At RISD’s Commencement ceremony on Saturday, June 1, keynote speaker Bryan Stevenson urged the Class of 2019 to “resist the politics of fear and anger” with the hope and power their creativity brings to the world. “When we do this we begin to create a different culture, a new kind of future,” the Equal Justice Initiative founder pointed out, calling on RISD’s newest alumni to invest their talents in creating more just societies.

In addressing the 486 bachelor’s degree and 214 master’s degree recipients at the Rhode Island Convention Center, the acclaimed public interest lawyer emphasized the importance of “getting proximate” to individuals and communities in need. By listening to and learning from marginalized and oppressed people, Stevenson said, artists and designers are uniquely positioned to “at a bare minimum… affirm their humanity—and this can change the world. I believe in liberation—that there's something better waiting for us," he continued. "Stay hopeful. Our hope is our superpower."

Stevenson and his fellow honorary degree recipients—writer Chimamanda Adichie, artist Theaster Gates and activist Nadya Tolokonnikova—each expressed admiration and expectation for what RISD graduates will accomplish in the years ahead. Gates, who also spoke at a separate graduate hooding ceremony on May 31, asked students to think of making as “a way of shaping hearts and minds,” reaffirming a prevailing faith in art and design as a force for good. The galvanizing words of hope were met with enthusiasm by students and thousands of guests—their families, friends and members of the RISD community who attended the joyous event. In her opening remarks, President Rosanne Somerson 76 commended the graduates for fueling an intense focus on social justice and sustainability issues—pillars of RISD’s new strategic plan. “You possess the unique talents and multilingual practices needed to make us more aware—to make us act,” she said before urging new graduates to direct their abilities toward today’s most pressing challenges. “We need you to help us lead in the face of uncertainty and to be uncompromising in your values,” Somerson said. “Your powerful and connected minds, hands and hearts can see the unseen. Bring this into tangible form and then help others to see it as well.”

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2019
Saturday, June 1st
10:30 AM

Commencement 2019 Board of Trustees Chair Michael Spalter Welcome Address

Michael Spalter, Rhode Island School of Design
RISD President, Rhode Island School of Design

Rhode Island Convention Center, One Sabin St. Providence, RI

10:30 AM

Commencement 2019 Boo City, President Rosanne Somerson

Rosanne Somerson, Rhode Island School of Design
RISD President, Rhode Island School of Design

Rhode Island Convention Center, One Sabin St. Providence, RI

10:30 AM

Commencement 2019 Bryan Stevenson Address, Clip 1

Bryan Stevenson
RISD President, Rhode Island School of Design

Rhode Island Convention Center, One Sabin St. Providence, RI

10:30 AM

Commencement 2019 Bryan Stevenson Address, Clip 2

Bryan Stevenson
RISD President, Rhode Island School of Design

Rhode Island Convention Center, One Sabin St. Providence, RI

10:30 AM

Commencement 2019 Bryan Stevenson Address, Clip 3

Bryan Stevenson
RISD President, Rhode Island School of Design

Rhode Island Convention Center, One Sabin St. Providence, RI

10:30 AM

Commencement 2019 Bryan Stevenson | Honorary Degree Recipient

Bryan Stevenson
RISD President, Rhode Island School of Design

Rhode Island Convention Center, One Sabin St. Providence, RI

10:30 AM

Commencement 2019 Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie | Honorary Degree Recipient

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
RISD President, Rhode Island School of Design

Rhode Island Convention Center, One Sabin St. Providence, RI

10:30 AM

Commencement 2019 Nadya Tolokonnikova Honorary Degree Recipient

Nadya Tolokonnikova
RISD President, Rhode Island School of Design

Rhode Island Convention Center, One Sabin St. Providence, RI

10:30 AM

Commencement 2019 Presentation of Student and Faculty Awards

RISD President, Rhode Island School of Design

Rhode Island Convention Center, One Sabin St. Providence, RI

10:30 AM

Commencement 2019 President Rosanne Somerson Closing Remarks

Rosanne Somerson, Rhode Island School of Design
RISD President, Rhode Island School of Design

Rhode Island Convention Center, One Sabin St. Providence, RI

10:30 AM

Commencement 2019 Qualeasha Wood, Undergraduate Student Speaker

Qualeasha Wood, Rhode Island School of Design
RISD President, Rhode Island School of Design

Rhode Island Convention Center, One Sabin St. Providence, RI

10:30 AM

Commencement 2019 Ramon Solis, Graduate Student Speaker

Ramon Solis, Rhode Island School of Design
RISD President, Rhode Island School of Design

Rhode Island Convention Center, One Sabin St. Providence, RI

10:30 AM

Commencement 2019 Tara Gupta, Climate Change Moment of Silence

Tara Gupta, Rhode Island School of Design
RISD President, Rhode Island School of Design

Rhode Island Convention Center, One Sabin St. Providence, RI

10:30 AM

Commencement 2019 Theaster Gates | Honorary Degree Recipient

Theaster Gates
RISD President, Rhode Island School of Design

Rhode Island Convention Center, One Sabin St. Providence, RI

10:30 AM