Stanford hosted its 131st Commencement for the Class of 2022 on Sunday, granting degrees to over 5,000 undergraduate and graduate students. But the ceremony, which took place at Stanford Stadium, was absent its keynote speaker: Netflix CEO Reed Hastings M.S. ’88 tested positive for COVID-19 the day before he was set to take the podium.
“Unfortunately, just yesterday, Reed Hastings tested positive for COVID,” Tessier-Lavigne said. “And so he isn’t able to join us in person, unfortunately, but we’re delighted that he’s recorded his remarks and will address our graduates by video.”
Stanford granted 1,594 bachelor’s degrees, 2,371 master’s degrees and 1,124 doctoral degrees to graduating students. 286 of these students graduated with departmental honors and 275 with university distinction, while 132 have satisfied the requirements of more than one major, Tessier-Lavigne said in his welcome speech.
Before Hastings’ remarks, the President called on graduates to participate in a “special Stanford tradition” in which he instructed them to “think of all those family members and friends who supported you on this special journey. Turn to your family members and friends if they’re in the stands or watching from around the world.” Graduates then stood up, turned around and waved towards the bleachers with audible calls of gratitude.
“I urge each of you to imagine a brighter future and to figure out what your own unique contribution will be,” the President said. “Each of you has the knowledge and the ability to rise to these challenges and to help transform our world for the better for your own future and for the generations that follow. I know you’re up to the challenge. I’ve seen it.”
He used the Stanford community’s response to the war in Ukraine as an example of such contributions, applauding University-wide fundraising efforts to support Ukraine, as well as academic contributions from Stanford’s Freeman Spogli Institute.
Activism was a focal point at Sunday’s ceremony. During the President’s welcome address, attendees were distracted by an airplane banner advertisement that read, “Congratulations to the Stanford graduates; Boycotting working at Facebook and Google.” The banner-carrying aircraft circled the stadium for much of the ceremony.
“I’ve been speaking this morning about how life is lived in chapters, though in Reed’s case perhaps I should say life is lived in episodes,” joked Tessier-Lavigne as he handed the stage to Hastings, who started his pre-recorded video speech by removing his mask.
During his speech, Hastings shared his love of inventions but emphasized that he has not always had luck with them. He recalled an idea he had that would save users the time of moving their hands back and forth from the keyboard to the mouse on old desktop computers. “I had a great idea: the foot mouse,” Hastings said, explaining that he nearly dropped out of Stanford to work on the invention. “I stayed and graduated like all of you. I didn’t give up on new ideas, and 10 years after discarding the foot mouse, we created Netflix.”
Hastings concluded his speech by drawing an analogy between one’s life trajectory and the story of the tortoise and hare, “Some of you will be hares, getting your first jobs at Google and Goldman, making your first billion by 30. I hope you stay grounded with all that early success.”
Turning to people who might not be as fast, he offered advice and words of encouragement, emphasizing that he, too, was a tortoise.
“Maybe your path won’t be clear or you’ll keep starting over in different areas,” Hastings said. “Applaud your hare friends and their successes, but don’t let it bother you. When you are older, you will love each other more if you accept each other’s unique paths.”
After conferring graduate degrees, Provost Persis Drell and Tessier-Lavigne delivered a scripted sketch, pretending that they forgot to confer degrees for the Class of 2022 undergraduates. After a laugh from the crowd, they finally presented the degrees.
“You’ve graduated from the family of Stanford students and you have joined the family of Stanford alumni,” said Tessier-Lavigne. “From this day forward, wherever you go in the world, whatever path you explore and whatever contribution you seek to make, you will remain forever Cardinal and forever a part of the Stanford community.”