Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is surprise speaker for Johns Hopkins Commencement
Over the past 15 months, Zelenskyy has emerged as a leading figure in the global fight to preserve democracy and the principles that underpin it
Volodymyr Zelenskyy, President of Ukraine, addressed Johns Hopkins University’s Class of 2023 live this morning in Commencement remarks delivered via livestream, speaking with the assembled graduates about the indispensable ideals of freedom, self-determination, and democracy and his nation’s ongoing fight to defend those ideals in the face of Russian aggression.
Zelenskyy’s speech was broadcast on a giant screen overlooking the stage at Homewood Field, where graduates, family, and friends gathered for the universitywide Commencement ceremony. Almost no one in attendance knew in advance that Zelenskyy would be the speaker. Afterwards, he received a lengthy standing ovation.
Zelenskyy accepted the invitation to speak on behalf of his nation and in defense of democratic values that allow peace, opportunity, and freedom to flourish around the globe.
"As a fearless champion of his nation, President Zelenskyy has shown the world what true courage in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds looks like," Johns Hopkins University President Ron Daniels said. "Working not only on behalf of his nation, but in defense of democratic values everywhere, he has shown an incredible ability to rally his country’s citizens, and through their collective action, they have rekindled hope for the rest of us in all that democracies can accomplish. To hear from President Zelenskyy at graduation will be a once-in-a-lifetime experience for Johns Hopkins students at a moment when the stakes are so high for the future of global democracy. I am thrilled that one of our era’s great democratic leaders will reinforce for them the importance of holding fast to one’s principles and meeting with fortitude and humility the challenging moments of history that they will surely face in the years ahead."
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Zelenskyy has emerged as a courageous and resolute champion for Ukraine and its people since the first days of Russia’s invasion in February 2022. Faced with an urgent existential crisis-a multipronged invasion by a neighboring superpower whose military might far surpasses that of Ukraine-he has proven himself to be one of the great leaders of our time. He has summoned the fierce and proud spirit of the Ukrainian people, rallied millions around the world to support Ukraine in its fight for sovereignty, and become an international icon in the global struggle to preserve democracy and the principles that underpin it.
Through his persistence and passion, he has rallied a global coalition of western allies to his side at a moment when democracy is in peril.
Zelenskyy parlayed his success and visibility as an actor and comedian into a political career, becoming Ukraine’s sixth president in 2019. His tenure has been defined by conflict with Russia, first in the form of territorial disputes and calls for diplomatic solutions, and culminating in the invasion that led to the still-ongoing war. Zelenskyy’s leadership during this crisis has garnered international acclaim and numerous awards-he was named Time Person of the Year for 2022, received the Aachen International Charlemagne Prize in 2023, and earned a John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award, among many other honors and recognitions.
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