tv 2017 Commencements Speeches Part 2 CSPAN June 1, 2017 4:52pm-7:11pm EDT
bureau, a legendary american guide -- autopilot remembers the battle of midway. watch the battle midway 75th anniversary special live in the macarthur memorial visitors center and no fork, virginia, at friday beginning at 9:30 a.m. eastern on american history's -- american history tv of c-span3. hours --he next two commencement just from around the country with new jersey senator cory booker, vice illinois like tents, senator tammy duckworth, former president bill clinton. former senator kelly ayotte -- -- and chair of joint chiefs of staff, -- we start the senator booker who spoke to graduates at the university of pennsylvania in philadelphia. [applause] thank you very much. it is incredible to be here and i want
to thank you all for inviting me to be a part of this day of history in your lives, i want to thank you for allowing me to be a small part of this extraordinary community. i want to congratulate the graduates, and i want to thank everyone who helped to make this possible and when i say everyone, it took so many people to make this day possible. i want to thank the parents and the grandparents, and the family members. i want to thank everyone from the incredible president and astounding provost, all the way up to those people who cleaned floors and manicured lawns and served food to contribute to this community. and so i confessed to you, when i was graduating from college, i
felt like i knew a lot and now that i'm about twice your age, i'm not as confident in what i know. in fact, i am a person who believes i am in struggle, as we all are. the beautiful thing that i've realized is that we're all in this struggle together. we perceive that there are differences between us, gaps and gulfs, but we are far more united, far more indivisible, far more involved in a larger common struggle than we know. and so what i'd like to do very briefly today, is confess to you two things i struggle with and it's really two stories, one from someone from history who i've come to admire and the other one is perhaps one of my greatest mentors ever. the person from history, it's a short story, i don't even know
if it's apocryphal or not, but it's made a point that i struggle with and it's a story about mahatma gandhi. gandhi was said to be rushing on busy days, running from point to point but now he was said to be running for a train to leap into the third class section that he's travelled in, people were there to grab him and help him to get on to the train but one of his sandals fell off and everybody watched with disappointment that mahatma gandhi had lost his sandal, but before people could settle into their thoughts of disappointment or consolation, or problem solving about how they were going to deal with this one sandaled man, gandhi reached down, really quickly, grabbed his other sandal and threw it onto the tracks. people were curious, "mahatma, why would you throw your other sandal out there?" and he looked like it was a confusing and bemusing question. he said, "i threw the other sandal because whoever finds that first sandal, wouldn't it be nice if they found the other one as well?" i heard that story when i was about your age and i was astounded by the moral imagination of gandhi in that story. to literally see people who are not there but yet still expand his love, to touch those folks we would never even see, it was the most creative compassion and i wanted to try to live my life in that way. i
i knew, and i experience now, the same rush of chasing after dreams, of racing around a day, of moving from there to there, but i realized a simple lesson the older i get, that how we live our days, is how we live our lives. and as we're chasing after our destinations, our goals and our dreams, it actually is those small things we do every single day that define us. in fact, in truth, more than a big speech than you've prepared for, more than a big goal or a big dream, more than the big fight, more than our race, more than our religion, it is our actions every day that define who we are, they define us. i've begun to learn in my life that perhaps the biggest thing you could in a given day is really just a small act of kindness, of decency, of love, an exhibition of moral imagination, or creative compassion.
i wonder about this when we miss our opportunities every single day with just the people around us while we talk big about changing the world or about what's wrong with other people, but we forget that we have so much power to make a difference. now look, i say i struggle with this because i don't always get it right. let me give you an example. i had been elected as a united states' senator, i still live in the central ward of newark. we're not the wealthiest community there in my neighborhood, the median income is about $14,000 per household but my community is rich with spirit, rich with energy, rich with compassion.
