Frank McCourt Gives Commencement Address at Georgetown University’s McCourt School of Public Policy on its 10th Anniversary

Frank McCourt delivering the 2023 commencement speech for the McCourt School of Public Policy at Georgetown University

May 25 McOurt Global Impact

Washington, DC – Georgetown University alumnus Frank H. McCourt, Jr. (C’75), executive chairman of McCourt Global, founder of Project Liberty, and founding donor of the McCourt School of Public Policy, was the featured speaker at the Georgetown’s McCourt School of Public Policy 2023 commencement ceremony and 10th anniversary celebration on Thursday, May 18, 2023.

“Ten years ago, I had the privilege of speaking at the founding ceremony and sharing our vision to create the world’s most inclusive – and, therefore, most impactful – public policy training ground….” said McCourt in his remarks. “This class of 2023 is the realization of that vision.”

McCourt’s remarks reflected on the decade since the McCourt School’s founding, noting the increasing use and influence of technology and, specifically, social media. Despite technology’s many benefits, this digital transformation has driven increased disconnection and polarization, and is threatening democracy worldwide.  Concerns about technology’s unhealthy impact inspired McCourt to found the international nonprofit Project Liberty, a visionary initiative to transform how the internet works and empower people over platforms which he publicly launched in 2021.

In 2013, McCourt donated $100 million to Georgetown University to establish the McCourt School of Public Policy and made a second $100 million investment in 2021, which supported financial aid and scholarships to increase access for students seeking a policy education and catalyze a more inclusive pipeline of leaders to reflect the true diversity of our communities.

During the ceremony, McCourt told the graduates that the skills, network, and talents they have accumulated during their time at Georgetown’s premier public policy institution make them the perfect match for the challenges facing society today. He urged students to navigate their own paths, guided by the aspirations of their souls and the values of service that define Georgetown.

“In the history of mankind, there’s one thing that determines our direction—and that’s human beings. It’s us… it’s you,” said McCourt. “That’s why, today—even in the midst of this darkness—I look out at this class and I see the face of hope.”
Video and text of the full commencement is below:

Watch the full commencement address here.

Remarks as Prepared for Delivery by Frank McCourt
Georgetown University
McCourt School of Public Policy
2023 Commencement
Thursday, May 18, 2023

Kidding aside, more than your intellect or your acquired skills, I have faith in the size of your heart. In your capacity to meet our moment not only with your proficiency but with your magnanimity.

You have the chance to navigate a new path that is not determined by the power of our technology but, rather, is guided by the aspirations of your soul.

As you leave this place today, and in the weeks and months to come, you will take on roles that put you at the center of the era-defining conflict that I have done my best to describe to you today.

Some of you may even choose to help reimagine the way technology itself interacts with our institutions, or how it affects our interactions with one another. Over the last few years, I’ve been engaged in my own effort to help rebuild our civic infrastructure through an initiative called Project Liberty—an attempt to fundamentally change how the internet works, making it a public square for the public benefit. In other words, a better web for a better world. If you’re as excited by this project as I am, then I invite you to join us and be a part of it.

Others of you will enter different fields and take on different issues, from education to healthcare to criminal justice and far beyond, in private enterprise or public service. But no matter what you do next, or where your interests and aspirations lie, you will have the opportunity and, I might even say, the responsibility to access your spiritual and ethical core—and to let your humanity shape our connected future.

A future where our democracy is responsive. Where opportunity is real. Where problems like climate change and gun violence can be solved, and where the next generation can look forward to a life that is more open, more compassionate, and more joyful than the one we have today. Where kids can be safe and healthy and happy and excited; where technology can support their journey instead of harming it. Where we can once again make the promise, and keep it, that tomorrow will be better than today and where the welfare of the next generation—our sacred metric—is once again measured with a great sense of pride and shared accomplishment.

I know it may sound difficult to take this stuff on—to challenge the powers that be, dream something different, and then go do it.

But here’s the truth, graduates: it’s not impossible. In fact, it’s not even complicated, is it?

And… it can be joyful.

Take my word as a builder: building is joyful. There is no joy in tearing things down. There’s no joy in hatred, or in anger, or in resentment. But there is great joy, no matter how hard the work, in building and creating and improving—with purpose and compassion… and with love.

So let’s choose this

Let’s put this at the center…

Let’s move from mitigation to elevation; from mere damage control to endless opportunity. Let’s raise our eyes to the horizon, to what’s possible, and—instead of letting technology drag us into a future that we don’t want—let’s choose magnanimity as our guiding principle, our North Star, and use tech as just a tool to help us get there…

Think of the world that Hammarskjöld inherited and what people accomplished between 1945 and 1955. A whole newworld order was created. Now, imagine what you, together, can accomplish over the next 10 years.

I’ve had a long career, and I’ve experienced the view from the top and from the bottom. And, sadly, it took me far too long to recognize that success doesn’t come from the outside, but from within.

And so, if I can leave you with just one piece of simple advice, it is this: don’t wait…Don’t wait.

Don’t let your soul take a backseat to your achievement. Instead, look deeply inside yourself; think about who you are, who you want to be; and infuse your highest self, that self, into everything you do.

If you do that—if you engage your magnanimity, the greatness of your soul,—then I have no doubt that you can—no, rather, that you will—reshape the trajectory of our world. I have no doubt that you will build a fairer economy, a more just democracy, and a resilient civic infrastructure that is optimized for good. And, I have no doubt that you will build, for us, a future that will far surpass anything that humankind has seen before.

Thank you, once again, and congratulations, graduates.

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