Music legend Stevie Wonder performed from the Fordham Commencement stage, but not before offering the Class of 2023 some inspiration—and a challenge.

“The youth are going to make the difference. I believe in you. That’s why I sing, and that’s why I’m motivated,” he said at the May 20 ceremony, just after receiving an honorary doctorate from the University.

‘Stand Up and Be Counted’

“Fordham has given you the tools to achieve, to excel, and to do great things in this world. But that’s not gonna happen by sitting on your hands,” he said.

“You’ve got to be activists. You have to vote. You have to serve your communities and you must enlighten the unenlightened.”

Wonder—a winner of 25 Grammys, 32 No. 1 singles, 49 top 40 singles and worldwide sales of over 100 million units—was honored for both his artistry and his leadership on social and humanitarian issues, such as making Martin Luther King Jr. Day a national holiday and expanding the availability of published works in accessible formats such as Braille, large print, and audio books.

‘You Really Do Have To Be Woke’

He challenged the graduates assembled on Edwards Parade to use their education to respond to the realities of the world’s suffering.

“You really do have to be woke. Now, maybe some leaders in this nation don’t understand what being woke is. Let me tell you what it is. It’s being awake. And being awake means being aware…So stand up and be counted as one against oppression, hatred, and let’s keep the truth alive.”

To the crowd’s delight, Wonder performed “You Are The Sunshine Of My Life,” drawing more cheers from graduates and families.

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