Will Kirk/Johns Hopkins University via AP
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy made a guest appearance at Johns Hopkins University when he gave a surprise speech to the Class of 2023 at their commencement ceremony Thursday morning.
Zelenskyy spoke in a live video stream from Ukraine shown at Homewood Field on the university’s Baltimore campus, where he was also presented with an honorary doctorate of humane letters by Johns Hopkins University President Ron Daniels.
In his 10-minute speech, Zelenskyy centered his remarks on the importance of time, in addition to indispensable ideals of freedom, self-determination and democracy.
Zelenskyy’s appearance at the commencement ceremony was a surprise for those in attendance, the university said in a press release.
“One of the most common truisms on Earth is the advice to value or at least not waste time,” Zelensky said in his speech. “Every person eventually realizes that time is the most valuable resource on the planet – not oil or uranium, not lithium or anything else, but time.”
The Ukrainian president thanked the United States and the Biden administration for their unconditional support for his country in the war against Russia.
“I am proud that Ukraine does not lose a single day in its defense against Russian terror. Every day we do everything, everything to become stronger, to provide more protection to people, to save more lives,” Zelenskyy said. “Nor has the United States lost a single day in helping Ukraine repel Russian aggression.”
Zelenskyy compared the candidates to those who fought on the front lines of the war – as many are similar in age and have also completed or plan to complete their education.
“They and you have similar hopes for life, similar expectations from life,” he said. “But there is [a] fundamental difference that comes down to the question of time.”
The university said Zelenskyy accepted the invitation to speak at this year’s commencement on behalf of Ukraine and “in defense of democratic values that allow peace, opportunity and freedom to flourish around the world.”
Zelenskyy’s commencement speech at Johns Hopkins marks his first speech on a US college campus since May 2022, about three months after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
In a speech to Stanford University students in May 2022, Zelenskyy reminded the audience to pursue their passions after graduation, something that those drafted into the war would not have the chance to do.
“I would like to wish all the students, I would like to wish you a long and interesting life in what you do – in science, in journalism, in art, whatever [you do]” he said in that speech. “I sincerely wish you peace.”
Zelenskyy got his start as an actor and comedian playing a fictional president in the Ukrainian TV series Servant of the people. Shortly after the series ended in 2019, he was elected the sixth president of Ukraine.