SPEAKER 1: This is a production of Cornell University.
SPEAKER 2: Good morning. And welcome to the class of 2007 Convocation. At this time, please rise and join the senior members of the chorus and glee club in the singing of the national anthem.
ALL: (SINGING) Oh say can you see by the dawn's early light, what so proudly we hailed at the twilight's last gleaming? Whose broad stripes and bright stars through the perilous fight o'er the ramparts we watched were so gallantly streaming.
And the rockets' red glare, the bombs bursting in air, gave proof through the night that our flag was still you there. Oh say does that star-spangled banner Yet wave o'er the land of the free and the home of the brave.
JANINE STANNIS: Good morning. My name is Janine Stannis. And it is my honor and privilege to welcome parents, friends, and guests to the 2007 senior class convocation at Cornell University. Joining me on the platform this morning are commencement chair Keith Greenberg, senior class president and the co-alumni president Mr. Edvard Gumbs, senior class alumni president Scottie McQuilkin, university president Dr. David Skorton, and our guest speaker for this morning, Miss Soledad O'Brien.
After four years, Cornell has become our home where our friends live next door, our apartment or house has become our family, however dysfunctional, and the places we work and play are located within the confines of our beautiful campus. Arriving on North Campus during our freshman orientation, we all had different initial perspectives and experiences. While some of us were used to living away from home, others of us cannot fathom our parents leaving us behind.
A percentage of us were put in dorm buildings that did not fit one aspect of our room request, while hopefully an even larger group of us made some of our best and longest lasting friendships in those halls. In the beginning, there were the freshmen herds. Everyone on the floor would go out together. No one wanted to be alone. So large groups would go to the dining halls for dinner and even larger groups would go out to parties on the weekends.
However, with time and over the years, the group sizes may have dwindled but the bonds became stronger. For many seniors, graduation is a time when a clear path is no longer established. And some of us may wonder how we have evolved since we first stepped foot on this campus. Either way, we picked Cornell and it has forever shaped us.
There are many things that we have tried to do during our time here at Cornell. We have tried to believe that if we went to school in a warmer climate, there is no way we would have been able to get any work done. We promised ourselves that we would not become part of the statistic by failing the most failed class at Cornell, wines.
We have attempted to explain to our parents that it is cheaper to live off campus than the expensive dorm rooms. We make an effort to hide the fact that we are excited that a character on The Office make references to his alma mater, and soon to be yours, Cornell University. We even try to pretend that graduation is not something we are proud of. It is just something our parents make a big deal about.
While we may not have been successful in everything we tried here at Cornell, look at what we have all done. We will be graduating tomorrow together like the herds from freshman year, the class of 2007 from Cornell University. At this time, I would like to welcome Mr. Edvard Gumbs to the podium.
EDVARD GUMBS: Thank you, Janine. President Skorton, Mrs. O'Brien, alumni, faculty, family, friends, and graduates, it is truly an honor to speak with you this afternoon. Upon reflection of the Cornell experience, several lessons come into mind-- the honing of our academic prowess, the creation of an extensive social network, but possibly most important and all encompassing are the responsibilities amassed throughout our years of study. Not only do we become true Cornellians. We also recognize the importance of responsibility.
The importance of responsibility. This concept is significant yet seemingly banal to most people. It is also, for the same reason, that responsibility at times does not take greater precedent. But what is responsibility and why is it important?
John D. Rockefeller, donor and namesake of Rockefeller Hall on our campus, once stated that responsibility is the social force that binds you to the courses of action demanded by that force. He also stated that we must instill a sense of duty in our children. Every right implies a responsibility, every opportunity an obligation, every possession a duty.
The accuracy of Rockefeller's definition is a preamble to responsibility's importance in our daily lives. Responsibility reveals a strength of an individual's character and, at the same time, their capacity to express concern for engagements other than their own. From our youth, we were adorned with responsibilities that continuously evolve into the tasks that presently challenge our intellectual and social capacities.
As a youth, I perceive responsibility as washing my laundry or attempting to prepare breakfast without setting fire to the kitchen, and, by my last year of college, learning how to balance my checkbook. Just kidding about the checkbook. But as we matured, so did our responsibilities. Our duties began to take on greater importance, not only for ourselves but for those around us.
It is important to stress that some of our most important responsibilities were fostered and nurtured right here at Cornell. Among these responsibilities was our commitment to family and friends. Despite being away from home, the strength of our character allowed us to balance a pull from our origin and excel at Cornell. The realization that our previous support networks can also be supplemented with lasting friendships at Cornell is a testament to our responsibility and transformation into mature individuals.
