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Viola Davis Inspires URI Graduates, Receives Honorary Doctorate in Commencement Speech

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Viola Davis Inspires URI Graduates, Receives Honorary Doctorate in Commencement Speech

Top actress Viola Davis inspired a new generation of college graduates on Saturday, May 18, during the University of Rhode Island’s commencement ceremony. 

The university honoured her exceptional career and contributions to the arts with an honorary Doctor of Letters before her address.

In an Instagram post celebrating the honor, Davis joked that people might call her “Dr. Davis” and added, “You can still call me ‘Viola’ after you call me doctor!”

Speaking to the College of Arts and Sciences graduates of 2024, Davis—dressed in a robe representing the university’s colors—promoted the idea that every person has potential. 

“As I stand here, I see the holy, a flame, in each of you. You know, that spark that turns into a magnificent wildfire when aroused or roused,” she said.

In order to further clarify the metaphor, she said that the flame represented their life energy, narrative, and passion—in other words, who they really were. 

“You can either leave something for people, or you can leave something in people,” Davis said, urging the graduates to have a significant influence on others.

 Furthermore, if you leave it in, you are sowing everlasting fires and embers.”

The audience applauded enthusiastically when she highlighted the grads’ ability to make significant “boss moves,” and her words had a lasting effect on the young people who were about to embark on their new chapters.

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