“The good old days:” Gov. J.B. Pritzker delivers ‘The Office’-themed speech at 2023 commencement


Angeli Mittal/Daily Senior Staffer

The 2023 Commencement ceremony.

Nicole Markus, Summer Editor in Chief

Speakers called on Northwestern’s class of 2023 to be kind and lean on community during the University’s Commencement ceremony.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker delivered this year’s Commencement speech, which focused on lessons learned through the TV show, “The Office,” first released in 2005. 

“Be more substance than show, set aside cruelty for kindness. Put one foot in front of the other even when you don’t know your way, and always, always try to appreciate the good old days when you’re actually in them,” Pritzker said. 

A former member of the Board of Trustees, Pritzker said one of the hardest challenges he has faced was governing Illinois during the pandemic. 

Pritzker said he knows much of the class of 2023 missed a large portion of their time in college that they “very much deserved” because of the pandemic.

“Here’s the upside: although you will face a great many challenges in life, most of them will pale in comparison to the challenge of facing a deadly global pandemic,” Pritzker said. “COVID has made you stronger and given you a unique set of armor. Use it well.”

Pritzker, who received an honorary degree during the ceremony, graduated from the Pritzker School of Law in 1993. The law school was renamed in the commencement speaker’s honor in 2015 after he and his wife donated $100 million.

University President Michael Schill also granted honorary degrees to NU President Emeritus Morton Schapiro, University of Global Health Equity co-Founder and retired Vice Chancellor Agnes Binagwaho, New York Stock Exchange Chair Sharon Bowen (JD-MBA ‘82) and El Teatro Campesino Founder Luis Valdez.

Schill, who was inaugurated as NU’s 17th president on June 2, granted graduating student degrees to the class of 2023 during the ceremony.

“Do not lose your passion and sense of purpose,” Schill said. “Keep your Wildcat spirit and your tenacity alive. You are our future, you are hope, you will achieve great things.”

After degrees were conferred, 2023 Weinberg graduate and student Commencement speaker Ji Hye Choi reflected on the difficult time she faced in college when she was diagnosed with stage III ovarian cancer. 

While going through treatment, Choi continued classes. She said she was only able to do this because of the community and village she had found at NU.

“It wasn’t medicine or doctors that truly healed me, it was my friends who made sure to call me and update me on all of the drama. It was the compassion of my nurses. It was my professor’s kindness and the extensions they offered,” Choi said. 

According to Choi, this experience taught her not only the importance of relying on people around her, but also giving back to the community and “being a pillar of support.”

Choi called on the class of 2023 to do their part to build community as well. 

“I see in this graduating class a bright future. We have a great responsibility to use the knowledge we have gained for good, for justice, and for building inclusive and sustainable communities,” Choi said. “Community is an act of powerful resistance in a society that tries to keep us all apart.”

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