2008 - All

Thoughts at Commencement

Agnes Scott College

Atlanta, GA
May 10, 2008
The Honorable Shirley Franklin, Mayor of Atlanta, GA:

"If there was ever a time in American history that epitomized young people leading our nation, it was the 1960s. History confirms that the students – young people like you – stood up, spoke up – for women, for African Americans, for peace, for freedom of speech – and acted up to make America’s promise real. (But) every generation makes a mark on history.

Today, I am inspired and energized by the thousands of young people who have chosen to be actively engaged in national politics. You are making your mark (and) shaping the political campaigns this season and public policy for this generation. (You have) changed the course of the current campaigns and shifted the debate. You are part of a revolution in American politics. Your continued activism can make an America as good as its promise.

You have been prepared for leadership, prepared to meet the intellectual and social challenges of this time. Through your scholarship, your volunteer work, your vocation and your advocacy, you can lead from wherever you are. My sisters, we know women are agents for change in every society and country of the world. Class of 2008, stand up for social justice and fairness, speak up for human rights, act up for America’s promise. Lead America into a new generation, a time of universal peace, justice and human rights. You are the leaders of this time. Seize this time and do good deeds."

Brenau University

Gainesville, GA
May 10, 2008
Dean R. Hirsch, President and CEO of World Vision International:

"I say to you today that you are going to have to look beyond our shores and engage in significant issues throughout the world. If you leave here today and become isolationists and do not pay attention to this world, first of all, it is going to be a tragedy for this great country. The second issue is that it will be a tragedy for you because you will not experience the richness and the joy of being in company of those who are different from us, or the different language or the richness of culture they bring to us.

“One of World Vision´s goals is to make education available to every female child on the planet. It is a statistical certainty that increasing education among women in some regions has reduced susceptibility to HIV infection, decreased infant mortality rates and brought peace and stability to communities. I agree with the president of the World Bank … that if we educate every girl in the world ... we will have no need for weapons anymore.

“Every girl has the right of education in this world. Every girl should have the right to determine when she should get married. No girl should be forced to be married at 12 or 14 years of age. And every girl and boy in this world should have freedom of education, freedom of determination of their future. That is a basic right, and all of us in this country need to stand up for that.”

Brescia University College

London, Ontario, Canada
May 4, 2008
Martie Grof-Ianelli ’77, Head of Library Services, Fanshawe College, London, Ontario:

"You are the fruit of an arduous struggle to ensure that women have the right to education; traditionally it was thought that, if educated, we would be better wives and mothers. In fact, we now choose education in preparation to take our rightful place in all aspects of life and to make a difference!"

Chatham University

Pittsburgh, PA
May 3, 2008
Professor Ibrahim Gambari, Under-Secretary-General,
Special Adviser to the Secretary-General:

One other anecdote before going into the substance of my presentation today. I describe myself simply as a Professor by training and a diplomat by accident – a 25 years accident. The lesson here is: do not put yourself in a straight jacket, grab opportunities that come your way and make yourself indispensable in the job that you do and the service you provide.

Never did I dream that a boy from Ilorin, Nigeria, whose first language is not English would, in different capacities, work with four successive United Nations Secretaries-General (Pérez de Cuéllar, Boutros-Ghali, Kofi Annan and presently Ban Ki-moon), be received by many world leaders and be leading the United Nations efforts in mediating the crisis in Myanmar (Burma) and pushing for International Compact with Iraq in support of reconstruction, economic reform, greater security and faster national reconciliation in the war-torn country.

Again, there are no real secrets to or easy path to international mediation. What is required is taking advantage of opportunities, hard-work, persistence, sound knowledge of the dynamics of the conflicts, building and sustaining the trust and confidence of parties to the conflicts and, again, a bit of luck.
Judge Debra Todd (Class of 1979), Justice of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania

"This Commencement is about YOUR accomplishments. It is about the struggles you have endured, the challenges you have overcome, and the victories you have achieved. I am here to congratulate YOU, the Class of 2008 on how far you have come.

And, let us not forget that Commencement is also about beginnings. Your beginnings—the start of a bright new future for each one of you.

How exciting! As you close this chapter, and revel in the glory of the completion of your college education, you have the unparalleled opportunity to turn the page to your shiny, new future.

What that future holds is up to you. Whether it means starting graduate school, or law school, or medical school; whether it means travel to far-away places or joining the world of working women; whether it means devoting time to your family – or starting a family —the quality of your future is up to you. And, it is your determination, your self-confidence, and your positive attitude, that will guide you to success, however you choose to define it."
Cynthia Baldwin, Former Justice of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania

"Someone once said, 'Success is getting what you want; happiness is wanting what you get; and experience is what you get when you don’t get what you want.' By that definition, I am successful, happy and extremely experienced. It is traditional at graduations to implore people to be successful and to give back to the community. Today I’m going to ask you to do something much more specific. It truly frustrates me that many people measure success only in terms of money and material goods or title and position.

