Gov. Martin O'Malley asked nearly 1,800 of University of Maryland, Baltimore's professional school graduates, "Is this world going to change us, or are we going to change the world?"
O'Malley, a Maryland law school graduate who wore its purple academic colors Friday afternoon, spoke of his joy when his wife, Katie, graduated from the same school. He said that at the time, they had a 1-year-old at home and one on the way.
"The most important line of the day is, 'Congratulations. You did it,' " he said, adding, "The hard work you have done to invest in your skills and talents puts our state in a better place in a global economy."
He challenged the graduates to end the "hyperconsumption of our planet's resources," but said, "There are reasons to be optimistic about the future. We need your talent. We need your leadership."
The governor defined three things he felt the graduates should confront - sustainability, security and the human spirit.
He told them to address global climate change "before it's too late," while lauding the country's "moral authority," which he said was "our essential goodness as a people."
He told the group, "Our goodness is about our ideas and our ideals."
In the traditional ceremony, the graduates marched into 1st Mariner Arena as Elgar's "Pomp and Circumstance" was played by a brass quintet. In a new feature this year, they walked east from the University of Maryland, Baltimore campus under a balloon canopy, past the Hippodrome Theatre and the Bromo Seltzer Tower.
Erin K. Ladwing, a dental school student, sang "The Star-Spangled Banner."
David J. Ramsay, the downtown school's president, praised O'Malley's role in keeping up funding for high education during the recession.
"Maryland's higher education system is the envy of the country," Ramsay said.
Jannet Y. Hseih, a School of Pharmacy graduate who is president of the student government, recalled her student experiences and said, "My immigrant parents told me, 'Be all you can be and anything you want.' " She said she felt "the positive energy lighting up the city of Baltimore."
An honorary doctorate was awarded to Richard J. Himelfarb, an attorney and former Legg Mason executive.
O'Malley ended his remarks by reciting a work by Irish poet John O'Donohue:
"May dawn find you awake and alert, approaching your new day with dreams, possibilities and promises," the governor said, concluding with, "May evening find you gracious and fulfilled. May you go into the night blessed, sheltered and protected. May your soul calm, console and renew you."
Also on Friday, Stevenson University in Baltimore County held its graduation, the first May commencement for the school since it changed its name from Villa Julie College. National Public Radio's Juan Williams was scheduled to address the more than 500 students who received their diplomas.