Gov. Martin O'Malley told graduates of the University of Maryland, College Park on Thursday to be ready for a world in the midst of rapid transformation spurred by climate change, technological advancement and global connectedness.
"Humanity is at a portal in history — another kind of commencement. A threshold of time requiring a fundamental transformation," O'Malley told the graduates and their families and friends at the main commencement ceremony for the Class of 2014, held in the Comcast Center on campus. "A transformation in understanding our relationship to the world around us, our relationship to the living systems of nature, and to the way we live and work with each other."
While O'Malley's speech was only subtly politically tinged, those who spoke before him, including university President Wallace D. Loh and University System of Maryland Chancellor William E. Kirwan, were enthusiastic in their praise of O'Malley's work on higher education in the state, including freezing in-state tuition for four years.
Graduate Amber Ferguson, the chairwoman of the committee that selected O'Malley as speaker, rattled off a list of things that O'Malley himself usually cites among his accomplishments: declining crime in Baltimore during his time as mayor and helping to pass the DREAM Act, which grants in-state tuition to college students who do not have legal immigration documents.
A total of 7,600 students graduated from College Park, as other universities in Maryland held their own ceremonies, including Towson University, the Johns Hopkins University, University of Baltimore and University of Maryland, Baltimore County.
Some 3,600 graduates attended the University of Maryland's main commencement ceremony, along with 14,000 family members and friends, university officials said.
Finance major Sergio Torres, the student commencement speaker, spoke of growing up in Colombia and facing challenges, including the death of his mother and moving to the U.S. He said he had learned three lessons as a student at College Park: that people are not always in control of how they spend their time; that education has great value; and that the best way to overcome those who make assumptions about what you can accomplish is to prove them wrong.
O'Malley used his speech to outline his vision of a world in the midst of rapid change and with a population more tolerant of each other. He joked that climate-change skeptics should "go to college, too."
"The thrust of current history is too pliant for a single label, but its emerging themes draw from an ecological convulsion," O'Malley said.
After O'Malley finished his remarks, Loh took the microphone.
"I've always wanted to ask you something, and I'm going to ask you now," Loh said to O'Malley. "I would love to take a selfie with you."
In front of the Class of 2014, they leaned in and smiled as Loh snapped the picture on his cellphone, and the crowd roared.