Comedian, alumnus Maz Jobrani presents keynote address at campus commencement ceremony

Keegan Houser/UC Berkeley /Courtesy

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Maz Jobrani, a stand-up comedian and UC Berkeley class of 1993 alumnus, delivered the keynote address at the campus’s spring commencement ceremony Saturday morning.

Shifting between humor and seriousness, Jobrani, who immigrated from Iran to the United States, said at commencement that students had sent “a message of inclusivity to the world” by extending him an invitation to serve as the keynote speaker. Jobrani said in his speech that he hopes students aim for a future that “thrives on diversity.”

“At the age of 6, my family was forced to flee the Iranian Revolution and we came to America,” Jobrani said in his speech. “Today I stand in front of you giving the commencement speech, at one of the top universities in America, if not the world. I am the American dream.”

In his speech, Jobrani also advocated for supporting free speech across all political spectrums on campus and encouraged students to get involved in political activism and to “keep rocking the boat,” saying that he believed students would be more integrated and progressive than earlier generations.

Jobrani concluded his speech by offering various advice for students.

“I try to live my life by these three tenets … good thoughts, good words, good deeds,” Jobrani said at the event. “Try to live your life by those tenets.”

At the commencement ceremony, Grant Schroeder was presented the University Medal, awarded to the “most distinguished graduating senior on campus.” In his speech, Schroeder compared the journey of a campus student to a triathlon consisting of “questioning, vulnerability and orientation.”

“We’ve made it to the finish line, and we’re now equipped with tools to address important problems,” Schroeder said in his speech. “I encourage us to confront these problems with the bravery, wholeheartedness and intellectual rigor that Berkeley has bestowed upon us.”

Chancellor Nicholas Dirks also spoke at commencement, noting his “particular affinity for the class of 2017.”

“It is in a way my class as well. Four years ago, I came to Berkeley alongside many of you to begin my tenure as chancellor, and this summer, I will also move on,” Dirks said at the event.

Dirks mentioned in his speech the various challenges the campus has faced during his chancellorship, including the campus’s ongoing financial deficit, recent controversies related to invited campus speakers and the campus’s student-housing shortage.

The outgoing chancellor also called students “instrumental” in some of the campus’s endeavors during his tenure, including the efforts of student advocates to improve the campus’s policies related to sexual assault and harassment, and the work of the campus’s Black Student Union and other student groups to help create the Fannie Lou Hamer Black Resource Center.

Dirks said in his speech he brought up these challenges UC Berkeley faces as a reminder for students.

“As life takes you beyond Sather Gate, Berkeley itself still needs you,” Dirks said in his speech. “Graduates, you cannot know where the future will take you. But as you go, know that Berkeley will be there with you. We hope and expect you will be there for us as well.”

Bobby Lee is an assistant news editor. Contact Bobby Lee at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @bobbylee_dc.