Albert Schweitzer talked about success in this way, 'Success is not the key to happiness. Happiness is the key to success.' If you love what you are doing, you will be successful. The same people who define success in terms of money and material goods or title and position are also the least happy people I know.

So I am asking you graduates to think carefully about your life work and your contributions to society. We need you as educators and entrepreneurs; as artists and artistes; as scientists and social workers; as doctors and lawyers and CEOs. Yes, and even politicians. It is imperative, however, that we not make money and position the controlling factors in choosing our life work."

The College of New Rochelle

New Rochelle, NY
May 22, 2008
Cardinal Oscar Andrés Rodriguez Maradiaga, SDB, Archbishop of Tegucigalpa, Honduras. One of Latin America’s most visible Catholic leaders, he has been described as ferocious defender of social justice and champion of human rights:

"Catholic education should teach students to think globally and act locally with moral and ethical perspectives. Let me emphasize just two points concerning Jesus’ teachings: The love of peace, and secondly, the love of neighbor. The two belong together. There is no love without peace. There is no peace without love. Peace and love are the foundations of solidarity. The present situation of the world brings us to a decision of defining ourselves. Don't look for the truth where it is not. Open the Gospel. It is not too late."

College of Notre Dame of Maryland

Baltimore, MD
May 24, 2008
Doreen Bolger, director of The Baltimore Museum of Art"

"The final thing I want to say is you should never give up. Follow whatever passion you choose to follow, follow it relentlessly. Just don’t take no for an answer. As I like to say, become graciously aggressive about it or, maybe actually, you should be fierce about it. I like to remind people that I was placed on the waiting list of my college — but I kept after them and eventually I was the last person accepted to my class — and now I am on my college’s alumni board. When I moved to New York, I was rejected as a volunteer at The Metropolitan Museum of Art and eventually I persevered and I worked there for 15 years. You just have to keep on trying because effort counts!"

College of Saint Benedict

St. Joseph, MN
May 10, 2008
Ahna Skop, assistant professor of genetics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison:

"As you leave today, think of your own experiences where you’ve been told that you couldn’t do something. Think again and do it anyway. Take chances and do what you want to do. Your creativity and insight will make a difference in this world. Do it, be it. Don’t try to be like everyone else. Listen to your heart and be yourself."

College of Saint Elizabeth

Morristown, NJ
May 10, 2008
Brother Rick Curry, S.J., founder and artistic director of the National Theatre Workshop of the Handicapped and author of two cookbooks, The Secrets of Jesuit Soupmaking and The Secrets of Jesuit Breadmaking:

"One bright day in Manhattan when I went to audition for a part in a mouthwash commercial, a receptionist saw I had a missing right forearm, a birth defect. At first, she did not think I was serious about the audition. And when she realized I was serious, she said, “Do you want me to lose my job?” I left feeling hurt, angry and totally depressed. I asked myself, if I am being rejected, what do people do who want the theatre arts do who are disabled?” Then, out of anger and hurt, in 1977 something wonderful happened.

I started the non-profit training group for actors with disabilities, which has trained tens of thousands of actors with disabilities since its inception. Whatever your life hurdles are, look them straight in the eye and turn adversity into something extraordinary."

Converse College

Spartanburg, SC
May 17, 2008
The Honorable Jean Hoefer Toal, Chief Justice (Agnes Scott College '65), South Caroline Supreme Court; the first woman to serve as a Justice of the South Carolina Supreme Court:

"It is true that you did not make the world you are about to inherit, but you have the chance, the challenge and, indeed, the duty to leave it better than you found it. As you become trustees of an awesome world, the question is whether you will help or whether you will stand idly by.

Each of us ultimately will be judged and ultimately will judge ourselves on the extent to which we have personally contributed to improving the human condition. It is true that each of us has a responsibility to develop our individual talent, but I believe each of us also has a duty to work for something in life bigger than ourselves."

Georgian Court University

Lakewood, NJ
May 16, 2008
Anne Milgram, Attorney General of New Jersey:

"Consider others’ advice, but follow what is in your hearts. Don’t make the mistake of living for a moment you expect to happen ten years from now. If there is something you want, do it now. At the end of the day, it’s not about having written the best brief, or having made the best argument; you’ll be judged by your kindness, integrity, and justice. When I would fly across the country to prosecute civil rights cases, my colleagues wouldn’t say to me ‘Win,’ or ‘Get a conviction. They’d say ‘Do justice.’"

Patricia B. Licuanan, president of Miriam College, Philippines, and trustee for the Center for Asia Pacific Women in Politics:
"Be a critical voice, demanding the best of our institutions, our leaders, our culture, ourselves, but ultimately, always be a voice of hope for a better world."