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  • President Sands, esteemed faculty, proud parents, devoted friends, wet siblingscongratulations

  • to all of you.

  • But most importantly, congratulations to the Virginia Tech class of 2017!

  • I am honored to be with you and this San Francisco summer day feels just like home, just like

  • it does with anything withTechin its name.

  • I'm so delighted to be here with my friend, Regina Dugan.

  • As you just heard, Regina used to run DARPAfor real! – and now she is developing

  • breakthrough technologies at Facebook.

  • In Hokie terms, she's our Bruce Smith.

  • And she is just one of so many alums doing amazing things around the world.

  • Today, class of 2017, you join them.

  • And I'm thrilled for you.

  • And thrilled for all of the people who are here supporting youthe people who have

  • pushed you, dried your tears and laughed with you from your first day to this day.

  • Let's show them all of our thanks.

  • Commencement speeches can be pretty one-sided.

  • The speakerthat's meimparts her hardearned wisdomor at least tries to.

  • The graduatesthat's youyou sit in the rain today and listen like the thoughtful

  • people you are.

  • Then you hurl your caps in the air, hug your friends, let your parents take lots pictures

  • of you – ( post them on Instagram, just one idea) – and head off into your amazing

  • livesmaybe swinging by Sharkey's for one last plate of wings before you go.

  • Today's going to be a little bit different because I'm not going to talk about something

  • I know and you don't.

  • I want to talk about something the Virginia Tech community knows all too well.

  • Today, I want to talk about resilience.

  • This university is known for so many things.

  • Your kindness and decencyyour academic excellenceyour deeply-felt school spirit.

  • I've spent time at a lot of time at collegesyes for work, but also because I might

  • want to relive my 20s just a little.

  • Few people talk about their school the way Hokies talk about Virginia Tech.

  • There is so much pride and unity here -- such a deep sense of identity, and I am going to

  • prove it by asking you one simple question:

  • What's a Hokie?

  • [I am!]

  • That's it!

  • What you might not realize is that that Hokie spirit has made all of you more resilient.

  • I've spent the last two years studying resilience because something happened in my life that

  • demanded more of it than I ever would have thought possible.

  • Two years and eleven days ago, I lost my husband Dave suddenly and unexpectedly.

  • Sometimes I still have a hard time saying the words because I can't quite believe

  • it actually happened.

  • I woke up on what I thought would be a totally normal day.

  • And my world just changed forever.

  • I know, important day - it's raining, and I'm up here talking about death.

  • But I promise you there's a reasonand even one that's not even sad.

  • Because what I've learned since losing Dave has fundamentally changed how I view this

  • world and how I live in it.And I want to share it with you, on this day because I think it's

  • going to help you lead happier, healthier, and more joyful lives.

  • and you deserve all of that.

  • Each of you walked a very unique path to reach this day.

  • Some of you faced real trauma.

  • All of you faced challenges.

  • disappointment, heartache, loss, illnessall of these are so personal when they strike

  • but they are also so universal.

  • And then there are the shared losses.

  • The Virginia Tech community knows this.

  • You've stopped for a quiet moment by the 32 Hokie stones on the Drillfield, as I did

  • with President Sands just this morning.

  • You've joined your friends for theRun in Remembrance.”

  • You know that life can turn in an instant.

  • And you know what it means to come together, to pull together, to grieve together, but,

  • ultimately, to overcome together.

  • After Dave died, I did something I've done at other hard times in my life: I hit the

  • books.

  • With my friend Adam Grant, a psychologist who studies how we find meaning in our lives,

  • I dove into the research on resilience and recovery.

  • The most important thing I learned is that we are not born with a certain amount of resilience.

  • It is a muscle, and that means we can build it.

  • We build resilience into ourselves.

  • We build resilience into the people we love.

  • And we build it together, as a community.

  • That's calledcollective resilience.”

  • It's an incredibly powerful forceand it's one that our country and our world

  • need a lot more of right about now.

  • It is in our relationships with each other that we find our will to live, our capacity

  • to love, and our ability to bring change into this world.

  • Class of 2017, you are particularly suited to the task of building collective resilience

  • because you are graduating from Virginia Tech.

  • Communities like this don't just happen.

  • They are formed and strengthened by people coming together in very specific ways.