With this said, it is also imperative to remain in contact with family and friends. For many of us, they were our lifeline and support system throughout our formative years in addition to our years of study at Cornell. These important individuals will continue to be our physical, emotional, and social supports for years to come.
With the support of our family and friends, we must also recognize our responsibility to continue our educational quest and professional endeavors. A college education is a powerful tool. However, the Cornell education is truly a privilege and a distinction of academic perseverance. Cornellians are a resilient conglomeration of individuals who more often than not command the highest levels of leadership in their respective fields.
At the same time, they continue to bring international acclaim not only to themselves, but to the Cornell community and our university. With the Cornell advantage in hand, we can now join the ranks of other successful alumni and place it at the forefront of our continued educational and professional pursuits.
As Cornellians, we have a considerable responsibility to our society. We cannot retain the knowledge and skills learned at Cornell for ourselves. Our call to engagement in society is to share our collective intellectual capabilities in all areas of study to actively engage in the upper progress of our nation and the world.
An unspoken rule of a true Cornellian is our ability to assume valuable responsibilities other than our own. However, there are occasions when it is quite effortless and quite enticing to remain within our comfort zones. I challenge you to make the effort, leap out of these boundaries, and enter zones of discomfort. It is only there that you can make the most change to disrupt the undermining effects of complacency and champion societal advancement.
Upon leaving Cornell, it is our obligation to be responsible citizens for we have it in our power, our intellect, and our social capacities to make vast improvements.
Lastly, we have a responsibility to our alma mater, Cornell. Many of us enjoyed the idealistic Cornell experience. However, it was not the same for all. And occasionally, there are difficult challenges that led to failure and their tragedy. Despite these hardships and the cold Ithaca winters, it was Cornell that afforded us such great opportunities, resources and networks.
We must acknowledge that Cornell and the legacy of past Cornellians will inevitably play an indispensable role in our future beyond the place that is far above Cayuga's waters. Class of 2007, we made it today. And the steadfast spirit of our Cornellian predecessors let us leave behind our legacy a responsibility to Cornell for future generations to follow. But always remember, do not forget your alma mater. Cornell will never forget you and always welcomes your return to the hill. Thank you and congratulations to the graduates.
It is now my pleasure to introduce the co-president of the 2007 alumni council, Scottie McQuilkin.
SCOTTIE MCQUILKIN: Thank you, Eddie. During our last few months far above the Cayuga's waters, we, the class of 2007, have been charged with the mission of giving back to Cornell through GiveStrong, our Senior Class Campaign.
It has been an honor for me to serve an exceptional alumni council, the Cornell community, and our class through my role in this campaign. I'm thrilled that I am here today to announce nothing short of phenomenal results thanks for the participation and inspiring generosity of my fellow seniors. I believe that legacy lies at the heart of the Senior Class Campaign.
Every member of the senior class has spent the majority of the past few years engrossed in the Cornell community in a variety of different ways. Both inside and outside of the classroom, we have all formed incredible memories and have really grown as individuals. We have also formed strong bonds with friends and professors that will last a lifetime. Without Cornell, we would not be the extraordinary people that we are today.
Through the Senior Class Campaign, we who have benefited so much from Cornell's resources get a chance to give back. We can help new students to experience, grow, and prosper like we did. As we all head our separate ways, we should feel proud that we have left behind a substantial class of 2007 scholarship, which will benefit a rising senior every year starting next year thanks to the awesome generosity of trustee Martha Coultrap.
This campaign and the endowment of this scholarship are important because they give seniors a tangible way to start saying thank you to Cornell. I hope that this campaign has given seniors a greater sense of ownership and pride in regards to Cornell, because we really have made a difference.
With all the success we have achieved this year, we have set a high bar for ourselves going forward. And that is why I urge you to stay connected to Cornell. This is not just a four year experience. Cornell will continue to impact our lives forever. We still have many Cornell memories left to form as we go forward to our reunions and future commitment to giving back.
I hope you will take advantage of free email forwarding, check out your regional clubs, and read the Cornell alumni magazine so that you'll never be too far apart from your classmates. As officers, we will continue to be hard at work to make sure that you always stay connected to your home away from home here in Ithaca.
