10 powerful quotes from Northeastern’s commencement speakers

Photo by Matthew Modoono/Northeastern University

This is part of our coverage of Northeastern’s 2023 commencement exercises. For more information, including a livestream, photos and live coverage throughout the day, visit our dedicated commencement page.

Northeastern University’s commencement speakers lifted spirits, launched laughter and drew a few sentimental tears. 

Speakers addressed the past, present and future, they talked about Ukraine and artificial intelligence. They quoted a hockey player, politicians and even their grandparents. And they all put smiles on the many bright faces across Fenway Park on a sunny Sunday.

Here are 10 powerful quotes from the memorable ceremonies.

Man and machine

“When you leave this ceremony today, your journeys will be defined by career mobility. Geographic mobility. Global mobility. And with AR and VR, you can even move from one reality to another. This is where your Northeastern education gives you an advantage. Your time at Northeastern was not confined to a campus. You had co-ops and dialogues and global experiences that allowed you to roam. These empowered you to live and learn in different contexts.”

—Joseph E. Aoun, president of Northeastern University

President Aoun at the commencement podium.
Photo by Matthew Modoono/Northeastern University

“Machines and artificial intelligence will continue to improve every day. These innovations will have a profound impact on all of us. Some will be beneficial, and others will not. There are people calling for society to hit the pause button out of fear that we will lose control of machines.”

—Joseph E. Aoun, president of Northeastern University

“Wild and precious life”

“I told myself this story: ‘I am going to remake myself.’ And eventually, as I grew up, this vision turned into a purpose –– ‘I am always going to remake myself’–– meaning that I would be a lifelong learner, ready for personal change.”

—Mariam Naficy, founder of Minted who delivered Sunday’s undergraduate commencement address

“You’re right to keep pressing, courageous to keep insisting on how you want to live your one wild and precious life. Every step you take is making the world a better place, and honestly, you’re making the world a better place for all generations, including mine. I feel so optimistic about the future –– because the future is in your hands.”

—Mariam Naficy, founder of Minted who delivered Sunday’s undergraduate commencement address

Chrystia Freeland at the commencement podium.
Chrystia Freeland, Canada’s deputy prime minister, spoke of the opportunities created by these calamitous times. Photos by Matthew Modoono/Northeastern University

Renaissance of Democracy

“Your mission is not to free a continent, and I pray there will never be beaches for you to storm. But I believe that all of you can—all of you must—become the Greatest Generation of this century. And the work of your greatest generation will be to lead a Renaissance of Democracy.”

—Chrystia Freeland, deputy prime minister of Canada

“Now is the time for democracy to fight back. It is time, as the great Wayne Gretzky said, to skate to where the puck is going and to build a capitalist democracy that works in the 21st century.”

—Chrystia Freeland, deputy prime minister of Canada

Kristine Umeh at the commencement podium.
Graduate commencement student speaker Kristine Umeh speaks during Northeastern’s 2023 graduate commencement ceremony. Photos by Matthew Modoono/Northeastern University

Huskies unite

“Sometimes we may need to compromise between family and career, but don’t be afraid to put family first.”

—Clara Wu, a behavioral neuroscience major and the undergraduate student speaker
“I have the privilege of being a double Husky, and yes, I insert that at every opportunity.” 

 —Kristine Umeh, master’s degree in computer science, graduate commencement speaker

David Madigan at the commencement podium.
David Madigan, provost and senior vice president for academic affairs at Northeastern. Photos by Matthew Modoono/Northeastern University

Northeastern network

“As scholars, leaders, entrepreneurs, scientists, artists and community citizens, you have raised the bar of excellence—and set an example for others to follow. You are what our world needs—smart, empathetic and experienced leaders focused on making an impact.”

—David Madigan, Northeastern provost 

“Stay connected to your favorite professors and friends—and make new ones. Support the people and programs you care most about through philanthropy, mentorship and advocacy. Your energy, insights, and expertise will fuel our future and make Northeastern all that it can be.

—Diane MacGillivray, Northeastern senior vice president for advancement

Mark Conti is managing editor of Northeastern Global News. Follow him on Twitter @markconti11.