“Some people figure it out sooner, and those are the lucky ones,” he said. Some realize it too late, when they lose someone or something.
As they look back on their college years, and look forward to the rest of their lives, Zelensky asked the graduates, “Will you not end up wasting this time of your life?”
These are difficult questions for everyone, he said.
“How you answer them is how you live.”
Zelensky’s appearance as the school’s academic speaker was an open secret, and he came after the university president wrote to him. It was revealed to the crowd as the main videos at the ceremony showed images of sunflower fields, the city’s glittering golden buildings, and the blue and yellow Ukrainian flag flying in the sun. The images were followed by scenes of the devastation that followed the Russian invasion in February 2022, with burned, destroyed buildings, a bombed-out bridge and an overturned tank.
The address of the President of Ukraine comes as the world continues its war against the Russians, who attacked in February 2022. Tens of thousands of Ukrainian soldiers and civilians have been killed.
Zelensky said that recently he was on the front lines, in the most controversial areas, with soldiers fighting for freedom and independence. He told the crowd that the military’s future is defined by many factors beyond its control, he said, such as where the next Russian missile or drone will hit.
“I am proud that Ukraine does not waste a single day defending itself against Russian terrorists,” he said. “Every day we do everything to be stronger, protect people and save more lives.”
Zelensky also praised the United States for supporting Ukraine. The President, Congress, “and the majority of all Americans, like no generation before, have risen to the occasion and are leading the free world to freedom in Europe,” he said.
He told Johns Hopkins graduates that he has no doubt that they will all become great doctors, lawyers, engineers, leaders of new technologies and entrepreneurs. He said he was sure others would feel called to serve and “become members of Congress, cabinet secretaries, yes – yes, maybe president one day.
“Of course, after President Biden – yes,” he said, smiling. “Please…we don’t want surprises.”
He told the graduates that “this century will be our century, a century in which freedom, leadership and democratic values will reign,” and a century in which tyranny will end.
“But all our tomorrows, the tomorrows of our children and grandchildren depend on our every day,” he said.
Like him At the end, about 10,000 people gave a standing ovation. Zelensky smiled at the big screen, and softly said, “Thank you.”
Johns Hopkins President Ronald J. Daniels announced to the crowd that Zelensky was being awarded an honorary doctorate.
“Your vision, tenacity, and unwavering belief in the power of democracy and freedom have always been an inspiration to the people of Ukraine,” and to others around the world who support his goals and objectives, Daniels said.
Daniels later said that hearing from Zelensky at his graduation was a once-in-a-lifetime experience for students “at a time when the stakes are so high for the future of democracy in the world. I’m glad that one of the greatest democratic leaders of our time will inspire them about the need to persevere values and to face with courage and humility the difficult times in history that they will face in the years to come.”
Earlier this week, Oksana Markarova, Ukraine’s ambassador to the United States, spoke to graduates at Boston College. “Freedom is not given.” Chances are not given. “Democracy has not been given,” Markarova, who appeared alone, told the audience on Monday. “We all have many battles to fight, many obstacles to overcome, many challenges to overcome. And where we are all together, we will find the strength to do this.”