More than 1,700 members of Case Western Reserve University’s Class of 2010 received headline advice from news anchor Katie Couric during yesterday’s commencement convocation.
The anchor of CBS Evening News with Katie Couric infused her commencement address with bits of humor and references to local hangouts such as the Jolly Scholar and Tommy’s while encouraging the newly-minted graduates to work hard, take chances and persevere at the things they felt were important.
“You’ve spent four long years, and in some cases even more, pouring your hearts into your studies, squirreled away in one of those little cubicles at KSL or the law or med school libraries cramming for that big test,” Couric reminded the graduates, along with their families and friends, of how much effort they’d put into their studies.
Couric said it was “not exactly a news flash” that the job outlook was still less than rosy. “The good news is you’re graduating from a truly outstanding institution and are well equipped to face the world.”
For those still looking for career opportunities, Couric told them to have business cards ready to hand out to potential contacts, and to set up a professional email account and answering machine message. “No, ‘yo, what’s up dude?’” she told the audience as they laughed.
Couric stressed the importance of networking and having the “chutzpah you need to do something that impresses.” She shared the story of her first major break in television news, where she talked her way into meeting an executive producer by explaining how their family members knew each other. Although he was flummoxed by her bold move, the producer moved her resume to the top of the pile.
She also encouraged the Class of 2010 to be realistic. “I’m not a subscriber to the helicopter parent refrain of ‘honey, you can do whatever you want to do.’ I really don’t think you can. You have to take a good, hard look at your strengths, your weaknesses, your skills and your shortcomings. But most of all, your passions.”
Although hard work and perseverance might bring material success, those traits “won’t bring you a life that is truly rich,” Couric explained. “For that, you have to believe in a higher purpose.” She found hers when her late husband, Jay Monahan, was diagnosed with stage-four colon cancer in 1997. His battle inspired Couric to use her position in broadcast news to help millions. She demystified colonoscopies by having the procedure done live on television; the result was a significant increase in the number of people getting colonoscopies, dubbed the Couric Effect.
She is a co-founder of Stand Up To Cancer, an initiative that has committed $85 million to funding scientific collaborations. In addition, she helped launch the National Colorectal Cancer Research Alliance, which has raised awareness and funding for colon cancer research, including research conducted by Sanford Markowitz, professor and researcher of cancer and genetics at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine.
She toured Markowitz’s lab on Saturday to learn more about his groundbreaking research.
Couric also contacted people she admired to share ideas with Case Western Reserve’s Class of 2010. Some of them offered the following advice:
Former Vice President Al Gore: “Choose the hard right over the easy wrong.”
Michael J. Fox: “As much as we can, it’s helpful to be in a place of gratitude. None of us is entitled to anything. We get what we get, not because we want it or we deserve it, but because we earn it, we respect it, and only if we share it, do we keep it.”
Queen Rania of Jordan: “If you’re too big for a small job, you’re too small for a big one.”
Twitter co-founder Biz Stone: “Think about what is valuable before thinking about what is profitable. And know that there’s compound interest in helping others. Start early.”
General Ray Odierno, commander of U.S. forces in Iraq: “I have learned that greatness is never found in possessions, power, position or prestige. It is discovered in goodness, humility, service and character.”
Prior to her commencement speech, which received a standing ovation, Couric earned a special recognition from the university.
Case Western Reserve President Barbara R. Snyder presented Couric, along with humanitarian and scholar M. Cherif Bassiouni, and the Grammy-award winning Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, with honorary degrees. President Snyder also presented philanthropists Milton and Tamar Maltz with the President’s Award for Visionary Achievement.
More than 1,925 degrees were conferred at ceremonies held throughout the day.
Case Western Reserve University is committed to the free exchange of ideas, reasoned debate and intellectual dialogue. Speakers and scholars with a diversity of opinions and perspectives are invited to the campus to provide the community with important points of view, some of which may be deemed controversial. The views and opinions of those invited to speak on the campus do not necessarily reflect the views of the university administration or any other segment of the university community.