What do Sheryl Sandberg and Virginia Tech have in common?
In a word, resilience.
The Facebook COO and LeanIn.org founder gave the commencement speech at Virginia Tech on Friday, during which she spoke about her husband’s sudden death in May 2015, and about the 2007 shooting at the university, which was the second deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history.
Pointing to the graduates’ “shared losses,” she said in prepared remarks, “You know that life can turn in an instant. And you know what it means to come together, to pull together, to grieve together, and most importantly, to overcome together.”
Sandberg said she was surprised to find a wealth of resilience within herself as she mourned.
“We don’t have a set amount of resilience – it’s a muscle that any of us can build,” she said. “We build resilience in ourselves. We build it in the people we love. And we build it together, as a community. That’s called ‘collective resilience,’ and it’s an incredibly powerful force – one that our country and world need so badly right now.”
Sandberg said that as she grieved her own loss, she learned that “it takes strength to rely on others.”
“There are times to lean in and there are times to lean on,” she said.
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When she lost her husband, she said, “suddenly I needed my family and friends more than ever. My mom – who along with my dad is here with me today – stayed with me for the first month, literally holding me until I cried myself to sleep each night.”
Sandberg also encouraged the graduates to “build resilience” not only in themselves, but in the world, adding that the most important thing to do for a friend who is suffering is to “show up.”
“If you are there for your friends, and let them be there for you – if you laugh together until your sides ache, hold each other while you cry, and maybe even bring them a burger before they ask – that won’t just make you more resilient,” she said. “It will also help you live a deeper and more meaningful life.”