John Berry, the federal government’s personnel chief, challenged graduating seniors at the University of Maryland on Sunday to “heal the nation” and “get beyond the yelling and fingerpointing” that divides Washington and the country.
“I want you to break the gridlock that is now too common,” Berry, chief of the Office of Personnel Management, told almost 8,000 graduating seniors and graduate students at the commencement ceremony in College Park.
“Here is your challenge,” he said. “Heal the nation. No one party has a lock on the truth. Our debates need a lot less anger and irony and a lot more humility.”
Berry, 53, a U-Md. alum and Rockville native, is speaking at six graduations this spring, from Georgia State University to California State University at Fullerton. He is the highest-ranking openly gay presidential appointee, and at Sunday’s ceremony he spoke about his journey as a gay man.
“I grew up at a time when being gay was not okay,” he told the crowd.
One of his goals in speaking to graduates is to sell the idea of a career in the federal government. OPM has recently revamped a series of internships and entry-level programs for young people called “Pathways.”
President Obama, first lady Michelle Obama and other administration officials also are giving commencement addresses this spring, including Education Secretary Arne Duncan, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, Assistant Attorney General Thomas Perez and Labor Secretary Hilda Solis.