Sheryl Lee Ralph Encourages Graduates to Find Their Joy During Rutgers University Commencement Speech: “Key to a Happy Life”

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Sheryl Lee Ralph shared encouraging and powerful words while delivering the commencement speech for the class of 2023 at Rutgers University.

The Emmy-winning actress graduated from the college in 1975, becoming the youngest female graduate at the time. “In the fall of 1972, I became one of 400 teenage women chosen to form the first freshman class of women to break the gender barrier and usher co-education,” she said during the ceremony held on Mother’s Day.

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“I could have just imagined what it was like when you all first came here to the campus as freshmen,” Ralph’s passionate message continued. “I mean, everything just looked so rosy and bright.”

“Then, our country and the world took a tragic and difficult turn,” the Abbott Elementary star explained. “Kobe died, George Floyd was killed, and then the world stopped and everything changed when COVID-19 … shut down the world. But you, you stayed the course, you never gave up, you found your way, you kept on studying, you kept doing the work. And you are here on graduation day!”

She also advised the graduating class to look in the mirror every day and “love what you see,” because “the better you can be to yourself, the better you can be to everyone else.”

The Instant Mom actress then went on to encourage the graduates to “find your joy.”

With a powerful tone, she said, “Hold on to it. Wrap yourselves in it. Live in it, because that is the key to a happy life.”

During the ceremony, Ralph also received an honorary doctor of fine arts degree from Rutgers University President Jonathan Holloway. The actress later wrote on Twitter, “So let me reintroduce myself I am The Honourable, Dr. Sheryl Lee Ralph OJ.”

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