Laurien Alexandre, PhD 2022 Commencement Address

A Call For Dissent

Excerpts from Laurien Alexandre’s 2022 Commencement Address to Graduates of the PhD in Leadership and Change

Laurien Alexandre
Laurien Alexandre is the Dean of the Graduate School of Leadership and Change. Alexandre’s past speeches have been recognized nationally. Her 2019 speech was chosen by Civic Nebraska as one of the most inspiring commencement speeches in their Democracy’s Dozen.

Today, I want to call upon you to dissent. To engage in principled insubordination against injustice. To raise voices against voter suppression. To challenge conspiracy mongers and act audaciously against authoritarianism. Our democracy demands it.

Let’s be clear. To dissent is a personal choice to speak up, a professional choice to protest, a political choice.

When Horace Mann called upon Antioch graduates to “win those victories for humanity” he was saying—just as he lived—you cannot be silent in the face of racism and bigotry, nor complicit with fundamental attacks on women’s rights. He took a stand. Antioch College was founded on those principles.

While we have never truly been an inclusive country, today it feels like we are a more broken nation, certainly more than any time in my lifetime. Perhaps not since the 1860s, when Horace stood up. As Antiochians, if we want to win those victories then we cannot sit on the sidelines now.

It should not go unnoticed that in Horace Mann’s words to the first Antioch graduating class he declared how important it was to “triumph over some abuse of church or state, some vice or folly in society, some false opinion.” Let that sink in. Mann is telling each graduate to act, to question the authority of church or state. He is telling us to speak out against lies and liars. Those promoting false opinion. To be bold in our defense of facts and truth.

I believe that every Antioch graduate—as an individual, a practitioner, a scholar—needs to find their cause and their purpose, which triumph over which abuse, which false opinion you want to call out and in what way. It would be inappropriate for me to tell you what is your cause or how to voice your concern.

But I do ask you—in the name of Antioch and the legacy of Horace Mann—to speak out against false opinions and to act against injustice. To disobey when an order is unjust. To dissent when a decision is unfair. To use your voice to triumph over abuse and folly. To challenge the Big Lie and big liars. To vote as if our lives depend upon on it. They do.