  • You've been part of that here, whether you knew it or not.

  • As you go off and become leadersand yes, you will lead, you are destined to leadyou

  • can make the communities you joinand the communities you formstronger.

  • Here's where you start.

  • You can build collective resilience through shared experiences.

  • You've had lots of those: jumping toEnter Sandman,” - I saw that this morning, it's

  • incredible.

  • Enduring the walk across the Drillfield in the winter (kind of like Jon Snow at the Wall),

  • finding new loves and then NEW new loves, being there for each other through triumph

  • and through disappointment.

  • Every class, every meal, every all nighter has added another strand to a vast web that

  • connects you to each other and to Hokies everywhere.

  • These ties do more than connectthey support.

  • Nearly 30 years ago, a very talented young man made it from a very underprivileged background

  • all the way to college, but then he didn't finish.

  • And when he dropped out, he said, “If only I had my posse with me, I would have graduated.”

  • That insight led an amazing woman named Deborah Bial to create the Posse Foundation, which

  • recruits high-potential students in teams of 10 to go from the same city to the same

  • college.

  • Posse kids have a 90 percent graduation rate from some of the best schools in the country.

  • We all need our possesespecially when life puts the obstacles in our path.

  • Out there in the world, when you leave Virginia Tech, you're going to have to build your

  • own posseand sometimes that's going to mean asking for help.

  • This was never easy for me.

  • Before Dave died, I tried to bother people as little as possibleand yes, “bothering

  • peopleis what I thought it was.

  • But then my life changed and I needed my friends and family and colleagues more than I ever

  • could have thought I would.

  • My momwho along with my dad is here with me today just like yours are here with you

  • stayed with me for the very first month, literally holding me as I cried myself to

  • sleep.

  • I had never felt weaker.

  • But I learned that it takes strength to rely on others.

  • There are times to lean in and there are times to lean on.

  • Building a posse also means acknowledging our friends' challenges.

  • Before I lost Dave, if a friend was going through something hard, I would usually say

  • I am sorryonce.

  • And then I wouldn't bring it up again because I didn't want to remind them of their pain.

  • Losing my husband taught me how absurd that wasyou can't remind me I lost Dave.

  • But like I had done with others, when people failed to mention it, it felt like there was

  • a big, old elephant following me around everywhere I went.

  • It's not only death that ushers in the elephant.

  • You want to completely silence a room?

  • Say you have cancer, that your father went to jail, that you just lost your job.

  • We retreat into silence just when we need each other the most.

  • Now, not everyone is going to want to talk about everything all the time.

  • But saying to a friend, “I know you are suffering and I am here with youcan kick

  • a very ugly elephant out of any room.

  • If you are in someone's posse, don't just offer to help in a generic way.

  • Before I lost Dave, when a friend was in need, I would say, “Is there anything I can do?”

  • And I meant it kindlythe problem is, that question kind of shifts the burden to

  • the person in need.

  • And when people asked me, I didn't know how to answer the question.

  • Can you make Father's Day go away?”

  • Here's a different approach.

  • When my friend Dan Levy's son was sick in the hospital, a friend texted him and said,

  • What do you not want on a burger?”

  • Another friend texted from the lobby and said “I'm in the lobby of the hospital for

  • a hug for the next hour whether you come down or not.”

  • You don't have to do something huge.

  • You don't have to wait for someone to tell you exactly what they need.

  • And you do not have to be someone's best friend from the first grade to show up.

  • If you are there for your friends, and let them be there for youif you laugh together

  • until your sides ache, if you hold each other as you cry, and maybe even bring them a burger

  • with the wrong toppings before they askthat won't just make you more resilient, it will

  • help you lead a deeper and more meaningful life.

  • We also build collective resilience through shared narratives.

  • That might sound lighthow important can a story be?

  • But stories are vital.

  • They're how we explain our past and they are how we set expectations for our future.

  • And they help us build the common understanding that creates a community in the first place.

  • Every time your friends tell their favorite taleslike, I don't know, when Tech

  • beat UVA in double overtimeyou strengthen your bonds to each other.

  • Shared narratives are critical for fighting injustice and creating social change.

  • A few years ago, we started LeanIn.Org to help work towards gender equalityhelping

  • women and men form Lean In circlessmall groups that support each other's ambitions.

