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Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Graduation Day Wrap Up

In today's post:

This year, several CNN journalists offered their words of wisdom to graduating students across the country. Here’s a wrap up of their graduation day activities.

Jeff Greenfield

Former CNN Political Analyst, Jeff Greenfield delivered the commencement address at Hunter College on May 31, 2007. An excerpt follows:

Referring to himself as an old “geezer,” Greenfield made the graduates both laugh and think with his wry, insightful observations about what he called playing the game of life.

“You don’t get a do-over,” he said. “There is enough out there of work and play and joy to fill a hundred lifetimes. You have one.”


Aaron Brown

Former CNN anchor, Aaron Brown delivered the keynote address for the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication spring convocation on May 11, 2007.

Brown, who served as the John J. Rhodes Chair in Public Policy and American Institutions at Arizona State University during the spring semester, received a standing ovation from the crowd of more than 1,200 at Grady Gammage Memorial Auditorium, the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed venue on the Tempe campus.


Suzanne Malveaux

CNN White House correspondent, Suzanne Malveaux, was awarded the 2007 Medal of Excellence from Columbia University at the May 16, 2007 commencement ceremony.


Soledad O'Brien

On Saturday, May 19th, Soledad O’Brien gave the keynote address at the Undergraduate Commencement at Bryant University and was presented with a Doctor of Human Letters honorary degree.

O’Brien also spoke at the convocation ceremony of Cornell’s Commencement on Saturday, May 26, 2007. An excerpt follows from the Cornell Daily Sun:

O'Brien began her speech by stating that she does not believe in advice.

After having told her mother about racially insensitive comments she received, her mother said, "Lovey, most people are idiots."

"And that was the most truthful advice I ever got," O'Brien said.

O'Brien then spoke about how her parents met as graduate students at Johns Hopkins University in the 1950s. Both went to mass daily; her mother, an Afro-Cuban immigrant, would walk and her father, an Australian of Irish descent, would drive until her father offered her mother a ride. And from that point — after the ice was broken — the two went around to "restaurant after restaurant" in Baltimore. None would seat, let alone serve, an interracial couple. O'Brien's mother ended up making O'Brien's father dinner.

"She would tell this story to me and my brothers and sisters not to talk about the injustice of segregation and discrimination, but to say that if you can cook, you can get a man," O'Brien said. "We saw that it wasn't really about cooking, though."

As an interracial couple, her parents could not be married in Maryland.
O'Brien used this anecdote to bridge into discussing how the class of 2007 "should not let other people define them."

"There are so many people who want to weigh in on your life and define success for you, but you have to follow your own heart," O'Brien said. "Don't worry about finding a job, find your passion — there are a zillion paths to success."

O'Brien's said that the interviews she conducts almost every day as a journalist have shown how "ordinary people who do extraordinary things can teach people more about life than stars, millionaires and politicians."

After her speech, O'Brien was awarded with a Cornell medallion.


Kathleen Koch

Kathleen Koch delivered University of Southern Mississippi’s Spring 2007 Commencement Address on May 11, 2007 and also spoke at the Southern Miss Gulf Coast Commencement on May 12, 2007.

From a USM press release:
When I got the request I was overwhelmed. I felt the university had already paid me the highest honor with the induction into the (Mass Communication and Journalism) Hall of Fame, Koch said. Koch has received high praise for her work covering the Mississippi Gulf Coast immediately after Hurricane Katrina, where she brought to the world stirring tales of hope, despair and heroism in the aftermath of the worst natural disaster in modern American history.

This excerpt from an article in Go DeSoto describes her speech:

University of Southern Mississippi alum Kathleen Koch urged her alma mater’s spring 2007 graduates to turn the tables on adversity with their education and talent.

“I want our graduates to know that even though there will always be challenges in their lives, that they should choose to be a survivor and never a victim,” Koch said.

Last year Koch was chosen, along with veteran Southern Miss journalism professor Dr. Robert Gene Wiggins, to be one of the first inductees into the university’s School of Mass Communication and Journalism’s Hall of Fame.

The devastation to the Mississippi Coast, including to her hometown, made impressions on Koch that she shared with Southern Miss graduates. “Live everyday as if it is going to be your last. Reach out to the people you care about, because they won’t always be there,” she said.


Wolf Blitzer

Wolf Blitzer delivered the Commencement Address at Franklin and Marshall on May 12, 2007. The full address is available on the F & M website and is well worth the read. Below are a few key points:

We don’t have a lot of time today – but here are a few rules that have guided me along the way – rules that I will pass along to you. For me, they have been simple. They even sound trite. But they have been powerful for me. They have shaped my personal and career choices.

  • Take one day at a time
  • Don’t cry over spilled milk
  • You can help yourself become lucky
  • If you love what you are doing, you will do it better
  • Two heads are better than one
  • Take advantage of your family and friends


Paul Begala

Political Analyst, Paul Begala gave the graduate and evening commencement address at Lynn University on May 11, 2007.