but one day as i was driving home, i felt a little bit like odysseus, because as i passed this fast food restaurant, i began to hear the siren call. now look, i'm a vegan, and listen to these people because how do you know if someone is a vegan? don't worry they'll tell you. and so i'm a vegan and i knew that in my neighborhood, folk know me but i couldn't resist the call to this fast food restaurant. it was a call in a language that i don't even speak any of them, it was french and it was french fries that were calling to me and i don't speak any french but i could swear i heard that song, "voulez-vous coucher avec french fry" now. and as i told my driver, an incredible officer named kevin batts, retired from the newark police department,
joined my staff because of our friendship and our bond, i said to him "kev, we're almost home but do you mind? we have to swing through the drive-thru." now, kevin, he didn't say a word but he smirked, he was mocking me and my weakness and we drove around to the drive-thru, i sunk down in the seat, i didn't want anyone to see me, the person said to me, "may i take your order?" and i used a falsetto voice, i ordered two of the most super-sized french fries i could, we pulled around to pick up the fries, i was still leaning down low, and then they handed these fries into my window and i'm telling you, i'm a senator now so maybe i could change this, because these french fries could be a schedule 1 or schedule 2 narcotic, i mean they must sprinkle a narcotic on these fries because as soon as they got in i felt this joy and this anticipation, i cuddled my fries like i was from lord of
the rings, my precious, and we began to move but then i see a guy at the end of the drive way there, a young white man in a garbage, rooting around and i slowed down and i told kevin to roll down the window and he rolled down the window and i said, "hey man, anything i can do to help you? are you ok?" and he turns around and he looks at me and he says, "no i'm ok i don't need anything" and i go, "are you sure?" and he goes, "well i'm hungry." now i don't know what religion you all pray to, if you do at all, but i swear jesus said something like, "if i have two mcdonald french fries and my neighbor has none" [laughter] and so i reached in my bag as the aroma hit me, i shook as a grabbed that large fries and i reached to him and i swear he put his hand on it to take it from me and i resisted for just
a moment. and then he pulled the fries to him, he was happy and i felt some sense of, ok i did the right thing. and then he was about to leave and he turned around and now his face went from appreciation to anguish, almost as if he was in pain and he says to me, "hey man do you have any socks? i need some socks." and it was a strange question but i knew it must speak to something he was dealing with, some pain, some hurt and i look at him, i wish that i could help him but i don't carry any spare socks in my car and i said, "i'm sorry i can't help you," and he began to leave but then this retired police detective, born in newark, raised in the projects, threw the car in park, reached down between his legs, kicked off his shoes, pulled off his socks and handed them through the window. i sat back and i realized wait a minute - i'm a few blocks away from my house, i have so many socks i don't even wear that my mother gave me on some birthday or special
occasion but yet i was not living with that moral imagination, that creative compassion. i've come to learn in my life that we have such power that we do not use as we go about our big challenges, our big goals, our desire to make big differences, we forget the power we have right now, we have a choice in every moment if we just look around us, and the choice that we often surrender and fail to make is to accept things as they are or to take responsibility for changing them. and no you may not be able to end homelessness, maybe
you're not going to be able to end hungry but we can never allow our inability to do everything to undermine our determination to do something. we - as great as every one of us are, as much as i spent my life trying to change the world, we cannot forget that our real power is not necessarily to change the world, but to make a world of change to the people we encounter every day, a smile, creative and a kind word, finding a way to throw a sandal onto the trackthat is the power we have today and every day. it was desmond tutu who said, "do a little bit of good where you are. it's those little bits of good, put together, that overwhelm the world." we're not
here because of the people we read about, history books, yes, that's part of the story, but we're here because of little bits of good, of sacrifice, of decency, of mercy and of love. let me tell you about two ralphs. and when i was in college, to ralph meant something completely different so let me be more specific. it was emerson who said very simply, to paraphrase him, "that only what we within, can we see without, if we see no angels, it's because we harbor none." now i worry because i still see now the words of ralph ellison be so true, he said, "i am an invisible man, because people refuse to see me." i believe that there are so many people we
