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2024 U grads urged to host more potlucks

Eboo Patel, founder and president of Interfaith America and a University of Utah Impact Scholar, gave the U’s 2024 commencement address.

Democracy needs more potlucks, according to University of Utah 2024 commencement speaker Eboo Patel.

“A potluck is the ultimate democratic form. No mayor, governor, president or general can command people to potluck,” the founder and president of Interfaith America and a university public impact scholar said to graduates in his speech. “It is an event of the people, by the people, for the people. It is street-level proof of self-governance.

Patel noted that in addition to potlucks, there are many ways to engage in a diverse democracy—voting, canvassing, making speeches, starting organizations, joining clubs, running for office, and peacefully protesting. 

While all of these are important, there is something unique about a potluck, because it allows individuals to express their faith in the essential idea of democracy, Patel said. 

“Potlucks don’t exist without people bringing a dish. Democracies don’t survive without people making a contribution,” he said. 

And, like everything else in democracy, potlucks need an initiating force. 

“Potlucks don’t rise from the ground or fall from the sky,” Patel said. “Someone steps up to host them. Everything always starts with a leader. Today, I’m asking you to be that person.”

The U’s 155th General Commencement Ceremony celebrated over 8,500 graduates.

The 2024 General Commencement at the Jon M. Huntsman Center on Thursday, May 2 celebrated 8,652 graduates. The event was preceded by protests Monday and Tuesday on the school’s campus against the Israel-Hamas war in Gaza. 

Thursday’s ceremony was paused briefly, while 20 to 30 audience members and a handful of graduates walked out in protest of the war. One individual was arrested at an earlier protest outside the arena.

“We hear you, and you have the right to express your viewpoint,” President Taylor Randall said. “You do not, however, have the right to disrupt this celebration of your peers’ years of hard work and academic achievements.”

As the protestors chanted “Free, Palestine!” the crowd booed. Then they cheered as the protestors filed out. A crowd of approximately 100 protestors gathered outside the ceremony and dispersed before 7 p.m.

The Class of 2024 started at the U at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, when masks were still required. Many were not able to attend their high school graduations, and they did not gather for the U’s traditional first-year class photo in Rice-Eccles Stadium. Instead, to mark this occasion, each member of the class received a commemorative pin.

“Despite the challenges, you remained optimistic about your future,” Randall said. “I know this because I have seen with my own eyes your resilience and watched you succeed. You are here!”

In case you missed it, watch the full event video here.

Eron Powell was the 2024 student commencement speaker.


  • Eron Powell, the student speaker who graduated with a bachelor of science degree in biology. Watch his speech here.
  • Eboo Patel, the Founder and president of Interfaith America, delivered the keynote speech. Watch it here.
  • Cynthia Berg, a distinguished professor in the Department of Psychology, and Jay Barney, the presidential professor of strategic management and Lassonde chair of social entrepreneurship, are the 2023 recipients of the Rosenblatt Prize for Excellence. Read more here.
  • Watch the college dean callouts to graduates here.