Canada tells grad students: America’s best still ahead

Merrimack College graduate school commencement speaker Geoffrey Canada urged the 201 graduates in the class of 2015 to build on the sacrifices and accomplishments of their forefathers, including members of the Greatest Generation and civil rights icons such as Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks.

“The best of America is yet to come,” Canada said.

Merrimack bestowed master of science degrees in engineering, civil engineering, accounting and management; masters of education in community engagement, higher education and teacher education; and certificates of advanced graduate study in education leadership.

Canada grew up in the South Bronx and graduated high school in 1975 when it was the poorest congressional district in the United States.

He vowed to himself he would raise children in his neighborhood from poverty and eventually founded the Harlem Children’s Zone with the goal of ensuring children stay in school to finish high school and college.

“We haven’t kept my promise to eliminate those places our children don’t have a chance,” Canada said as he urged the graduates to make America better.

It’s up to the next generation to make America a better place, he said.

Merrimack President Christopher Hopey told graduates their education must continue even after leaving the halls of academia.

“As you embark on your life journey, remember St. Augustine’s words,

‘don’t settle for knowledge, move toward wisdom,’” Hopey said.

Student speaker Keiara Perry, who earned a master’s in accounting, urged her fellow graduates to build their assets column and take full advantage mentorship and networking opportunities.

Katherine Ogando, of Methuen, Mass., earned a master’s degree in education and community engagement.

“This was a huge accomplishment,” Ogando said. “The big thing is I had a baby during my master’s.”

Her son Kai Williams is now 3 months old.

“Congratulations to all our graduates,” Hopey said before college Faculty Senate President Jonathan Lyon closed the commencement.