Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in green shirt sitting at desk with Ukrainian flag to his right
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy addresses Johns Hopkins University graduates via livestream during their commencement ceremony Thursday, May 25, 2023. Screenshot via YouTube.

Johns Hopkins University 2023 graduates received a surprise gift at their commencement today: a virtual visit from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

The commencement speech lasted around ten minutes and was broadcast on the huge screens at Homewood Field.

Photo by Sally O’Brien.

According to the Hopkins’ news network, The Hub, nearly no one knew Zelenskyy was going to address the crowd until there was an introduction video featuring the Ukrainian flag.

After thanking Johns Hopkins, which he called “one of the greatest universities in the world,” Zelenskyy focused his speech on the truism that time is our most valuable resource on earth.

Video by Sally O’Brien.

“Every person eventually realizes that time is the most valuable resource on the planet. Not oil or uranium, not lithium or anything else, but time. Time. The very flow of time convinces us of this. Some people realize this sooner, and these are the lucky ones. Others realize it too late, when they lose someone or something. People cannot avoid it. This is just a matter of time.”

Zelenskyy imparted the wisdom that how graduates spend and invest their time will send ripples throughout generations to come.

“These are your children and your grandchildren who will inherit a piece of your soul. Will you be able not to waste this time of your life? This topic seems extremely hard but these are very, very difficult questions for every person. How you answer them is how you live.”

He drew comparisons between the graduates and the Ukrainians fighting on the front lines against oppression from Russia.

“These are people of all ages, and among them are exactly the same folks as you are now. Some of them have already passed their graduation ceremony, others are only dreaming about it. They and you have similar hopes for life. Similar expectations from life,” Zelenskyy said. “But there is a fundamental difference that comes down to the question of time. The time of your life is under your control. The time of life of our folks on the front line, the time of life of all Ukrainians who are opposed to living through this terrible Russian aggression, unfortunately, is subject to many factors that are not all in their control.”

Zelenskyy allowed that in youth, when no one is depending on you, wasting time is good, even necessary. But then he emphasized the necessity of eventually getting to the task of appreciating every day ahead and making the most of it.

“I’m proud that Ukraine is not losing a single day in this defense against Russian terror. Every day we do everything, everything to become stronger, to give more protection to people, to save more lives,” Zelenskyy said.

He also expressed deep gratitude to our country and the Biden administration for supporting their fight against Russia.

“The United States has also not lost a single day in helping Ukraine repel the Russian aggression. President Biden, a strong bipartisan coalition in Congress, and most of all the American people have, like the generations before them, risen to this occasion and are leading the Free World to secure freedom in Europe,” he said.

Zelenskyy closed by emphasizing the importance of how graduates live every single day.

“I’m certain you, as your forefathers, will continue to lead the Free World and this century will be our century, a century where freedom, innovation, and democratic values reign. A century where tyrannies that repress their own and seek to enslave their neighbors will vanish from earth once and for all,” he said. “But all of our tomorrows and the tomorrows of our children and grandchildren depends on each of our todays. On each of our todays.”

Ukraine’s president received an immediate and lengthy standing ovation from the members of the graduating class and their families, and according to The Hub, university president Ron Daniels presented Zelenskyy with an honorary degree.

“As a fearless champion of his nation, President Zelenskyy has shown the world what true courage in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds looks like,” Daniels said, according to The Hub. “Working not only on behalf of his nation, but in defense of democratic values everywhere, he has shown an incredible ability to rally his country’s citizens, and through their collective action, they have rekindled hope for the rest of us in all that democracies can accomplish.”

Daniels continued, “To hear from President Zelenskyy at graduation will be a once-in-a-lifetime experience for Johns Hopkins students at a moment when the stakes are so high for the future of global democracy. I am thrilled that one of our era’s great democratic leaders will reinforce for them the importance of holding fast to one’s principles and meeting with fortitude and humility the challenging moments of history that they will surely face in the years ahead.”

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