At Elon University’s Saturday graduation ceremony, CNN political analyst David Gergen began the commencement speech just like any other.

“You should just be so proud and take so much satisfaction at how far you’ve come. You’ll rightly cherish the years you’ve spent here.”

But his tone quickly changed.

“I’d like to depart from the tradition of showering you with personal advice,” he said. “Instead, at the risk of offending some of you, I want to talk to you about the deepening concerns that I, and many others, have about the future of North Carolina.”

Gergen proceeded to speak about HB2 and other political issues in North Carolina for the remainder of his 22-minute speech. He quickly issued a call to action.

“It is time to raise our voices against this darkness. Indeed, it is time for fellow citizens of all stripes – white and black; young and old; native and newcomer; men, women and people of chosen gender – everyone – to join forces and preserve the best of who we are as a people.”

He told the crowd of roughly 12,000 people that “mean spirited politics” are damaging North Carolina’s reputation. Most importantly, he said, the actions of North Carolina’s legislature are putting citizens at risk – primarily transgender citizens.

“We have to realize the stress, the anxiety these folks are going through and appreciate it, be compassionate about it.”

Gergen said he was proud to grow up in North Carolina and watch as civil rights leaders promoted racial equality and as business leaders developed the Research Triangle Park.

Gergen then called upon the leaders of today to end the “bathroom bill” dispute.

“There are things that can be done, and what all roads point to, where our ultimate destination should be, and that is to repeal HB2. Repeal HB2.”

Gergen urged the crowd to accept their differences and understand that while not everyone will agree, everyone should join the fight for a better state and a better country.

“I plead with you. Please don’t stay on the sidelines as America struggles to find a better path forward. Come off the bench. Get in the arena. You will find that many will disagree with you, just as here, I’m sure there are many who disagreed with me and find it offense that I’ve spoken this way on commencement day.”

Gergen ended by congratulating the new graduates and urging them to be active leaders in their communities.