As I mentioned earlier, the results I'm about to report are nothing short of phenomenal. The class of 2007 has shattered records across many categories. And that is thanks to the dedication, generosity, and enthusiasm of our seniors to the future of Cornell.
Given what we have achieved as a class this year, I can't wait to see what we can accomplish going forward. Not only will we go down in history has one of the highest participating classes on record with our goal-breaking 51.2% participation, but we have also blown away all records set in the giving societies, including 36 Ivy Society members.
We also met and surpassed all of the challenges set in place for us by trustee Martha Coultrap, which added valuable matching gifts to our scholarship endowment. In addition to our exceptional participation in Giving Society performance, we have also seen record generosity with the highest Greek and athlete performance in recorded history. I would now like to ask Eddie and President Skorton to join me at the front of the stage.
Thanks to 1,664 participating seniors on behalf of the class of 2007, it is our honor to present this check for $82,702 to Cornell University. Congratulations, seniors.
Please join me in welcoming the senior class members of the Cornell glee club and chorus as they perform "Locus iste" by Anton Bruckner.
[SINGING IN LATIN]
DAVID SKORTON: Thank you so much. And can we once again recognize not only these singers but the wonderful choral tradition at Cornell? Thank you so much.
Well, welcome everyone. And thank you Scottie, Edvard, and Janice. And thank you, Cornell class of 2007, for your senior class gift for your extraordinary contributions during your time at Cornell. Having just completed my freshman year, I can't say that I knew all of you over the whole four years, but I have gotten to know many in this class and its many student leaders who have graciously welcomed me and Robin here.
You are a class of achievers, academically, athletically, and through your involvement in all aspects of campus life and beyond. This weekend we all come together to celebrate what you have achieved during your time at Cornell and to affirm the bond that you now have not only with your classmates but that you will soon have with 250,000 Cornell alumni around the world.
I'm delighted and grateful that the class of 2007 scholarship will provide support to a Cornell senior each year. You have risen to the challenge that trustee Martha Coultrap set for you, organizing one of the most successful senior class campaigns in the 141 year history of our institution. And you've begun a tradition of continuing involvement with Cornell that we hope you'll carry on wherever your path leads you.
This year, we celebrate the bicentennial of the birth of Ezra Cornell, the founder of our university. His biography evokes some of the ideals and constants of the Cornell experience. And they remain constants today.
Ezra Cornell's love of the natural beauty of the gorges and Cayuga Lake, which he noted when he first walked on East Hill in 1828; his vision of a university that would blend the practical arts with the idealism and timelessness of classical studies, thereby creating the modern American University that would be accessible to all; his strong belief in education that furthers the public good.
Among many examples, he advocated strongly for science that improved the lot of the farmer. After four of his own children died, he would display a strong interest in medical education.
He championed educational opportunity for women. Writing to his four-year-old granddaughter, he said, "I want you to keep this letter until you grow up to be a woman and want to go to a good school where you can have a good opportunity to learn so you can show it to the president and the faculty of the university to let them know it is the wish of your grandpa that girls as well as boys should be educated at the Cornell University."
His ideals have become your constants. But Maurice Bishop, who wrote a history of our university, noted that there is another constant harder to grasp and to define. It lies in the unison of memory, of the spirits who have dwelt upon this hill in century past. They reappear in dreams and sudden recollections. They help to make us all Cornellians. They are the spirit of Cornell.
You will carry that spirit with you tomorrow. And I hope it will bring you back to the campus many times to refresh and renew. As we prepare to proudly send you on your way as Cornell's newest alumni, we are privileged to have with us at the class of 2007 senior convocation our honored speaker Soledad O'Brien. Of course-- thank you.
Of course, many of you are familiar with Miss O'Brien due to her extensive and broad career as a news reporter and anchor, which has made her one of the most recognized and respected journalists today. She began her journalism career with local NBC affiliates as a reporter, writer, and producer.
In 1991, she joined NBC News in New York, starting as a field producer for the nightly news and "The Today Show." Eventually, she became the anchor of NBC's "Weekend Today" as well as contributing reports to "The Today Show." During this time, she covered many stories including John F Kennedy, Jr.'s plane crash, the Columbine shootings, and the space shuttle Columbia disaster. She also anchored NBC's weekend coverage of the war in Iraq.
Miss O'Brien joined CNN in 2003 as co-anchor of the morning program, "American Morning" and distinguished herself by on-site reporting of Hurricane Katrina, the 2004 Asian tsunami, and the 2005 London terrorist attacks.