  • There are now more than 33,000 Circles in 150 countries.

  • But It wasn't until I lost Dave that I understood why Circles are thrivingit's because

  • they build collective resilience.

  • Not long ago, I was in Beijing and I had a chance to meet with women from Lean In Circles

  • across China.

  • Like in a lot of places, it's not always easy to be a woman in China.

  • If you're unmarried past age 27, you're called sheng nu – a “leftover woman.”

  • And I thought the wordwidowwas bad!

  • The stigma that comes from being a leftover woman can be intense.

  • One woman – a 36-year-old economics professorwas rejected by 15 men because - wait

  • for it -- she wastoo educated.

  • After that, her father forbade her younger sister from going to graduate school.

  • But more than 80,000 women have come together in Lean In Circles to create a new narrative.

  • One Circle created a play, The Leftover Monologues, which celebrates beingleftoverand

  • tackles the topics too often unspoken, like sexual harassment, date rape, and homophobia.

  • The world told them what their stories should be, and they said, actually, we're writing

  • a different story for ourselves.

  • We are not leftover.

  • We are strong and we will write our own story together.

  • Building collective resilience also means trying to understand how the world looks to

  • those who have experienced it differentlybecause they are a different race, come

  • from a different country, have an economic background unlike yours.

  • We each have our own story but we can write new ones togetherand that means seeing

  • the values in each other's points of view and looking for common ground.

  • Anyone here a little bit anxious about your future?

  • Not sure where the future is taking you?

  • Sometimes me too.

  • And you know what helps you combat that fear?

  • A very big idea captured in a very tiny word: hope.

  • There are many kinds of hope.

  • There's the hope that she wouldn't swipe left.

  • Sorry.

  • There's the hope that as you sit here your stuff will magically pack itself.

  • Sorry.

  • There's the hope that it would stop raining.

  • Double sorry.

  • But my favorite kind of hope is called grounded hope -- the understanding that if you take

  • action you can make things better.

  • We normally think of hope as something that's held in individual people.

  • But hopelike resilienceis something we grow and nurture together.

  • Just two days ago, I visited Mother Emanuel church in Charleston.

  • We all know about the shooting that took place there just two years ago, claiming the lives

  • of a pastor and eight worshippers.

  • What happened afterwards was extraordinary.

  • Instead of being consumed by hatred, the community came together to stand against racism and

  • violence.

  • As a local pastor Jermaine Watkins beautifully put it: “To hatred, we say no way, not today.

  • To division, we say no way, not today.

  • And to loss of hope, we say no way, not today.”

  • That was the theme of maybe the most touching Facebook post I've ever readand let's

  • face it, I've read a lot of Facebook posts.

  • This one was written by Antoine Leiris, a journalist in Paris whose wife Hélène was

  • killed in the 2015 Paris attacks.

  • Two days latertwo dayshe wrote an open letter to his wife's killers.

  • On Friday night, you stole the life of an exceptional being, the love of my life,

  • the mother of my son.

  • But you will not have my hate.

  • My 17-month-old son will play as we do every day, and all his life this little boy will

  • defy you by being happy and free.

  • Because you will not have his hate either.”

  • Strength like that makes all of us who see it stronger.

  • Hope like that makes all of us more hopeful.

  • That's how collective resilience workswe lift each other up.

  • This might seem very intuitive to you Hokies because these qualities of collective resilience

  • shared experiences, shared narratives, and shared hopeshine forth from every

  • corner of this university.

  • You are a testament to courage, faith and loveand that's been true, not just

  • for these past 10 years, but for over a century before then.

  • This university means a lot to you, graduatesbut it also means a lot to America and to

  • the world.

  • So many of us look to you as an example of how to stay strong and brave and true.

  • This is your legacy, Class of 2017.

  • You will carry it with youthat capacity for finding strength in yourselves and building

  • strength in the people around you.

  • Virginia Tech has given you a purpose, reflected in your motto, “That I May Serve.”

  • An important way you can serve and lead is by helping build resilience in the world.

  • We have a responsibility to help families and communities become more resilientbecause

  • none of us get through anything alone.

  • We get through it together.

  • As you leave this beautiful campus and set out into the world, build resilience in yourselves.