A Message to Graduates: Lead Your Generation to Make Our Country Great for Everyone

To the next generation of leaders, you can make a difference and change America so everyone has equal opportunity to a healthy life.

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Welcome to our special section, Thrive on Campus, devoted to covering the urgent issue of mental health among college and university students from all angles. If you are a college student, we invite you to apply to be an Editor-at-Large, or to simply contribute (please tag your pieces ThriveOnCampus). We welcome faculty, clinicians, and graduates to contribute as well. Read more here.

Recently I had the honor of delivering commencement addresses for several colleges including the U.C. Berkeley School of Public Health, the U.C.L.A. Fielding Public School of Health, and the U.C.L.A. Anderson School of Management.

I took to heart the importance of this moment for the graduates and their families, friends, and educators who have supported them on their journeys. We were connected in this moment and, I hope, we remain connected through a shared purpose to make America — our country — the healthiest it can be and great for everyone.

As all graduates think about how you will make a difference, I want to remind you that you are the next generation of leaders and now is your time to act! As leaders, you can help transform the communities we all care about, lead, innovate, and improve the health of people everywhere.

I know that together, we can help build a stronger, better, more equitable America, one that truly provides liberty and justice for all. Some of the opportunities to transform our communities include everyone having equal opportunity to a living wage, gun control, and combating homelessness. This is a huge undertaking, and yet I believe this is the generation that can and is already poised to make a difference.

You are on the verge of changing America so that everyone has an equal opportunity to a living wage and beyond. Millions of working people struggle to cover the cost of housing, food, health care, and other necessities, and nearly one-third of U.S. families are classified as “working poor,” with African American, Latino, and Native American working families making up more than half of the “working poor.”

You have been chosen as leaders to change America so that the freedom of having a gun comes with the responsibility of making sure you should have a gun. In America, we endure senseless mass shooting after senseless mass shooting. In fact, the U.S. averaged at least one deadly mass shooting a month last year. All told, there were at least 20 shootings in 2018.

You are in position to change America so that no one has to call the streets of America their home. Our country is one of the richest of nations, yet too many people find themselves homeless or one paycheck away from becoming homeless. The Department of Housing and Urban Development found that out of every 10,000 people in the United States, 17 experienced homelessness on a single night.

The knowledge, drive, belief and commitment you all have will ultimately better our country and the world. You are the next generation of leaders who will help to find solutions so our communities and everyone in them can prosper. I urge you to not ask for permission to help improve the lives of our communities, but instead march through the doors of red tape, make bold moves, usher in access for our communities to be served, and lead your generation to reclaim liberty and justice for all!

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More on Mental Health on Campus:

What Campus Mental Health Centers Are Doing to Keep Up With Student Need

If You’re a Student Who’s Struggling With Mental Health, These 7 Tips Will Help

The Hidden Stress of RAs in the Student Mental Health Crisis

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