Congratulations to the class of 2021!
Commencement is a wonderful time and even though we cannot celebrate in person, it is a moment of celebration and introspection. You should take great pride in your accomplishments.This has been one of the most difficult periods in all of our lives —in the University's life, probably in your life, in the lives of your family and friends — and we have for the most part persevered. You've made it to this point, you've earned a great degree, and you should be extremely proud of yourself. I know it has not always been easy over this pandemic to be a student, but at the same time it is hopefully giving you resolve for all the work that now must follow. It is something that you can always talk about—that this pandemic informed your time at Berkeley and made you stronger in terms of the challenges ahead—because whereas you should celebrate now with your families and friends, enjoy this moment in the context of all that lay ahead.
In the days and weeks and months that follow, I'm sure you will find as I did when I graduated from Berkeley that this is a time of great introspection. Your whole life lay before you and it's a wonderland to imagine with all of its possibilities. At the same time, this pandemic and its unequal impacts in the world have laid bare all the problems that we face in our communities. All the building we have to do as Architects, the work of engagement that we have to do as Planners, the care for nature we have to do as Landscape Architects and Environmental Planners, and the way we must rethink how we build as Developers. These are the skills and disciplines that our college describes but at the same time that doesn't always describe who you are as an individual—what role will you play in the unfolding global story of human habitation?
I will tell you that for myself I did not have a linear path. I was not always sure of what role I would play in that story. And so one of the things that I’d like to share with you is the notion that it's okay to take your time. I know you've been in school and your parents are probably thinking “they've been in school a while!” but there also has to be time as you grow and change as a professional to give yourself the room to say “you know maybe this is the right path but maybe it’s not,” and that's okay. You will find your path. You will figure out a way to have impact. I trust that you will because you're Berkeley alumni now. And Berkeley alumni are very special people as they graduate and go out into the world. They tend to want to have that higher degree of impact that changes the world and I'm sure much of that is what brought you to Berkeley in the first place. I know from my own experiences that my friends and fellow alumni share a common bond of not having the typical, linear path. You will find the trajectory that helps you learn and grow in ways that are unexpected and that ultimately guides you to the place where you are empowered to be empowering of communities so you can together make the changes that need to take place in our world. The pandemic is only an appetizer for the many changes to come in terms of climate change and racial reckoning. These are the central challenges of our time and I'm sure that you will play a significant role in making sure that the world is a more equitable, ecological place. Because the pursuit of equity and ecology is our center at Berkeley and it's probably what brought many of you here in the first place.
The professions you’ve chosen to study, the disciplines you’ve chosen to pursue and research, are wonderful and I hope that you are always proud of them. Whether you become a practicing professional or not is less the question than is how did this way of thinking about planning or about design or about landscape change the way you look at the world? Change the way you formulate problems and execute on your vision,on your community's vision? How you use that knowledge is really as key as whether or not you become one of these professions. These are a powerful set of tools and ideas that you've absorbed over these many years. Hopefully you have simultaneously built great bonds you've built with your fellow students and faculty. And I just hope that you take all of that with you and you stay with us as a member of the CED community. That you stay active with us as alumni and just as you did as students we hold our feet to the fire and make sure we are staying the course and staying true to our values. So, yes this is a time of celebration and please do celebrate with your families. Everyone deserves that great exhale and the chance to smile after all that’s transpired.
But also remain introspective in these days and weeks and months ahead. You have a remarkable journey behind you and you have an even more remarkable journey ahead of you. So, I wish you all the luck in the world. We are always here for you. Berkeley will always be your home. Now, go out and change the world, as your home asks of you. And I'm sure that we’ll be seeing you in the times ahead. Congratulations and stay safe.
William W. Wurster Dean
College of Environmental Design