Here's an excerpt from an article published on Lynn University's website:

Political analyst, presidential advisor and CNN correspondent Paul Begala addressed approximately 180 graduate and evening students at the university's Friday night ceremony on campus. The former Clinton aide had a message both simple and direct for the graduates – "believe."

"If I was to leave you with just one word it would be ‘believe.' Believe in yourself. Believe in your family. Believe in your country," he said. "After all of this education we know you can think. You need to make sure you can feel."

The University of Texas alum, who is celebrating his 46th birthday today, pointed to the example of President Abraham Lincoln, our "greatest president almost by acclamation, and possibly the greatest ever American." Despite numerous failures and setbacks in his personal life, business ventures and political career, Lincoln "persevered," Begala said. "He believed."

Ending with an allusion to a favorite Texas country music lyric that underscored his point, Begala reiterated his simple message. "Here's my only advice for you - believe," he said. "Leap with your heart, keep the faith and always trust your cape."


Sexual Diversity in America

Finally tonight, a note on CNN's coverage tomorrow (Wednesday) on the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered community. Below are excerpts from a recent press release on coverage of Sexual Diversity in America.

CNN’s ‘Uncovering America’ programming initiative continues its examination of diversity in America.

The latest installment of CNN’s “Uncovering America” coverage coincides with plans for several large events and parades across the nation as part of “GLBT Pride Month.” Online, has requested “Coming Out” stories from users and users’ reflections on gays in their communities. Through I-Reports, users can submit videos, still photos and text of their stories, experiences and reactions. Some of these submissions are posted at

For the final day of CNN’s five-day coverage, programming includes:

  • Alina Cho's report for American Morning on a landmark case that may have major implications for both sides of the debate over civil unions. American Morning will examine the case of Janet Jenkins and Lisa Miller, who were united in a civil union in Vermont and later conceived a child via in vitro fertilization. Miller, the biological mother later returned home to Virginia, joined a conservative church and decided she was no longer a lesbian. A family court in Vermont recently ruled in favor of visitation rights for Jenkins. American Morning airs weekdays from 6 a.m. to 9 a.m.

  • The Situation Room, in its 7 p.m. hour, examining how constitutional amendments against same sex marriage have been used to get conservatives to vote during elections and explores efforts to politically manipulate the gay community to win elections. The Situation Room airs weekdays from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. and 7 p.m. to 8 p.m.

  • Special correspondent Thelma Guitierrez’s report from Trinidad, Colo. – the “Sex-Change Capital of the World” – for Paula Zahn Now. Guitierrez interviews Dr. Marci Bowers, who every week performs about five vaginoplasties, an operation to transform men into women. Nine years ago, Bowers was a man herself, and she provides first-person insights into the physical and emotional journey that her patients experience.

  • Paula Zahn Now examining the complexities of gay and straight lifestyles and whether a gay person can be “turned straight.” As part of her nightly feature segment “Out in the Open,” anchor Paula Zahn speaks with several members of the “ex-gay movement,” which consists of gay individuals who became straight. Paula Zahn Now airs weekdays from 8 p.m. to 9 p.m.

  • CNN Newsroom profiles gay neighbors, bosses and pastors to offer perspectives on being gay in America. In reports airing throughout the week and weekend, CNN Newsroom will also spotlight the “Coming Out” I-Reports submitted online by users.


Purple Tie said...

Great words of advice from the CNN people! :)

Thanks for the compliation.

BookAsylum said...

I tend to think that good commencement speeches are applicable to more than just the ones who are graduating that day. Anyone should be able to get something out it.

Anonymous said...


Great job on your compilation of CNN Commencement speakers.

Are you in the book industry and/or a libraran? -Clarissa

BookAsylum said...

@clarissa - thank you so much for that compliment! No, I'm not in any sort of media industry (book or otherwise) and I'm not a librarian (I'd end up taking way too much of my work home with me in that profession!)

Quitty said...

I like your little links at the top of the post. Very handy.

cactuskid said...

I always love hearing commencement speeches and these were some great ones. I especially liked Soledad's comment that "ordinary people who do extraordinary things can teach people more about life than stars,millionaires,and politicians." How true cause they really live by example. Wonderful advice from all of them!

copperfish said...

@BA, Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and MassComm, does it also mean that Mr. Cronkite is a member of the board or he holds a key position in the school?

Phebe said...

@copperfish, I'll answer that one, if it's ok with BA. The Walter Cronkite School of Journalism is part of Arizona State University in Tempe, AZ (just outside Phoenix). The journalism school was named in honor or Mr. Cronkite but he is not a member of the university teaching staff or the Board of Regents. He has, in the past, made regular visits to the school to share his knowledge. But, as he ages, those visits are becoming less regular.

BookAsylum said...

thanks phebe!

copperfish said...

@Phebe, thanks for the great info!