Fall 2020 Commencement Ceremony: Dream Big

December 15, 2020

Alum and Colorado Supreme Court Justice Carlos Samour Jr. kicked off CU Denver’s second virtual commencement with five messages of hope for the more than 1,400 graduates and 6,000 viewers.

Work hard. Don’t shy away from daunting challenges or lofty goals because of how much work they require.”    

Don’t ever quit. And when you fail, don’t get discouraged. You are going to have failures in your life, and you will face adversity on many occasions, but you can’t taste success unless you endure defeat.”  

Make a difference in an individual’s life. Make a difference in many people’s lives. Make a difference for a group or multiple groups. Make a difference in society as a whole. Just make a difference, and leave the world a better place than you found it.

        Enjoy the journey. Sometimes we focus so much on our goals or our daily tasks that we overlook the little things—the friendships we forge, the cool experiences we have, the special moments we live through, the neat places we visit.”

         “Follow your heart. Follow whatever it is you’re passionate about. We all have financial pressures. We all have family pressures. We all have other kinds of pressures. But if you follow your heart and do whatever it is you’re truly passionate about, you will not work a day in your life.

Samour knows all too well the meaning of working hard to achieve a dream. When he was 13 years old, his family fled from El Salvador to the United States to escape a civil war and political turmoil. The family of 14—12 children, mother, and father—applied for vacation visas, packed what they could into an oversized van and started driving to Colorado. “My parents lost a lot of their savings, and we had to leave most of our possessions behind,” Samour shared candidly during his keynote speech. “We brought with us only what we could fit in the van we were traveling in. And once we got here, my parents had to start over.”

Samour’s mother stayed home with the kids and his father, who was a lawyer and judge in El Salvador, took a job as a school bus driver because he didn’t speak English and couldn’t practice law in Colorado. While Samour’s parents couldn’t buy him a car or pay for college, he said, they gave him the invaluable gift of unwavering support and strong encouragement.

Samour worked hard, and it paid off. He earned a psychology degree from CU Denver’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and a law degree from the University of Denver. He then went on to become a lawyer, a judge, and two years later, a Colorado Supreme Court justice. “Not only do dreams come true,” he said, “but BIG dreams come true.”

Chancellor Michelle Marks echoed the heartfelt sentiment. In her opening remarks for the fall 2020 commencement, she acknowledged the graduates for reaching a “monumental goal” during a year unlike any other. “You have responded courageously to circumstances out of your control,” Marks said. “You’ve navigated uncertainty with strength and determination.”

CU President Mark Kennedy congratulated graduates, and faculty Marshal Maryam Darbeheshti presented the conferring of degrees. Those who registered and submitted photos of gratitude were shown in the ceremony, and all graduates were celebrated in a separate video. Learn more about each graduate, and hear encouraging words from CU Denver deans and leaders, by watching the full commencement ceremony.

Celebrating Our Grads on Social Media

CU Denver celebrated the class of 2020 on social media in various ways, from uplifting videos to albums of graduates’ portrait photos. To kick off commencement day, Milo was caught (with proper social distance) celebrating around his stomping grounds—CU Denver’s downtown campus and Speer Boulevard.

CU Denver’s Facebook page has a special album dedicated to fall 2020 graduates. Check to see if you or a loved one’s photo made it! On CU Denver’s Instagram, you’ll find standout graduates’ one-of-a-kind stories. Follow the account to learn more.

Congratulations, class of 2020. You did it!