Commencement Speakers Encourage Graduates to “Change the World”

By Sadie Bass

May 29, 2009 9:11am

On our broadcast tonight, we are going to recognize the class of 2009 pay tribute to one of the great annual traditions, the commencement address.  They can be a lot more than the boring "blah-blah" you have to sit through before getting your diploma. Commencement season is a time of deep emotions for everyone involved, usually mixed ones.   Parents and family are rightly proud their graduate has reached this milestone, but also perhaps a bit sad at the reminder that he or she isn’t a baby anymore.  That pride, a different sadness and often anxiety (and sometimes relief) collide in the graduates themselves as they move out of the familiar cocoon and into the great unknown. This year the economy and the faltering job market are weighing heavily.  At the UNC commencement in Chapel Hill, graduates held up signs with a single question, “Job?”  And commencement speakers on campuses all over the country talked about these uncertain times. President Obama told the graduates at Notre Dame that now more than ever America needs young people to step up with their energy and imagination.  Filmmaker Ken Burns told his Boston College audience they literally have to "change the world."  And at Carnegie Mellon, the CEO of Google, Eric Schmidt reminded people that hard times beget innovation.  He noted the great depression saw the inventions of Rice Krispies, Twinkies and the beer can, three items, he said, today’s students couldn’t get through college without. After reading and hearing dozens of commencement addresses, the other overarching theme this year’s graduates heard is that they are blessed, blessed with fine educations and that with that comes a powerful responsibility to give something back.  First Lady Michelle Obama told the graduates at UC Merced "think of those people who paved the way for you and those who are counting on you to pave the way for them."  At Bucknell’s commencement, human rights activist Elie Wiesel made the idea specific.  "There must be on this planet at least one person who needs you. One person you can help," He said. "Don’t turn away; help."

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