'Engage in Dialogue With Others Who May Disagree With You'

CAS Commencement speaker Mass. Supreme Justice Court Chief Justice Kimberly Budd told the Class of 2024 'this is how you will build a better society'
Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court Chief Justice Kimberly Budd giving her commencement speech
Chief Justice Kimberly S. Budd tells College of Arts & Sciences graduates: "Your generation, perhaps more than any before you, has learned to appreciate the differences among us, to treat everyone with dignity and respect, and to recognize the common humanity that unites us all."

Chief Justice Kimberly Budd, the first Black woman to serve as chief justice of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, encouraged graduates of the Suffolk University College of Arts & Sciences to grow from adversity and use their liberal arts education as a foundation to bridge differences and build dialogue.

“I know that as you graduate, the many challenges that we face both at home and across the world are grave. But I have hope for the future because of you,” said Budd in her keynote speech at the Class of 2024 ceremony on Sunday, May 19.

Budd received an honorary Doctor of Public Service degree during Suffolk’s celebration of the Class of 2024 at Boston’s Leader Bank Pavilion.

The value of a liberal arts education

Addressing the Class of 2024, Budd asked the graduates to reflect on all the challenges they’d overcome to reach Commencement, including the uncertainties and changes caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

She then shared a formative experience from her own first year as a liberal arts undergraduate to illustrate the importance of cultivating resiliency. After receiving a “D” on her first English paper, Budd described shaking off her embarrassment and seeking help from a writing tutor. Her resolve to be a better writer led her to pursue a major in English, and, eventually, apply to law school.

Once she entered the legal field, Budd faced new obstacles. “As a young Black woman attorney, I was often overlooked, underestimated, and even misidentified in the courtroom when I first started practicing law. Opposing counsel did not take me seriously,” she recalled, later pausing for rousing applause from the audience as she described pushing forward in her legal career. “I also knew from my college experience that if I persevered, I could face up to the challenge.”

Describing a recent experience working with a restorative justice pilot program in the courts—a community-centered practice in which victims, offenders, and stakeholders come together to address and repair harm, rooted in indigenous traditions and taught by practitioners at Suffolk’s Center for Restorative Justice among others—Budd once again encouraged graduates to look for opportunities to push beyond difficult things to make positive change.

“I want to be clear, the process is not easy. It takes a great deal of preparation, time, and commitment,” said Budd. “But if we can bring together judges, prosecutors, defense attorneys, victims, offenders, and others to talk with one another openly and honestly as part of the same community, then perhaps we can learn to do the same for our divided country.”

Budd urged the Class of 2024 to deploy the practical liberal arts skills they’d gained—including the ability to collaborate, to communicate effectively, and to listen with an open mind—to help improve the world: “Go forward with the strength you’ve gained from overcoming your failures, keep your courage up even when you have reason to be discouraged, and use the skills that you have learned from your Suffolk experience to engage in dialogue with others who may disagree with you. This is how you will build a better society.”

Download video transcript [PDF]

'You have held onto an extraordinary sense of hope'

Suffolk University President Marisa J. Kelly also sounded a hopeful note as she applauded the Class of 2024 for their perseverance and drive to get involved and make an impact.

Kelly highlighted that this is the first traditional Commencement ceremony for many of today’s graduates, since their high school graduations four years ago took place during the height of pandemic safety measures. Beginning their college experiences remotely, in some cases without having a chance to even tour the campus before arriving, required a “leap of faith,” said Kelly, as she praised the graduates for their tenacity.

“As soon as it was safe to travel, there was no stopping you,” she said, noting the many volunteer hours, study-abroad experiences, and service-learning trips students had completed focused on addressing issues such as housing insecurity, racial justice, and LGBTQ+ advocacy.

“When it came to taking on challenges—and there have been many—you never flinched.”

The new College of Arts & Sciences graduates are already working on some of the world’s toughest problems, said Kelly, in fields including environmental science, sustainable design, criminal justice, and mental healthcare.

