Kristina M. Johnson. “You came in fall of 2019, not knowing you would leave the university for spring break on March 6, 2020, and not be able to come back in-person until that fall.”

The COVID-19 pandemic did not break the spirit of the students, however, Johnson said.

“You persevered,” she said.

Commencement speaker Bryan Stevenson asked the newest graduates to apply this dedication to making the world they are entering a better, more just place. Stevenson is the founder and executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative, a human rights organization in Montgomery, Alabama. The organization seeks to eliminate excessive and unfair sentencing, exonerate innocent death row prisoners, confront abuse of the incarcerated and the mentally ill, and aid children prosecuted as adults.

“I want us to change the world,” he said. “I want us to increase the justice quotient in our communities and nations. I want us to make the world healthier. I want us to make it safer.”

To do this, Stevenson offered four suggestions: Get proximate to those in need, change the narrative, stay hopeful and do uncomfortable things.

“Read your admission essay before you leave here,” he said. “Make sure you have the same hope leaving this university that you brought into this university. Let your guide be your hope. Believe in things you haven’t seen. Believe you can make a difference in this world.”

Spring 2023 commencement at The Ohio State University



Stevenson was awarded the honorary degree of Doctor of Public Service during the ceremony. Carla D. Hayden received an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters, Donna A. James received an honorary Doctor of Business Administration and Keith B. Key received an honorary Doctor of Public Service.

Of the 12,414 degrees conferred this semester, 286 were doctorates, 1,941 were master’s, 150 professional, 8,535 bachelor’s and 128 certificates.

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