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George Washington University Graduates 6,000 Students in Only Commencement Held on the National Mall

Marcia McNutt, president of the National Academy of Sciences
Marcia McNutt, president of the National Academy of Sciences, delivers an address to graduates at the George Washington University's 197th Commencement.

Dr. Marcia McNutt, president of the National Academy of Sciences, delivered the keynote address

May 20, 2018
Maralee Csellar: 202-994-7564, [email protected]
Lindsay Hamilton: 202-994-3566, [email protected]
WASHINGTON, D.C. (May 20, 2018)—The president of the National Academy of Sciences Marcia McNutt delivered a keynote speech and 6,000 undergraduate and graduate students received degrees Sunday at the George Washington University Commencement on the National Mall.
With the U.S. Capitol providing a backdrop, more than 26,000 people attended the ceremony. GW is the only university that holds its graduation ceremony on the Mall. GW President Thomas LeBlanc, celebrating commencement for the first time as the university’s president, opened his remarks by savoring the moment and taking a selfie from the stage with graduates and the Washington Monument in the background. 
In her remarks, McNutt stated that during a time when many seem to be losing hope, graduates should use their diplomas to “bring hope back into this world.”
“The moral is: Hope is contagious. And it’s a good kind of contagion,” McNutt said.
LeBlanc conferred honorary degrees to McNutt, Olympic bobsled medalist and GW alumna Elana Meyers Taylor, and Steven Knapp, president emeritus of GW.
In her remarks, Meyers Taylor recalled the “bad day” she had at softball tryouts for the 2008 Olympic team. After she didn’t make the cut, her mother suggested she try out for bobsled, and Meyers Taylor continued to pursue her Olympic dreams. She urged graduates to keep dreaming, too. 
“Keep in mind that sometimes a very bad day could be the best thing that ever happened to you,” she said. 
Student speaker Meenu Mathews, a B.A. candidate in the Elliott School of International Affairs, told the story of a family trip to D.C. when she was 10 years old. 
She described how she stared through the fence and across the lawn toward the White House and announced to her parents that she would someday be president. A decade later, she walked through the fence to the White House as an intern, joined by her parents. 
“If there is one thing I have learned during my time at GW, it is that each of us has the power to cross those fences, walk across lawns and open doors that we never even dreamed we could,” Mathews said.
Following university tradition, LeBlanc offered a charge to the graduates.
“You sought excellence. You took risks. You chose to lead,” Dr. LeBlanc said. “I charge you to keep alive that commitment to leadership, as you pursue whatever it is that makes you happy.”
“I know that through your many and varied contributions to society, and in service to others, you will continue to bring distinction not only to yourselves but also to your families, to your communities around the world and, beginning now, to your alma mater,” he said.
With the addition of today’s graduates, there are now more than 290,000 GW alumni living in more than 150 countries.