SANTA CRUZ -- Rep. Donna Edwards, a Maryland Democrat with a strong environmental agenda who is known for standing against violence against women, took the stage at UC Santa Cruz's West Field on Saturday and told the sea of graduates the only thing they would probably remember from her speech was "congratulations."
Edwards, the keynote speaker for College 8, used her 15-minute remarks to inspire College 8's class of 2013 to believe in what they want from post-university life and "stand up for what's right and what's just."
"Whatever path you take, find leaders who will inspire you," Edwards said. "I want you to be an agent of change. Reflect on that question when you decide what's next."
She encouraged the graduates toward careers that will improve the environment and lead to a sustainable energy supply across the entire globe.
Edwards, a graduate of Wake Forest University and New Hampshire School of Law, said she remembers feeling excited and nervous at her own ceremonies years ago.
"You have a number of challenges in front of you," she said. "It's probably not going to be a straight path but rather more like a road trip without GPS."
Brendan Berenger, 22, graduated from UCSC on Saturday with a bachelor of science in human biology.
Berenger said he enjoyed Edwards' speech, and he said he looks forward to graduate school and an internship in a doctor's office in Ventura County.
"The last four years were a lot of work," Berenger said.
"But it was definitely worth it. I feel excited and I'm looking forward to the future."
Michael Fox, a law professor in San Francisco and 1973 graduate of UCSC, was in the audience on Saturday to watch his niece, Amanda Fox, receive her degree in psychology.
Fox, 62, said he has simple advice for his niece who comes from a family attorneys.
"Follow your heart and everything else will fall into place," he said. "She's very undecided right now, but there will always be work for the dedicated and motivated."
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