Every March you will find roughly 35 individuals from across the Commonwealth and from all walks of life meeting in one room to embark on a 9-month journey known as the Political Leaders Program (PLP). The next nine months will take them to every corner of Virginia, from a dairy farm to a coal mine, and from the Port of Virginia to the U.S. Capitol Building.
The Class of 2019 completed their PLP journey on Dec. 13-14 in Charlottesville. Joining them for their Friday graduation dinner was UVA President Jim Ryan. President Ryan sat down with Sorensen executive director Tom Walls for a conversation on leadership. President Ryan stressed that people—especially people who seek out programs like the PLP—have a moral obligation to lead.
After President Ryan’s remarks, the PLP Class President Levin Turner and Vice President Peter Volosin took to the podium to deliver their final remarks for the evening. They announced a generous Class Gift of $26,000 to the Sorensen Institute Scholarship Fund.
On Saturday, PLP participants gathered for a final class session before joining friends, family, and mentors for a graduation ceremony. Larry Terry, executive director of the Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service, spoke about the "strong side of democracy" and the importance of engaging with others. Class President Levin Turner spoke of how Sorensen "nullifies stereotypes" as participants get to know their classmates as individuals, genuinely listening to their experiences and values.
Each member of the Class of 2019 had an opportunity to take the podium as they received their diplomas and Sorensen pins. Knowing that they might never again be gathered in the same room, graduates shared reflections on the PLP experience, treasured memories, heartfelt thanks, and encouragement for the future.
The PLP graduation weekend is a bittersweet moment for participants and staff, and that feeling was especially present this year. Our graduation ceremony also marked an official farewell to Sorensen’s executive director Tom Walls. Tom’s leadership has been invaluable, and we will miss him. Fortunately for us, he isn’t going too far away! Look for Tom around the Capitol and Pocahontas Building during Session, and make sure to say hello.