Currently, Miss O'Brien hosts and is a special correspondent for CNN's special investigation unit, which provides in-depth documentaries and background series on important and breaking stories. Miss O'Brien has garnered numerous awards and accolades over her career. Among many other honors, she was recently awarded the Gracie Allen Award for her reporting on the Israeli Hezbollah conflict as well as for her reports from the Gulf Coast after Hurricane Katrina.
The NAACP also recognized her with its President's Award for her humanitarian efforts and journalistic excellence. She was also part of CNN teams that won a Peabody Award for the coverage of Hurricane Katrina and the Alfred I. Dupont award for the coverage of the Asian tsunami.
The respect that Miss O'Brien commands largely flows from professional and personal qualities such as determination, idealism, and empathy. An example of her qualities that may be pertinent for our audience today is her persistence and her value for education.
Miss O'Brien attended Harvard University but dropped out in 1987 to work in news production. However, she returned to Harvard in 2000 and completed her degrees in English and American literature. This persistence, combined with empathy for the subjects of her reporting, was clearly in evidence during her coverage of the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, work that truly marked her for distinction. MSNBC and Newsweek named her one of the 15 people who make America great because of her journalistic excellence and humanitarian impulse.
They noted, in particular, her single minded pursuit of the truth during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, including filing reports by satellite phone when a broadcast signal was not available, confronting the head of FEMA over the inability to know the extent of the unfolding tragedy, and, in general, giving voice to the outrage we all felt as we wondered how could this happen in America.
I am delighted that the class of 2007 has invited Miss O'Brien to be its senior convocation speaker because she is not just an inspiration to our graduating seniors but to all of us who wish to better society. Please join me in welcoming Soledad O'Brien to Cornell.
SOLEDAD O'BRIEN: Thank you so much, Mr. President. Good afternoon, graduates. Good afternoon, proud parents and grandparents, brothers and sisters. I welcome you. I congratulate you.
We'll move it along because I know there is a very important lacrosse game. They're going to take the field in just a couple of hours. Even if this is the very first convocation ceremony that you've ever attended, you sort of know how it works. The speaker, me, is supposed to be a font of important and relevant advice. And you, the graduates, are supposed to be metaphorical sponges, drinking it all in the moments before you embark on your lives.
Except there's one small catch. I don't give advice. I don't believe in advice. And I'll explain to you why. Several years ago, I was approached by a woman's magazine. And they were writing a Mother's Day story. And the editor said to me, we would like you to contribute an article that's going to be called the very best advice my mother ever gave me.
And I said, hm, because my mother is not a warm and fuzzy mother. My mother is more of the tough nut type mother. And I said, hm. They said, no, no, it'll be great. The best advice my mother ever gave me. And I said, OK.
My mother, who is about this tall and came to this country from Cuba in the late 1950s speaking absolutely no English when she arrived, one of her favorite sayings when things didn't quite go our way when we went to her and we were upset or disappointed was, well, lovey, you just need to get over it.
When I started working at television news and I found myself being critiqued and my work criticized, when people would say, Soledad, it's such an ethnic name, have you ever thought about changing it, or, well, you know we're only going to hire one black person and you're really not quite dark skinned enough to count-- her advice when I was upset and I tell her I'm never going to be successful. Listen to what this person has just said.
As a prime example of it, she would say, and this was the best advice my mother ever gave me, well, lovey, most people are idiots. And so I repeated that to the editor of this paper, this magazine. And after a very long pause she said, yes, well, we can't use that. We'll call you back. And they never did.
But it's true. It was the most useful advice I've ever gotten. Most people are idiots. And as you are about to embark upon a stage in your life where they're all going to start weighing in on who you are and what you can do, where they'll try to define you and spell out for you what they clearly think you'll never be able to accomplish, it is your job, graduates, to ignore each and every one of them.
My mother is black and from Cuba as I mentioned. My father's white and from Australia. They met in graduate school, Johns Hopkins University, in 1958 in Baltimore, Maryland. And they met. Along all the graduate students, they started dating.
Now my mother used to tell the story to me and my three sisters of how she would walk to daily mass and my father would drive. He had a car. And he would wind down the window of his car back in the day when you actually could wind down the windows in your car. And he would say, would you like a ride? And she would say, no, thank you, because you didn't accept a ride from a man you didn't know well.
