GLAAD’s President and CEO Gives 2022 Commencement Address at Russell Sage College

May 18, 2022

GLAAD President and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis delivered the commencement speech at her alma mater, Russell Sage College in Troy, NY, charging the graduating class of 2022 to “heal our planet, mend our divisions,” at the commencement ceremony on May 14.

“Your class has experienced the world in such a dramatically different way than any other generation,” Ellis told the graduates. “You have lived and worked through a global pandemic, seeing our culture and politics grow more divided and tense, and a planet that requires immediate attention. And you have done this with all of the information available on social media, but also the stress that comes along with it. You have a vantage point that is unique and will shape tomorrow.”

Overcoming those hardships to graduate is “beyond imagination,” Ellis said, and the tenacity the recent years’ pressures have wrought will allow graduates to “take on this next chapter—you will heal our planet, mend our divisions, secure women’s rights, and bring us to a new level of innovation that helps our society.”

Sage awarded Honorary Doctor of Public Service degrees to Sarah Kate Ellis and to Brenda Robinson, founder of the Black Nurses Coalition (video below). In presenting Ellis with the degree, Russell Sage College President Dr. Christopher Ames noted that her work “creates a more inclusive world.” He continued, “Sarah Kate Ellis and Brenda Robinson exemplify the values of Sage students and graduates across decades. Their careers show their commitments to making a difference in the world and to advancing gender, racial and economic equity.” 

Ellis recalled her career in media and how her future opened up to her when she decided to come out at work, urging the graduates to “check in with yourself and find out who you are, what is real and authentic to you. The what—whether you are a physical therapist or business person, a firefighter, and activist that will follow. For me it was the unlocking of that truth that gave me my wings.” 

In its announcement of the commencement speaker, Sage noted Ellis’ regular commentary in major newspapers, magazines, and news broadcasts including her book Times Two, co-authored with wife Kristen Ellis-Henderson about their decision to start a family and becoming pregnant at the same time, and their new picture book for families, All Moms; and her appearance on prominent lists including Variety’s New Power of New York list of 50 notable activists, artists, and tastemakers, OUT Magazine’s OUT100, Family Circle’s most influential moms, and Guardian’s World Power Pride list.

Ellis concluded her remarks saying, “Today I want to urge all of you: Don’t waste time being anything less than your full self. Because our world needs you in ways that we could never have foreseen—we need you to fight for our democracy, fight for the truth, fight for women’s rights.

“So I’m telling you all today: Unlock your true authentic self. Only then can you fully step into your power and share it with the world.… Embrace yourself as you are, embrace others as they are, then work fearlessly and relentlessly to make this world better for everyone around you—and for yourself.”