“Something else that I believe defines your class—and others have said this as well—is that in the face of division and polarization in this country, and conflict and tragedy across the globe, and in the wake of a devastating pandemic that has inflicted so much loss—including to you personally—you have held onto an extraordinary sense of hope,” said Kelly.

Citing Suffolk Psychology Assistant Professor Mary Beth Medvide’s research on the conscious cultivation of hope as a way to make positive change, Kelly concluded with a message of admiration for the Class of 2024 and the promise they represent for the future.

“We know that when you graduate you will engage in your professions and in your communities in ways that will leave them both better off,” said Kelly. “You will continue to negotiate in a challenging and changing world with positive solutions, and you will continue to be a powerful force for good. And that is an incredible reason to be hopeful.”

Chelsea Daigle giving the undergraduate greetings at her commencement
This Commencement "isn’t a finish line or a destination," student speaker Chelsea Lopes-Daigle told her classmates. "This degree is a glimpse of the greater potential before us, the expanded ends of our horizon, a horizon with more challenges to overcome, and more opportunities to take."

'This degree is a glimpse of the greater potential before us'

College of Arts & Sciences student Commencement speaker Chelsea Lopes-Daigle, an honors political science major, applauded her fellow graduates for their hard work at each step in their educational journey.

“You not only left your home to become an individual, but you then crafted your very own community—if not communities,” said Daigle, who served as a resident advisor and RAM supporter on campus and performed with Suffolk’s student improv comedy and Bollywood dance clubs.

“You also learned what it means to change course when the path you find yourself feels more solid than the one that had been paved,” she said.

Daigle noted the many obstacles the Class of 2024 has overcome, and how that has prepared them well for the ones that lie ahead.

“There will be challenges that surprise you: Feeling that spark in the unpaid internship where you realize this experience, this is what I want to do with myself. Finding a place to make your home. Learning how to mentor, to parent, to love. And the challenge we must all face: Learning how to live to the fullest extent of our potential,” said Daigle.

In closing, Daigle reminded her fellow graduates that Commencement marked the beginning of a new era in their lives.

“This degree is a glimpse of the greater potential before us, the expanded ends of our horizon. A horizon with more challenges to overcome, and more opportunities to take.”

Download video transcript [PDF]

About the Honorable Kimberly S. Budd

Kimberly Budd has served as the 38th chief justice of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court since December 2020. She is the first Black woman to hold this position, as well as the youngest chief justice in Massachusetts in more than 100 years.

She was appointed as an associate justice of the Massachusetts Superior Court by Governor Deval Patrick in 2009; in 2016 Governor Charlie Baker nominated her to serve as an associate justice on the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court.

Chief Justice Budd started her career as a law clerk to Chief Justice Joseph P. Warner of the Massachusetts Appeals Court. She then worked as a litigation associate at the Mintz law firm, before serving as an assistant US attorney in the US Attorney’s Office for the District of Massachusetts in the major crimes and drug units. She later served as a university attorney for Harvard University in the General Counsel’s Office and as director of the community values program at Harvard Business School.

Chief Justice Budd also teaches in Massachusetts Continuing Legal Education and Bar Association programs, is a former adjunct instructor at New England Law, and has taught trial advocacy at Harvard Law School.

She holds a bachelor’s degree in English from Georgetown University and a law degree from Harvard Law School.

Commencement 2024

The College of Arts & Sciences Class of 2024 comprises 730 new alumni, with 610 undergraduate and 120 graduate degrees awarded.

The ceremony was one of three Suffolk Commencements held on Sunday, May 19, at Boston’s Leader Bank Pavilion. The University conferred a total of 2,013 undergraduate and advanced degrees to graduates from 39 states and 75 different countries. Twenty-eight percent of Suffolk’s 990 undergraduate degree recipients are first-generation college students.

Read More About Commencement.


Greg Gatlin
Office of Public Affairs

Andrea Grant
Office of Public Affairs