UMKC #Classof2020RooStrong Honored and Inspired

Actor and native Kansas Citian Don Cheadle delivers virtual address
photo of Don Cheadle at home clapping in congratulations for the Roos

More than 1,100 UMKC graduates celebrated their achievements in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic that has upended any sense of normalcy. Along with university leadership and local celebrities, actor and humanitarian Don Cheadle recognized the enormity of these graduates’ accomplishments.

Chancellor Mauli Agrawal lauded the students for their ability to adapt to unforeseen circumstances and continue to excel academically.

“This time last spring, we hoped to be at a point where we could celebrate you in person, but we are still immersed in a persisting pandemic,” Agrawal said. “However, the pride I have in congratulating you not only remains; it has increased.”

Recognizing the unprecedented demands, Agrawal emphasized the graduates’ success.

“By no means has it been an easy semester. A lot has been required of you in the final stretch of this race. You had to dig deeper to see it through, however, your tenacity together with your growth and determination should give you a heightened sense of accomplishment this weekend. You made it!

“You are ready - ready to take on the world.” - Mauli Agrawal

You made the most of every opportunity and overcame every challenge to get the hands-on experience you need to be prepared for the workforce and benefit your communities. You are ready, ready to take on the world.”

Mun Choi, University of Missouri president, recognized the newest graduates for their ability to look beyond their own needs.

“Your success comes during a year like no other. On top of your coursework and activities, you stepped up in our fight against COVID. You supported our health care effort and tackled food insecurity. And all of you have done your part to protect your campus and community. We’re so proud of you!”

“UMKC will be with you every step of the way.” - Mun Choi

Choi welcomed the new graduates to the UMKC alumni network that is over 125,000 strong.

“UMKC will be with you every step of the way,” he said.

Provost Jenny Lundgren regretted the missed opportunity to shake graduates’ hands as they crossed the stage, but in the spirt of “commencement” focused on a brighter future ahead.

“The world needs you, and I can’t wait to see the impact you’ll make in the years to come,” she said.

Lundgren introduced commencement speaker, actor and humanitarian activist, Don Cheadle. Cheadle is a native Kansas Citian and his uncle and three of his cousins attended UMKC. He recognized this year’s graduates for their perseverance, but also acknowledged the critical role they can play in their next steps.

“It will take everything in you to move forward, to find your level to continue to grow, but you’ve already demonstrated that you have what it takes,” Cheadle said. “This moment is not bigger than you. You will be instrumental in shaping where we all go from here as you support and supplant the old guard and put each of your individual stamps on the world. We can’t wait to see what change you will initiate, and it can’t come soon enough.”

“The world needs you, and I can’t wait to see the impact you’ll make in the years to come.” - Jenny Lundgren

Cheadle encouraged graduates to be open to different perspectives.

“Please remember that there’s more than one right in almost all situations and you only become seriously wrong when you harden your heart and determine that your right is singular and correct,” he said. “That doesn’t mean don’t listen to yourself, it means listen even more closely with your good brain and good heart and try to put yourself in another’s shoes and then act accordingly.”

“It will take everything in you to move forward, to find your level to continue to grow, but you’ve already demonstrated that you have what it takes.” - Don Cheadle

In closing, Cheadle expressed his appreciation for the graduates’ perseverance.

“Thank you. Thank you for being you. Thank you for showing up and showing out, and congratulations UMKC’s graduating class of 2020.

You did the damn thing!”

Graduating Roos received congratulations from many regional leaders including U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt of Missouri; U.S. Rep. Sharice Davis of Kansas; and Kansas City, Missouri Mayor Quinton Lucas. Alumni offering congratulations included Esther George (EMBA ’00), president and chief executive officer of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City; and Dana Tippin Cutler (J.D. ’89) and Keith Cutler (J.D. ’89), hosts of the television show “Couples Court with the Cutlers.” Community leaders Mayra Aguirre, president of the Hall Family Foundation; and Jeff Jones, chief executive officer of H&R Block; extended their best wishes as well as Sporting Kansas City head coach Peter Vermes and player Graham Zusi and retired Kansas City Royal Alex Gordon. Notable local celebrities actor Tuc Watkins, musician David Cook and KSHB news anchor Dia Wall joined in the celebration.

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