By Madina Toure
More than 2,500 students, which included working parents, veterans, servicemen and first-generation scholars from New York and around the world, graduated from Queens College in the 92nd commencement ceremony last week.
The event, held in the Quadrangle of the college at 65-30 Kissena Blvd. in Flushing, featured U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), Borough President Melinda Katz and Councilman Rory Lancman (D-Hillcrest), among the speakers.
It was the second commencement for the college’s president, Félix Matos Rodríguez, who made it seem as though he was going to deliver a lengthy address at the ceremony but joked that he did not want to bore the graduates with it.
“By now, I know you guys and I know you were going to do this to me,” Rodríguez said, “so I taped my presidential charge on video.”
And he read a brief.
Schumer encouraged students to take advantage of a $2,500 federal tax credit for families who make less than $200,000 for every year of college and graduate school to help defray the cost of tuition.
He also spoke about how he got into politics as well as what it has been like for him to raise his own family.
But his advice for the graduates was simple: Pursue whatever you are interested in pursuing.
“My advice to the Class of 2016 is a simple one: Go for it,” Schumer said.
Katz touted the borough’s diversity, noting that 49 percent of the residents in the borough are foreign-born.
“Isn’t that a remarkable gift that we give the rest of the city of New York?” Katz asked the graduates and attendees.
Lancman, a Queens College alum, said all the graduates are now New Yorkers, meaning that they are tough, ambitious and hardworking individuals.
“As graduates of the City University of New York, you are today forever New Yorkers,” Lancman said. “Now for those of you who were born here, you’re even more New Yorker today than you were the day you were born. For those of you who come here from every corner of the globe, you are today officially New Yorkers.”
Darren Walker, president of the Ford Foundation, who served as the commencement speaker, spoke about his life experiences, noting that he has relatives who went to prison and that he had to work hard to get to where he is today.
He asked the graduates never to take anything for granted and not to throw away their shot to start their own businesses or vote, for example.
“I wasn’t guaranteed graduation from a top-rank law school,” Walker said.
The student speaker, Willnide Lindor, a Haitian American fluent in Creole and French who graduated summa cum laude, is the recipient of the Paul Klapper Scholarship, the Paul Zweig Award in Comparative Literature and the Silverstein-Peiser Award in nonfiction from the English Department.
She said her peers should think about how they can use their skills to make a genuine difference.
“It is not enough to simply say that we will have a positive influence in our communities,” Lindor said.
Reach reporter Madina Toure by e-mail at mtour