PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] — While speaking duties during Brown Commencements are reserved predominantly for graduates, per two-and-a-half centuries of tradition, sometimes the moment just calls for the opportunity to hear from one of the year’s accomplished honorary degree recipients.
That was the case on Sunday, May 28, when Brown President Christina H. Paxson asked U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo to impart some impromptu words of wisdom to Class of 2023 graduates. After all, Paxson said, it was Raimondo’s voice that the graduates came to know in 2020, when COVID-19 arrived in full force — most bachelor’s degree recipients were first-year Brown students at the time, and Raimondo was Rhode Island’s governor.
In brief, unscripted remarks, Raimondo noted the impact of Brown and its graduates in Rhode Island and implored the Class of 2023 to put their talents to work in the Ocean State, regardless of their geographic origins. Do you want to start a business, she asked graduates? Become a doctor? Be an entrepreneur? Run for office? Do so nearby, she urged.
“I have always thought that Rhode Island — this tiny, but mighty state — is so lucky to have Brown University…” Raimondo said. “And I hope you’ve come to love this fabulous, edgy, culturally diverse city called Providence. It’s a fantastic place. You know, you can’t all go to New York or San Francisco. Some of you ought to stick around, stay here and contribute to Rhode Island. And if you do, it’ll be a better place.”