WASHINGTON, DC—This graduation season, AmeriCorps CEO Michael D. Smith returned to his roots in New England, delivering powerful commencement addresses at American International College and at the University of New Hampshire.

In Massachusetts, Smith's speech had a more personal tone as he reflected on his own journey from a young boy in Springfield, Mass. to his role in community and national service leadership.

"I am Springfield. I was shaped by this beautiful city, and it is good to be home,” said Smith. “President Cestero said a lot of nice things about me in the introduction but at my core I am a little Black boy from Springfield whose parents were both just 16 years old when I was born. My family didn’t have a lot of money, but we had love in excess...I first learned about service at my Boys and Girls Club. My mom tells me she sent me there because she needed cheap day care. She got a whole lot more."

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In New Hampshire, Smith addressed the graduating class, emphasizing the importance of service and the impact of collective action.

"Remember, what you survived qualified you to tackle whatever life throws your way,” said Smith. “That democracy is not a spectator sport. Change is not just something that happens to you; it's something that happens because of you. And that service and giving back will always lift us up – those being served and those blessed to serve as well.”

WATCH: AmeriCorps CEO’s University of New Hampshire commencement ceremony remarks

Throughout both speeches, Smith highlighted the critical role of the youth in shaping a brighter future through service and leadership. He called on the graduates to become pioneers of change, leveraging their skills and passions to make a tangible difference in their communities and beyond.

The full remarks from both commencement speeches, including Smith's insights on leadership, service, and the importance of community involvement, are available to read at