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Rising to the Challenge

John Berry, Director of the White House Office of Personnel Management, delivers the commencement address at the University of Maryland at College Park and challenges graduates to stand up for themselves and continue changing attitudes.

This commencement season, I’ve been able to address groups of graduates across our country from Georgia, to rural Illinois, to Southern California. One of the personal privileges I’ve had this season was to address my own alma mater, the University of Maryland.

As a student at Maryland, I believed I might never have the privilege of serving the people of our country.  Back then, openly-gay people could be prevented from serving our country in Federal service.  I have the honor of working for the American people today because of the tireless work of countless others before me – people who believed they could change minds and overcome barriers. 

I challenged each of the graduates I addressed to overcome their own barriers, overcome gridlock, and rise to the challenges that face every American generation.  Our past is filled with Americans who had the courage to stand up for themselves and the persistence to change minds and come to solutions – it’s up to today’s graduates to make sure our future is just as full of talent, courage, and leadership. 

John Berry is the Director of the Office of Personnel Management.