A rainy Friday morning didn’t stop Liberty University’s Class of 2022 from shining as they gathered at Williams Stadium for the main kick-off ceremony. Keynote speaker and leadership expert John Maxwell encouraged the new Champions for Christ staying consistent, accepting failures and understanding the true meaning of success.
Liberty celebrated more than 23,000 graduates this year; more than 9,800 people attended ceremonies on campus this week‚ the largest of all the Liberty Commencements. Approximately 80% (18,505) of graduates earned degrees through Liberty University’s online programs. Graduation ceremonies for individual programs and schools were scheduled for Thursday through Saturday. More than 60,000 guests were expected on campus for Commencement events.
On Friday, graduates marched onto the grounds to the sounds of the Liberty University Wind Symphony Processional Band before LU Praise, Liberty’s premier gospel choir, led the crowd in worship.
Campus pastor Jonathan Falwell then greeted them and led a prayer of thanks that the Class of 2022 and their loved ones could gather for the ceremony. This is the first year since 2019 that Liberty has held its main ceremony in person. Falwell quoted a line his late father, Liberty founder Dr. Jerry Falwell, often said: “Nothing of eternal significance ever happens outside of prayer.” Jonathan Falwell noted that this year’s Beginning is special for his family. He recognized two of his children and his niece – the last three grandchildren of Dr Falwell to graduate from Liberty.
Liberty President Jerry Prevo then delivered a message to the graduates.
“It’s an exciting time here at Liberty University,” Prevo said. “God bless this university. You had unexpected challenges, but you persevered. … Now the day you dreamed of has come true. You should be proud of what you have done; the diploma is yours, you have earned it.
Prevo acknowledged the wide range of groups present in person or in spirit at the Beginning, including active duty and military veterans, honors students and mothers in the audience ahead of Mother’s Day Sunday. He highlighted the year’s successes in athletics and academics and thanked the many students who served others throughout the school year with Christian Community Service (CSER), LU Serve and the Liberty’s efforts to serve those in Ukraine. He observed a moment of silence for the 23 honored graduates with posthumous degrees who are now with the Lord.
Since the past school year, Liberty has celebrated its 50th anniversarye Anniversary. Prevo said Liberty’s goal since 1971 has been that its graduates be champions for Christ in their respective fields, highly qualified professionals who excel in their work while being witnesses for the Lord.
“Some people doubted that a small Christian college built on a farm in these foothills could ever have much impact, but the doubts disappeared,” Prevo said. “For five decades, Liberty has sent graduates into the world, making an impact for God. Just like Liberty sent Champions for Christ for nearly 50 years, today, Class of 2022, Liberty has been sending you to be Champions for Christ. We send you to defend God.
Maxwell’s granddaughter, Class of 2022 member Hannah, gave a surprise introduction to her grandfather, whom she called ‘Daddy John’, and they were joined on stage by John Maxwell’s son , Joel, also a member of the class of 2022. .
In his speech, Maxwell implored new Liberty alumni to develop for themselves definitions of success that include a positive outlook on failure, growth from within, and consistent practice of what he called ascending habits.
“Your whole life, in our culture, you’ve been taught to separate success from failure,” Maxwell said. “I’m here to tell you today…I want you to keep success and failure side by side. They go together, they don’t belong apart. … Not only do they go together, but they need each other. You separate them and you get arrogance in success and defeat in failure.
Maxwell is the world’s foremost authority on business and leadership education and has advised Fortune 500 CEOs, Presidents of Nations and entrepreneurs around the world. The New York Times bestselling author, speaker, coach and leader has sold over 34 million books in 50 languages. He is the founder of Maxwell Leadership, a leadership development organization that has trained tens of millions of leaders in every country.
“I want to congratulate you on this day,” Maxwell began. “There is a tendency to think of it as a weekend where you have succeeded, but it is (instead) a weekend where your success is recognized. You have succeeded when you have decided to go to Liberty University, you passed when you went to class, you passed when you studied. So many times people confuse what success is with the recognition of success.
He explained that success starts with focusing on God-given talents and then taking time to grow in those skills.
“Find your strengths, the three or four things you do very well, and then be very committed to constantly developing yourself. It’s an ongoing growth process in your life.
In his time as pastor, Maxwell said he found success, by the world’s definition, unfulfilling.
“I decided that I needed to develop a personal definition of success for myself; I couldn’t let the world give me their definition of success,” he said. “I had to figure out for myself (what success is). I only give it to you because the inside (of yourself) has to be strong, and if the inside is strong, it can withstand what is outside.
Achieving something worthwhile requires an uphill journey, Maxwell explained, and the obstacle to that journey is “downhill habits.”
“Everything in your life, everything in my life, every dream you have…everything is uphill,” he said. “Here’s the problem: we have bottom-up hopes, but we have top-down habits, and one of the top-down habits we need to understand at this age is the need for immediate gratification. Anything worthwhile takes time, but if you stick with it, consistency builds up.
“What we appreciate today at Liberty University…it didn’t happen in the first year, it didn’t happen in the first decade, it’s 50 years of consistency in message, focus and effort,” he added.
Before Maxwell left the podium, President Prevo, Liberty Provost and Chief Academic Officer Scott Hicks, and Online Provost Shawn Akers presented him with an honorary doctorate of commerce.
As part of Commencement Weekend, Liberty awarded 867 associate degrees, 9,653 bachelor’s degrees, 1,267 graduate certificates, 8,534 master’s degrees, 1,543 doctoral degrees, and 1,197 degree program degrees Liberty Online Academy secondary schools. Liberty University College of Osteopathic Medicine celebrated 147 graduates. The Liberty University School of Law awarded 69 juris doctors.
A blessing delivered by Liberty co-founder Dr. Elmer Towns sent the Class of 2022 and their loved ones out into the world with a prayer that God would use them for His glory.
“I pray that God blesses every graduate no matter what God has called you to do,” Towns said. “He who called you is faithful, who will also.”