BLACKSBURG — Attuned moral compasses and guidance from mentors are essential tools for new college graduates seeking to lead lives of significance, said Gov. Glenn Youngkin on Friday during a commencement address to the Virginia Tech graduating Class of 2022.
To a crowd of 5,550 berobed seniors and about 20,000 of their supporting family and friends packed into a drizzly Lane Stadium, Youngkin said there are moments in life when decisions must be made between colliding interests.
“The answer will not be clear. Then you have to ask yourself, what is most important? Where does my compass point?” Youngkin said. “What are the core values that you will never compromise, the sacred truths that represent your true North?”
College graduates today are entering a world that needs their idealism, intellect, promise, commitment and service, Youngkin said. Personal and professional paths ahead should embrace difficulty and discipline, he said.
“The best things in life take sacrifice,” Youngkin said. “When life gets challenging — and it will — just remember that with seasons of tribulation, there are also seasons of triumph.”
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He said it is crucial to be coachable, and to be vulnerable in seeking counsel from others. As some of his own key influences, he listed people from his time working for The Carlyle Group equity firm.
“I look back and I’m eternally indebted to … people who came into my life right when I needed them, when my compass was spinning,” Youngkin said. “Who we associate with defines us. Or at least, who we think we are.”
Society puts great emphasis on happiness and success, he said. But there’s more to be had.
“There is a difference between living a successful life and a significant life… It’s about finding your purpose,” Youngkin said. “I’ve learned from my own experiences that happiness is fleeting. It’s finding purpose that is truly sustainable.”
This year marks the 150th anniversary of Virginia Tech’s founding in 1872 as Virginia Agricultural and Mechanical College. This year is also the 100-year anniversary of women beginning enrollment at the university, said President Tim Sands during opening remarks Friday.
“This has been a milestone year … we have marked our sesquicentennial year by reflecting on our past, celebrating our present and looking to the future,” Sands said. “All of our graduates here today are part of that future.”
To simultaneous applause and some derision, Youngkin repeated a criticism he made at another commencement last week about higher education being pervaded by “too much groupthink.”
He said the Virginia Tech graduates of 2022 have “an opportunity to reintroduce the concept of grace in public discourse,” even during times of disagreement.
“I ask you to go forward with confidence, and a sense of idealism to change the world around you, with wise men and women to advise and guide you, and your compass firmly pointed to your true North,” Youngkin said. “The world needs you, and awaits your many accomplishments and contributions.”