U.S. Senator Ben Cardin

Letters From Ben

May 18, 2024

Graduation Season

Dear Fellow Marylanders,

Maryland weather can be epic. As you know, often we can experience at least three of the four major seasons, maybe Winter, Spring and Summer, all in one day. I will tell you, though, one of my favorite seasons is graduation season and we are right in the heart of it. 

This is a special year for grads. For high schoolers, thanks to the deadly COVID-19 Pandemic, most spent their freshman year, and maybe some of sophomore year, online. I am sure many never thought a true graduation day would ever come. For college graduates, this likely is their very first chance to walk across a real stage and receive a diploma, because their high school graduation ceremony was moved to Zoom or YouTube.

All of these graduates, as well as their family and friends, deserve to celebrate this moment. They made it through one of the most challenging times in our history. There certainly were sacrifices along the way, but with grit and determination, love and support, they made it through.

As a United States Senator for Maryland, I’ve been proud to deliver many commencement speeches over the years. This year is no different. This weekend, I was honored to address the graduates of the University of Maryland School of Social Work in Baltimore, as well as the graduating students at Hood College in Frederick. Here is a bit of what I shared with the grads and their families.

Graduation marks a profound turning point in your life. It is not only the culmination of years of hard work and dedication but also the beginning of a new chapter filled with opportunity. What you do with that opportunity is up to you.

Today, as you stand on the threshold of a new journey, I want you to think about the power you hold in this world. Yes, you have power, as students, as graduates, as citizens.


Public service comes in many shapes and sizes. You do not have to pursue elected office to further a career in public service. Public service is about helping others. It means do not be a bystander. Get involved. Help and make a difference however possible. Public service is less about what you lose, and more about what you give in order to gain.

If you become a teacher, go to an underserved community and teach inner city kids so they may be inspired and equipped to follow in your footsteps. If you become a banker, provide financial services to underbanked communities at the mercy of predatory lenders. If you become a food industry executive, put an end to food deserts so families can have affordable and nutritious meals. If you become an entrepreneur, start a business that provides good-paying jobs for people that need economic security. 


Our nation’s history has been a journey toward a more perfect union so that all Americans can achieve the American dream – whatever their version of that dream may be. We ended slavery and healed from the civil war, women won the right to vote, we eliminated separate but equal doctrine, and advanced civil rights in education, housing and employment. But we are still on that journey towards real equality.

Women are not receiving equal pay for equal work.  The ERA is still not part of our Constitution, minorities still do not have equal opportunities in the workplace, health care or housing.  Government has a duty to address these challenges and improve the lives of all Americans.  

Popularized by Uncle Ben in Spider-Man “With great power comes great responsibility.” Just like the generations before you, you must decide how you will use your power. Will you use your voices to advocate for solutions? Will you use your skills to be of service to your community and nation? Will you be a champion of democracy?

My one wish is that you use your power wisely. Locally or nationally, or somewhere in between. Do not waste the opportunities before you.

In 1915, the cleric and theologian John Wesley gave advice that is so relevant for this moment. He said:

          “Do all the good you can

          By all the means you can,

          In all the ways you can,

          In all the places you can,

          At all the times you can,

          To all the people you can,

          As long as ever you can.”

Never stop fighting for what you believe in. I encourage you all to pursue public service, no matter what that looks like. Remain steadfast in your resolve to tackle tough challenges.

Take a moment and bask in your accomplishment. It is an exhilarating time. But then go out into the world, find your passion, and use your power for good.

Congratulations again to the class of 2024! Enjoy this moment. Embrace it with all you can.


Thank you for your time. Congratulations to all the graduates out there, and their loved ones who supported them on their academic journey. Please feel free to reply to this email with your thoughts on this topic or any other. I would love to hear about your graduation day.

In solidarity,

Ben Cardin