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'Choose love,' Graves urges JMU graduates

by Janet Smith


A small group of JMU graduates in purple academic gowns listen to commencement speech
Winter 2015 graduates and guests hear a message of hope.

“We can choose to live in fear or we can make the bold conscience choice to choose love,” operatic singer and educator Denyce Graves told nearly 900 students at James Madison University’s Dec. 19 commencement ceremony.

Speaking to a capacity audience in the JMU Convocation Center as well as guests watching from Wilson Hall Auditorium, Graves congratulated the graduates on accomplishing part of their individual dreams and aspirations in earning their respective degrees. “You are here because you listened to ‘that voice’ inside that said, ‘I want to create, I want to innovate, I want to chart new territories or I want to heal or help.’”

In her advice for living after college, Graves said, “You can create a whole new world for love is the language felt by all life. It transcends everything – race, class, economic status, nationality. It is the language of all souls.”

“We can choose to move beyond a limiting and fearful view of how life works, and learn to practice the kind of optimism that opens the doors of opportunity,” she said. “Fear believes that there is never enough; love believes there is plenty for everyone. Fear believes the worst about people and situations; love believes the best about people and situations. Fear believes that there is only one right answer; love believes that there are many ways to understanding something.”

Graves' commencement address was interrupted by the sounding of the fire alarm in the Convocation Center, triggered by a sensor in the building. After a half-hour delay, the audience returned to the center and Graves resumed her speech, concluding with advice to “Choose love; give yourselves this gift. Change our world. Be the change. Take on tomorrow.”

During the ceremony, JMU President Jonathan R. Alger presented Graves and Jeanne L. Narum honorary doctoral degrees.

Graves, recognized worldwide as one of today’s most exciting vocal stars, is the recipient of the Grand Prix du Concours International de Chant de Paris, the Eleanor Steber Music Award and a Jacobson Study Grant from the Richard Tucker Music Foundation. She recently joined the voice faculty of the Peabody Conservatory in Baltimore.

Narum is director emeritus of Project Kaleidoscope (PKAL), founding principal of Learning Spaces Collaboratory and director of the Independent Colleges Office, all located in Washington, D.C. PKAL is a national effort that was a catalyst for transforming undergraduate science, technology, engineering and mathematics learning.

Alger conferred degrees to approximately 720 undergraduate students and 166 graduate students – 150 master’s, seven educational specialist and nine doctoral.

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Dec. 21, 2015

Published: Monday, December 21, 2015

Last Updated: Wednesday, November 29, 2017

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