And one day, my mother said, yes, I would like a ride. And so they started dating. And on their first date, my parents went to restaurant after restaurant in Baltimore, Maryland. She's black. He's white. 1958. And everywhere they went, they were turned away. No one would seat an interracial couple together. Absolutely no one.
They would tell my father, well, we'll serve you. But they'd tell my mother, you can't come in. They were turned away literally everywhere they went. And so my mother brought my father back to her apartment. She's an amazing cook of fabulous Cuban food.
And she tells a story of how she whipped up a wonderful meal for him in her apartment. And my mother told this story to her daughters, not to highlight the injustice of segregation and discrimination but because of this greater lesson. She'd say, girls, see, if you can cook, you can get a man. It was not the lesson that we took from the story.
When my parents decided to get married not long afterward in 1958 in Baltimore, Maryland, they had to leave the state because interracial marriage was illegal in the state at that time. They drove to Washington, DC to get hitched. And when people told them, well, you shouldn't have children certainly, let me put it this way-- I'm number five of six.
My parents taught me by how they lived their lives. They never let anyone define them. They certainly would not allow others to set their goals, or flesh out their dreams, or map out their ambitions. They listened to their hearts, and they mapped out the lives that they wanted to live.
You will discover, graduates, I am sorry to say, so many people who will want to do the same thing today-- weigh in on your life, define success for you, what you should be, how you should live. The key, the hard part, and the best part truly is to learn to listen to your own heart and follow your own dreams.
I've been told many times, and you'll hear it too, especially, I think, the women here, well, you can't have it all. And I would say, well, please define all. I have a busy and fulfilling career. My day starts very early, 4:00 in the morning. And the second I get home, the second part of my day begins. I have four small children, twin boys who are two, a daughter who's five, a daughter who's six.
And I fall in bed at 10:00 every night after a day full of conference calls, and meetings, and interviews, and shoots. And I'm challenged and fulfilled. It is not easy, but I knew early on that I wanted a family and a career. And so I ignore the naysayers and we make it happen. It's not always pretty. Our family motto could be we set the bar low. But it works.
Don't worry, graduates, about finding your job. Worry about finding your passion. Even incredibly lame jobs like my first job in television news, which was to remove staples from the bulletin board at WBZ TV in Boston, had an interesting outcome and took me on to a better job and better opportunities. Know that there are a zillion paths to success, if not more, and that defining success on your own terms is far more important in the long haul than how much money you make.
One of the biggest upsides of my job is that I get to learn from the people I interview. Every day, I see examples of true perseverance, of challenges that we're faced and overcome. I know a man who's a billionaire, literally. And when his beloved teenage daughter was diagnosed with anorexia, he threw money at the problem-- the best doctors, the best care, the best treatment that they could buy. And she died at the age of 16.
What's the point, he said to me later, if all the money, all this money doesn't allow you to make a change and save a life? If you think you can't get past the disappointment, well, I'll tell you the story of a man I met covering the tsunami. He and his little boy, who was three years old, were on the second story of a building when the wave hit. And it washed them away.
And he was carrying his son. And he would describe how the palm trees would hit them because they were flowing down almost like a river moving so fast. And he was so terrified that he would drop his son, he decided to shift his grip to get a better hold. But the little boy was slathered in sunscreen and he popped out of his hands and floated away.
If you're not sure you can be brave in a circumstance that requires it, I'll tell you the story of a little boy who was plucked from the rooftop during Hurricane Katrina. There were so many people on this rooftop that the Coast Guard said we cannot take all of you. We'll just take the children first.
And so they grabbed the kids and they left behind the parents. Demonte was 6 years old. He was the oldest. There was a three-year-old and two two-year-olds, and an 18-month-old. And Demonte's mother placed in Demonte's hand his 5-month-old brother. And he said, Demonte, please do not let go of your baby brother.
And the chopper pilot told us how she had to fly like this holding the children in because the doors of the chopper were open, of course. And she was worried that the babies might fall out. And they landed on the causeway. And they left the children there and flew off.
And they were supposed to go back and get the parents. But they were called to another emergency. There were so many at that time. And the parents were picked up by a different helicopter and taken to Texas. And so six-year-old Demonte was found wandering along the causeway in New Orleans.
He told all the smaller children to hold hands. And he was carrying his 5-month-old baby brother like his mother had told him. And when he was stopped by an incredulous adult who said, who's with you? Who's in charge? He said, me. I'm in charge.
