“A UChicago education is not like an expedition to exotic academic lands – rather, it is a journey into the details of what was right under your nose all along,” de Beistegui said. “It simply asks you to pay attention to what’s already there – to the world in which you are immersed – for we see only what we pay attention to.”
In his speech, Huang discussed how his time in the College has taught him how to weather trials and turn them into triumphs. All of the hours spent in Regenstein Library, he said, have culminated in the ultimate formative period.
“It is the act of conquering the lows that teach us the life lessons,” he said. “It's through the fires of our midnight coffee breaks that study groups were forged into friendships. It’s through the treadmill of never-ending assignments that our academic interests evolved into our lifelong passions.”
Bret Stephens, AB’95, delivered the ceremony’s keynote address. A New York Times opinion columnist, Stephens won the Pulitzer Prize in 2013 for his column examining foreign policy and domestic politics. In his speech, Stephens congratulated the Class of 2023 for not only earning a degree from UChicago, but also gaining the capacity and courage to think for themselves in the process.
“Discussing and debating and interrogating and doubting and laughing and thinking harder and better than you ever did before isn’t the antithesis of fun, it’s the essence of it,” he said. “They make up the uniquely joyful experience of being authentically and expressively and unashamedly yourself and, at the same time, having a form of honest and intimate contact with others who, in their own ways, are being authentically and expressively and unashamedly themselves.”
In his remarks, Stephens also recognized the impact of the late Robert J. Zimmer, the former UChicago president and chancellor, for his dedication to defending free expression.
Stephens said Zimmer believed "that a serious education is impossible except in an environment of unfettered intellectual challenge—an environment that, in turn, isn’t possible without the opportunity to encounter people and entertain views with whom and with which you might profoundly disagree."
Stephens encouraged the Class of 2023 to remember and uphold the Chicago Principles of free and open inquiry, which Zimmer helped establish and John W. Boyer championed throughout his tenure as College dean.