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‘Soak in this moment’

As more than 6,000 University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill students prepare to enter the next phase of their lives, they were urged to focus on others as much as their budding careers.

Caring, Anne-Marie Slaughter said, is as important as career.

“Strive and struggle and work really hard, but invest in others as much as you invest in yourselves,” she said, speaking under Carolina blue skies. “And always, always make room for the indispensable, precious, priceless work of care.”

Slaughter, a foreign policy expert and public commentator, delivered the Commencement address as Carolina celebrated the graduation of the Class of 2016 on May 8 at Kenan Stadium.

The ceremony was presided over by Chancellor Carol L. Folt and drew approximately 35,000 of the graduates’ family and friends, as well as Board of Governors member Ann Maxwell, Board of Trustees Vice Chair Haywood D. Cochrane and General Alumni Association Board of Directors Chair Dan Myers.

“Soak in this moment,” Folt told the graduates. “You’ve been working toward this for many years. Now you’re here and you’re sharing this moment with your loved ones and friends and all the people who have supported you. They are as proud of your accomplishments as the faculty and staff who helped you reach this wonderful milestone.”

The degrees of more than 6,000 Carolina students were conferred during the two-hour ceremony. They included 3,721 with bachelor’s, 1,383 with masters, 251 with doctoral and 651 with professional degrees from the schools of dentistry, law, medicine, nursing and pharmacy.

“What you have learned and experienced at Carolina has prepared you exceptionally well to think critically, to ask tough questions, to gather information, to collaborate with others, to discover new ideas and solutions and to put them in place wherever your future pursuits take you,” Cochrane said. “We are confident that you are ready to help change the world and make it a better place for everyone. That’s what we do here at Carolina.”

A Carolina education, Folt said, will be crucial to finding solutions to urgent problems.

“You’ll need all your skills, determination and integrity to tackle complex issues of your day like war, environmental degradation and climate change, inequality, global food and water shortages, as well as to adapt quickly to emerging opportunities, and to create vibrant communities for your children and their children.”

Secretary of the Faculty Joseph S. Ferrell — for his 20th and final year — awarded honorary degrees to five people: Slaughter; Sandra Cisneros, award-winning writer of celebrated works including “The House on Mango Street” and 1995 MacArthur Foundation Fellow; Paul Fulton, former president and CEO of Bassett Furniture Industries, Inc and the Sara Lee Corporation as well as former Dean of UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School; Nell Irvin Painter, author of multiple books including “The History of White People, Creating Black Americans: African American History and Its Meaning 1619 to the Present,” member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and former Guggenheim Fellow and; Sister Helen Prejean, Doctor of Divinity, spiritual adviser instrumental to the national dialogue on the death penalty and acclaimed author of “Dead Man Walking,” which inspired the 1996 film.

In her commencement address, Slaughter discussed the importance for graduates to invest in others as much as themselves.

“Career is investing in yourselves: learning, growing and building on the education you received here,” she said. “Care is investing in others. It is learning what to do and what not to do to grow and flourish.”

Caring for children and family members, Slaughter said, is critical to the future prosperity of society. By doing so, this generation can create the change required for gender equality.

“It is time for men, alongside women as equals, to be bold and to break the mold of traditional expectations for how men should lead their lives just as we have broken those expectations of how women should lead their lives,” she said. “Some things will always be the same. The sky will always be Carolina blue. But change is eternal and it falls now to you to change the world for the better of the course of your lives.”