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Undergrads Make 'Blueberry Pie' Memories at 2019 Commencement Ceremony

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Alyssa Hurst

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Alyssa Hurst
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Undergrad Commencement

At the 2019 University of Denver undergraduate Commencement ceremony, speaker Freeman Hrabowski III couldn’t help but remember his grandmother’s delicious blueberry pie.

“My grandmother would like to have me sit and do my little algebra while I had blueberry pie all over my face. I was getting fatter and smarter, and she would say, ‘You just keep eating baby. You enjoy yourself.’ I can still taste that blueberry pie,” recounted Hrabowski, president of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County.

“Well, this is your blueberry pie moment — a moment when you remember all the love you’ve got around you. Remember this when times are tough.”

As DU’s fresh graduates move into the future, confronting both the highs and lows of life, they’ll remember collecting their degrees in Magness Arena, surrounded by more than 1,000 peers and countless family members and friends. 

Hrabowski’s grandmother was just one of the many figures whose life lessons he shared with the Class of 2019.

Shirley Chisholm, the country’s first black congresswoman, was cited to inspire the graduates to believe in themselves and imagine the possibilities.

Maya Angelou’s “On the Pulse of Mornin,” was quoted to encourage the graduates to sculpt and mold their dreams into reality.

Nobel laureate Isidor Isaac Rabi was referenced to remind graduates to continue learning, to harness the power of curiosity and to ask tough questions.

And fellow DU classmates, whom Hrabowski spoke with as he wrote his speech, were enlisted to remind the graduates, bedecked in crimson and gold, to reflect on the amazing journey they took to earn their degrees.

History also played an important role in the day’s messages. Hrabowski noted that 100 years ago this month, Congress gave women the right to vote. He also spoke of his grandmother’s tenacity when faced with Alabama’s use of literacy tests to restrict voting rights.

“We must use our power, our right, our responsibility,” he said. “You uphold democracy when you vote and when you tell people the truth.”

Student speaker Bryce Armijo-Hubbard’s words drew upon the 1969 Stonewall riots, as he thanked members of the LGBTQ+ community fought for equality. “Without their sacrifice, without the sacrifice of farm workers, and without the sacrifice of my ancestors who were brought to this country against their will and whose names were not their own I, and scores of other students of color and marginalized students, would not be present in this very hall today,” he said.

Even as Hrabowski asked graduates to look to history for guidance, he also offered some advice for the future: “Class of 2019, I challenge you to watch your thoughts. They become your words. Watch your words. They become your actions. Watch your actions. They become your habits. Watch your habits. They become your character. Watch your character. It becomes your destiny.”

In her remarks, Chancellor Rebecca Chopp offered her own challenge to the graduates, as she welcomed them to DU’s alumni network of more than 140,000. “Our nation and world look to your creativity, intellect and critical reasoning; your skills and knowledge; your compassion and leadership as you take on new challenges. You combine a path-breaking spirit with intellect, ethical judgment and a desire to seek solutions. Go now and enrich the world, and you will make your alma mater proud.”

To watch Freeman Hrabowski's full speech, click here

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