Up in the air: Speakers offer advice for grads

Up in the air: Speakers offer advice for grads
   Stay hungry for education. Show what you're made of. Get out there and change the world.

     The class of 2014 heard those messages and more as they began life after college.  Here are excerpts from commencement addresses by first lady Michelle Obama, science guru Bill Nye, former New York Timeseditor Jill Abramson, Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.,  and Secretary of State John Kerry.            

   “…The education of our young people is all of our business.” –first lady Michelle Obama, speaking at Dillard University, New Orleans:

    “…It's the same hunger that gave life to this university, the same hunger that defined so many of our parents and grandparents -- including my own. You see, my parents never went to college, but they were determined to see me and my brother and all the kids in our neighborhood get a good education.
    “So my mother volunteered at my school -- helping out every day in the front office, making sure our teachers were doing their jobs, holding their feet to the fire if she thought they were falling short. I'd walk by the office and there she'd be. I'd leave class to go to the bathroom, there she'd be again, roaming the halls, looking in the classrooms. And of course, as a kid, I have to say, that was a bit mortifying, having your mother at school all the time.
    “But looking back, I have no doubt that my classmates and I got a better education because she was looking over those teachers' shoulders. You see, my mom was not a teacher or a principal or a school board member. But when it came to education, she had that hunger. So she believed that our education was very much her business.
    “And we need more people who think and act like my mother, and all those mothers out there, because the education of our young people is all of our business.”

    “…Change the world in new, exciting and big ways.” –Bill Nye, CEO of the Planetary Society, speaking at University of Massachusetts, Lowell:

      “You are UMass Lowell graduates, you are really among the best in the world at thinking about new arrangements, new tools and new elegantly engineered designs to reach for what I like to call ‘the high-hanging fruit’ – the big prizes and great big prizes. That’s what we want you to do for us. I’m not kidding; change the world in new, exciting and big ways.”
      “…So Class of 2014, here’s wishing you the joy of discovery. Keep reaching. Keep seeking. Keep using your abilities to bring out the best in those around you, and let them bring out the best in you. As you do, you can and you will, dare I say it, change the world!”

   “Show what you’re made of.”  –Jill Abramson, former editor of The New York Times, speaking at Wake Forest University, Winston-Salem, North Carolina:

     “Graduating from Wake Forest means you have experienced success already. And some of you – and now I’m talking to anyone who has been dumped – have not gotten the job you really wanted or have received those horrible rejection letters from grad school. You know the disappointment of losing or not getting something you badly want. When that happens, show what you are made of.
     “I was in China recently, and some of you know The New York Times website has been blocked by censors there for more than a year. That means in China that citizens cannot read the most authoritative coverage of their country. Every time I reflexively tried to open The New York Times website, I got the message that said, ‘Safari cannot open the page,’ which made me become more and more furious.
     “While I was I Beijing, one of our Chinese journalists, Patrick Song, was detained for hours by authorities. The government meant to scare and intimidate him. Why was he detained? Simply because he worked as a truthful journalist. So what did he do? He came right back to work and quietly got on with things. 'I did what I believe, and that makes me fearless,' Patrick told me after his ordeal.
     “You know, New York Times journalists risk their lives frequently to bring you the best report in the world. That’s why it is such an important and irreplaceable institution. And it was the honor of my life to lead the newsroom.
     “A couple of students I was talking to last night after I arrived, they know that I have some tattoos. One of them asked me, ‘Are you gonna get that TimesT that you have tattooed on your back removed?’ Not a chance.”

   “…Have the courage to be disruptors.” Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, speaking at University of California, Berkeley:

     “In this Memorial Stadium in 1962 on Charter Day, President Kennedy said: ‘Nothing is more stirring than the recognition of great public purpose.  Every great age is marked by innovation and daring – by the ability to meet unprecedented problems with intelligent solutions.’  As you leave this stadium today as Berkeley graduates, that must be your aim and your mission: to use innovation, to use your daring spirit, to resolve conflict, to seek and find intelligent solutions – to have the courage to be disruptors.
     “Remember this: With the knowledge gained here, you can do anything. You may not be aware of the opportunities that await you, but when those opportunities present themselves, be ready. Be idealistic, be pragmatic, be ready. That’s a lesson I’ve taken to heart in my own experience. Although with my generation, I was inspired by John F. Kennedy, I had no idea I’d go from the kitchen to Congress, from homemaker to House speaker.
     “So, my wish for you is that you will go forward with confidence strengthened by your Berkeley education. My wish is that you know your power to light the future with your ideals and your optimism. My wish is that you will be disruptors when necessary, and that you enjoy every moment of it. I have faith in the future because of America’s young people – because of you.” 

    “…Our citizenship is not just a privilege – it is a profound responsibility.” Secretary of State John Kerry, speaking at Boston College:

     “The people I met here were putting into action the words of the Jesuit motto that you’ve heard already today: ‘Men and women for others.’
     “Every institution has a mission or a motto – that’s the easy part. The hard part is ensuring that they’re not just words. We have to make sure that even as our world changes rapidly and in so many ways, we can still, each of us, give new meaning to our values.
     “Today, I promise you that is one of the greatest challenges of America’s foreign policy: ensuring that even when it’s not popular, even when it’s not easy, America still lives up to our ideals and our responsibilities to lead.
     “Never forget that what makes America different from other nations is not a common religion or a common bloodline or a common ideology or a common heritage. What makes us different is that we are united by an uncommon idea: that we’re all created equal and all endowed with unalienable rights. America is – and I say this without chauvinism or any arrogance whatsoever, but America is not just a country like other countries. America is an idea, and we – all of us, you – get to fill it out over time. So our citizenship is not just a privilege – it is a profound responsibility.
     “And in a shrinking world, we can’t measure our success just by what we achieve as Americans for Americans, but also by the security and shared prosperity that we build with our partners all over world.”

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