As president of Utah Valley University, Matthew Holland helps shepherd graduates through commencement ceremonies each spring. This year, he symbolically joined 6,329 students in graduating from the university.
Holland announced in November his plans to step down from his position with the university in order to serve as mission president for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, beginning in July. The graduation was one of his last duties to perform after spending about nine years with the university.
“I get to take flight with you,” he said.
Holland’s mission will take him to North Carolina, where the Wright brothers taught themselves to fly. He shared a story about the famed brothers and some lessons he learned from their perseverance with the graduates.
“So many of you for so long have practiced your own version of the Wright brothers’ formula for achievement,” he said. “I look at your bright future and I see something extraordinary.”
Holland encouraged everyone to embrace the inevitable storms of life and a Wright brother quote about a bird that cannot truly soar in a calm sky.
The president was given a standing ovation after his speech, and he embraced his wife, who joined him onstage.
Students also listened to remarks from keynote speaker and CNN lead political anchor Wolf Blitzer on Thursday.
Blitzer rose to fame during the Gulf War of the early 1990s, when he was a military correspondent for the network. He has since graduated to lead political anchor, interviewing numerous world leaders and moderating several presidential debates. On Thursday, the veteran journalist credited his success to luck, to hard work and to a CNN senior producer who he said graduated from UVU and was in attendance at the ceremony.
“If you can combine your passion with your livelihood and your interests,” Blitzer said, “trust me, you’re going to be a lot happier and successful.”
Utah Valley University officials presented Blitzer with an honorary doctorate Thursday for his 40 years of covering breaking news and domestic and international politics.
Blitzer told students of how his Polish parents fled Nazi Europe to settle in Buffalo, N.Y., where they achieved the American dream.
“They loved the United States so much and were the most patriotic Americans I ever met,” he said, adding that his childhood home always had an American flag flying outside. “Patriotism, family, country. Members of the class of 2018, I urge you to remember those values as you head on into the world to build your careers and your lives.”