Feedback
College Game Plan

Sheryl Sandberg Delivers Emotional Virginia Tech Commencement Speech

Ten years after the Virginia Tech massacre, Sheryl Sandberg delivered a commencement address to the university's graduating class that touched on loss and resilience.

Sandberg, the chief operating officer of Facebook and founder of LeanIn.org, took the stage in drizzling rain to speak to the class of 2017. She was introduced by her co-worker, Facebook Vice President of Engineering Regina Dugan.

"Some of you faced real trauma. All of you faced challenges," Sandberg told the graduating class. Her commencement speech was streamed live on the Virginia Tech Facebook page.

Sandberg called the Virginia Tech community "a testament to courage, faith, and love" and said that people look to the university as "an example of how to stay strong."

The Lean In author, whose advice to women workers on advancing their careers and battling sexism launched a worldwide movement of women's "circles," revealed that she stopped to visit the university's monument to the 32 students and professors killed on campus in one of America's worst-ever mass shootings.

In April 2007, a Virginia Tech senior with a documented history of mental illness episodes traveled across the Blacksburg campus shooting and killing people before taking his own life. Thirty-three people, including the gunman died, and 17 others were injured.

The violence spurred a national conversation about gun laws, and led to President George W. Bush's signing a federal gun control measure that strengthened the National Instant Criminal Background Check System.

Sandberg, who lost her husband Dave Goldberg to a heart condition in 2015, spoke to the students about how surviving tragedy can bring strength.

"What I’ve learned since losing Dave has fundamentally changed the way I view this world and how I live in it," Sandberg said.

Sandberg to Virginia Tech Students: Treat Every Moment as a 'Gift' 2:28

"We are not born with a certain amount of resilience," Sandberg told students. "It is a muscle, and that means we can build it."

The Facebook COO said she also visited Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina, two days earlier. A white supremacist shot and killed nine black churchgoers there in 2015.

Sandberg teared up as she spoke about retaining hope in the face of tragedy and loss: "We are more vulnerable than we ever thought, but we are stronger than we ever imagined."