Ordinary people who do extraordinary things in extraordinary circumstances will teach you more about life, about bravery, about compassion, about faith, about commitment, than any star, any millionaire any politician ever could.
Today, graduates, who enter the real world. Senior week has come and gone. You've been reminiscing about the last four years that you spent here, five years for some I understand. You look back at your growth and your progress. You've been looking forward to all the opportunities that lie at your door. You've been drinking, a lot I've been told.
But now mom and dad have arrived. Time to clean up, and pack up, and show your parents that the $50,000 a year that they have been spending on your top tier education has been worth every single penny. And parents, you may be concerned that this is the beginning of the end, that maybe this is the last time that your sons or daughters will be coming home again.
But I'll tell you that right now, in fact, more than half the students here are planning to move back home with you, planning it right now. No need to laugh. I'm not joking. Some of these young people who are so full of promise on this beautiful spring day will still be living with you, borrowing your car, eating your food well into their 30s. I guarantee you.
Don't worry that they're all grown up and moving out of your lives. When they calculate rent, and insurance, and that thing called FICA, they're going to move right back in. My parents knocked down the wall of my bedroom to enlarge their own bedroom on the day that I graduated from Harvard. That did not stop me from moving back home. Twice. And if my new gig at CNN doesn't pan out, I might move home again with my four children.
Students, after this weekend, you do not say goodbye to the important connection that Cornell has been in your lives. You are a lifelong member of a community that now wishes only the very best for you and will remain a part of you forever.
You will be amazed at how the Alumni Association will be able to track you down and hit you up for money even as you're still paying off your student loans. They will get through to you, you investment bankers who don't even answer the phone. Your own mother can't reach you. They will get through to you.
They will track down you Peace Corps volunteers in that remote African village and ask you for money. It will be shocking the many ways in which Cornell will remain a part of who you are.
Are you fearful, graduates, of what the future holds? How do you know you're making the right choices? How do you know if the path you're on is the right path? What if you can't even figure out if you're on a path at all? Here is what is far more important.
Every day you're going to have an opportunity to choose to help or choose to ignore. Every day you're going to have an opportunity to do the right thing or do the wrong thing, to make a tough choice or make an easy choice. If I have learned anything from the disasters of the tsunami and Hurricane Katrina, it's that the world's expanding but our globe is shrinking.
It's why we care about the bird flu and if Iran has nuclear weapons. It's why pollution in China matters to us. It's why the war on terror here in the US matters to everybody else. You are the generation truly that's going to be making these important decisions. Who gets to call themselves an American?
Should we, as a nation, wall ourselves in literally and metaphorically? Where do we spend our limited resources? What do we value as a nation? What rights do we cherish? What rights are we willing to give up? Welcome to the real world. We are now passing all these important decisions on to you.
The future is in your hand, your futures and our futures too. It's a little bit of a terrifying thought, isn't it? But it's also very freeing in a way. You make the decisions about your own success. Nobody else gets to weigh in. It'll be your hard work, your chipping away slowly. You may be nervous entering the competitive world.
Everyone's expected to hit the ground running. And some days, you might have a feeling that you're in over your head. But first and most important, figure out what is your passion. What do you believe in? What do you stand for? Be knowledgeable first about yourself of course, because self knowledge is the hardest to find.
In nearly 20 years of covering the news, I now know that there are way more than two sides to every story. There are usually five or six. And if you're letting somebody else define the issues for you, well, they're probably wrong. People in New York City were overwhelmed by the outpouring of support from the world after 9/11.
People in Thailand were amazed by the goodness of the people in our nation after the tsunami. People in New Orleans continue to be heartened by the constant arrival of volunteers who come down, camp out, and devote time to rebuilding their homes and the lives of complete strangers.
These are kindnesses that are not easily forgotten. But they're not surprising if you remember that it's our humanity that connects us all. Whether it's Banda Aceh, or New Orleans, or New York, or London, or Spain, or Mombasa, we are human beings first and foremost. Remember, graduates, to be grateful. It is so easy to forget.
Remember not to be stressed or too stressed to remember how blessed you really are. You're surrounded by people who love and support you today and always will. Be kind when it's so easy to be cruel. Keep your mouth shut when it's so easy to criticize.
It takes virtually no skill at all to hate. It's simple to point out the bad and the lacking. It takes far more courage and resolve to lead the way to success. In every story I have ever covered, I'm always amazed the people who step in and step up in spite of every obstacle, firefighters who run into the building when it's burning when the rest of us are running away, people who dive into deep water to save lives even when they really can't swim, people who are willing to be the lone voice to say this is not OK, people who are willing to lend a hand, to be an angel of the moment, to help someone just over the next step.
