“Throughout this academic year, we will be celebrating and honoring the freedom of tradition and many successes of the university, as well as highlighting the people who have contributed to this great institution,” said Daniel Shanahan, assistant professor and entrepreneurship program director, in his introduction of Thurston. “While we commemorate the past, we wanted the keynote address to be forward thinking – to contextualize a current moment, and provide insight and framework for future possibilities.”
Before delivering his speech, Thurston took the time to meet with student leaders for a private interview, discussion, and photos.
During his address, he encouraged all audience members to rethink current political and societal structures and work together to create change that benefits as many people as possible.
He spoke about justice, racism, and environmental issues, and other important topics. His main advice was to show up and participate; invest in relationships; understand power and its many forms; and see people as a collective group instead of individuals alone.
“We can choose to see our neighbor as a friend, not an enemy,” said Thurston.
“We can build something together that not one of us can do on our own,” he added.
The event was intended to “spark discussion by faculty and students and the wider community about how far we have come in the past 75 years and, more importantly, what type of constructive future we want here at the university and beyond,” explained Shanahan.
Crystal Buchanan, a fourth-year political science student at Daemen, said her main takeaway from Thurston’s speech was that “When people unite to create change, it doesn’t mean everyone has to think the same way. It just means some of us need to join together in order to help all of us move forward. I think that’s something important for everyone to understand.”
She added, “It’s not about getting everyone to be on your side, or to think the way you want them to think. It’s about getting enough people committed to something so that they can bring about positive change.”
A follow-up reception was held after the event, where Thurston socialized, mingled, exchanged ideas, and took photos with a group of faculty, staff, and student leaders.
“Baratunde’s visit to campus was everything we could have hoped for in celebrating our 75th anniversary,” said Amanda Gross, chief of staff at Daemen University. “His talk was engaging and thought provoking, weaving together very real issues with humor, grace, and hope.”
The Daemen University Center for Diversity and Inclusion will host a 75th Keynote Address Reflection Panel event at 11:30 a.m. on Monday, Oct. 3, in the Wick Center’s Alumni Lounge. The event will reflect on the powerful messages Thurston shared, as well as how the Daemen Community can implement his advice to create positive change.
Learn more about the upcoming events in celebration of Daemen University’s 75th anniversary at daemen.edu/75th.