Job opportunities will come but the opportunities that define who you are as a human being, what you believe in, what you stand for, what you will not stand for, happen far more often. Life can change and fast. Take the opportunities to be grateful and commit to making a difference.
As a rule, I do not like when speakers post famous people. Often the quote's irrelevant. And honestly, I think the speakers are just trying to sound smart, the sort of I believe it was Ralph Waldo Emerson who said, blah blah blah blah blah. But I think there is one quote that is worth remembering. It was President Kennedy's favorite quote from Dante and it is this. "The hottest places in hell are reserved for those who, in time of moral crisis, preserve their neutrality."
There is nothing worse than doing nothing and saying nothing when your voice is needed. There is nothing worse. I will leave you this afternoon with a story about a young man who was interested in politics. He was a successful student, an athlete, a Rhodes scholar.
And he told me of how he moved to Newark, New Jersey, one of our nation's poorest cities. And one of the first things he was told he had to do was to meet with a little old lady who had lived in Newark for ever. All the politicians or want to be politicians were required to get her blessing.
And he told me the story of how she took him-- literally took him out into the street and said, describe for me what you see. He said what I see? Well, all right. Burned out building over there, crack house over there. And she said forget it, forget it, forget it. We do not need you.
That's what is there. Urban blight, obviously. But what you see there not tomorrow necessarily, not even next year necessarily, but what you see there for the future requires a much greater imagination than what you are telling me.
And he got it. He understood. And he is now the mayor of that city. And he is turning it around.
What do you see in your future? What's in the future is what you can imagine. What do you see for our country? What can you imagine? What do you see for the world? Imagine it. And then go and help to build it. That is the responsibility you now have.
And you're well prepared to tackle what will come your way with energy and enthusiasm, with humility and gratitude, with self-confidence that you can achieve the goals that you have set for yourself, no one else. Your dreams are far bigger than just the next job and the misgivings you may have or any criticism that comes your way are just more obstacles to be hopped over on your path to success as you define it. And never forget the role that you can have and that you must have in making our world a better and a safer place.
Congratulations to the graduates. Congratulations to your parents. And I thank you for the honor of allowing me to address you
JANINE STANNIS: Thank you, Miss Soledad O'Brien for your comments. At this time, it would be my pleasure to present you with the Cornell medallion. This award was created to honor and recognize individuals who have excelled in his or her career field and have made significant contributions to society and their profession.
SOLEDAD O'BRIEN: Thank you so much. Thank you. Thank you so much.
JANINE STANNIS: Miss O'Brien, your personal and professional evolution has been filled with countless honors and achievements that allow numerous Cornellians to admire your creativity, style, and elegance. Your career has evolved, moving up the ranks in the American news program. Thank you so much for making this year's convocation memorable.
On behalf of Cornell University administration and the senior class, I would like to thank you all for coming and who have made this event a success. There have been people that have made this journey and my personal journey that more interesting and worthwhile so there are a few thank you's I have to give.
Thank you Julie for being the best random freshman roommate Cornell could ever have given me, and to my roommates at 117 Eddie, and all my friends for making Cornell that much harder to leave. Thank you to my brothers for their humor and drive and to my parents for showing me what love is and what morals are. And congratulations on your 29th anniversary, which they are celebrating this weekend.
Thank you President Skorton, Miss Soledad O'Brien, family and friends for attending the class of 2007 Convocation. Please celebrate and enjoy the rest of graduation weekend. An ice cream social with President Skorton will follow in the arts quad directly after this event.
At this time, I ask you to please stand for the singing of the Alma mater after which you can all leave and are dismissed. Thank you for coming. And have a great weekend.
Far above Cayuga's waters, with its waves of blue, stands our noble alma mater, glorious to view. Lift the chorus, speed it onward, lo8ud her praises tell. Hail to thee our alma mater, hail oh hail Cornell.
Far above the busy humming of the bustling town, reared against the arch of heaven, looks she proudly7 down. Lift the chorus. Speed it onward. Loud her praises tell. Hail to thee our alma mater, hail oh hail, Cornell.
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Soledad O'Brien, television journalist and former anchor for CNN, gives the Senior Convocation address in Schoellkopf Stadium during Cornell's 139th Commencement Weekend.