encounter every day that we just don't see. but what is even worse than that, and i am compelled by that, it is what drives me every day to try to make this nation one more of justice and mercy and decency, but i'm telling you now that i'm in a professional world, i've come to worry about a different type of invisibility that actually can't be best described as invisibility, but maybe it is how we, every single day, reduce people, strip them from their layers of their humanity down to a label or a presumption. i love the flowing words of martin luther king when he talked about repentance, he says we will have to repent in this day and age, not just for the victory of the violent words and actions of the bad people, but also the appalling silence and
inaction of the good people. well, i'll tell you, i am compelled to try to motivate and inspire through my action good people to get off the sidelines to realize that this democracy is not a spectator sport, but i also worry about those folks who we assign labels like vitriolic words and we assign conclusions about their souls that they are bad people. we do this in ways we don't even realize, i remember as a young guy, living in the projects in newark, i was in new york trying to chase down money for a non-profit, and i was scuttling through, on an awful day, sleet and snow and every street seemed to have curbs of slush and as i walked to this one curbs, i saw what amounted to one of the great lakes of slush and i worried about my shoes, how was i going
to get around it, and then i saw an elderly african-american woman, amongst all the hustle and bustle of this fancy new york street, she was carrying a cart, one of those metal carts with wheels, trying to make it across a busy street, with the light about to change, heading towards the ocean of slush, my mama raised me right, i began to dart over to her, but before i could, some guy cut me off. i was angry about it. he was dressed like a wall street guy in a coat that was probably worth more than my car. he had fancy shoes on and i looked at this white man, cutting in front of me, just holding back for a second, it's like he didn't see me, but suddenly, he does what i don't expecthe goes through the great lake of slush in his fancy shoes, grabs the woman's cart, lifts it up, pulls it to the sidewalk, goes back through the slush to grab the woman and take her all the way around, putting his hand up to traffic to get the woman on the curb. before my
implicit biases about this man because of the color of his skin or because of what he was wearing, could fully settle in, he shocked me to the consciousness. i didn't render him invisible, but i stripped away his humanity because i did not see him. the question we have to ask ourselves about the importance of being good and decent and loving, morally creative, is that do we extend those feelings and those emotions just to people we like, or just to people we deem worthy or just to people who agree with us or just to people who think like us. i don't understand, and it hurts me that we're becoming a society, that just because someone has different views, we tend to strip them from their humanity.
i want to talk about us and our daily lives, but let me use the public stage for one moment. one of my lowest points during the presidential elections, was when i was sitting at home watching the republican debate. and it was one of those strange moments where i knew a lot of folks, i mean heck, half the america was running for the nomination for the republican party at that point, and there was my
governor. now, i could write a dissertation on my disagreementswe literally fought over policy issues, yet he and i had forged a friendship, we knew that he was the governor of the state, i was the mayor of the largest city, we had to put aside the 60, 70, 80% of things we disagreed on because i represented a struggling city in a recession and when the country has a recession, inner cities face depressions. i had to seek the common ground with him to try to find a way to make some difference for my community and as i sat there during a presidential election, i could not believe my eyes when these other nominees were castigating chris christie for hugging barack obama. now let me tell you about this hug. it was after hurricane sandy. the president flew into the state of new jersey. so many people died, thousands of people lost their homes. and here is the president of the united states, coming down the steps to meet the governor and the two of them at the bottom of the steps, they hugged. and i want to tell you something, i'm a hugger, and it wasn't really a good hug eitherit was one of those awkward guy hugs. but what have we become in a society where we are vilifying people so much so that to hug someone of a different party, that thinks different, is a sin! where have we come as a nation?
but that's the national stage, i want to take it you. i was just a few weeks ago at a humane society banquet dinner. and it's the humane society, treatment of animals, did i tell you i'm a vegan? and here we are talking about compassion and kindness and treatment of animals and someone comes up to me and says, "senator booker, i so appreciate what you're doing, thank you for being in the fight. hey, let me show you what i tweeted just now," and they showed me a tweet to paul ryan and it was probably one of the most troll-y, vile, angry tweets i'd ever seen! and
the incongruency of the moment really struck me. so this is the challenge can we be a nation that can disagree but still find common ground? but that's the country, can you be a person whose love is so great that you love those people you disagree with, you love those people who curse you, you love those people who you see even as an obstacle to justice. now, i'm not asking folks to do what my heroes did like mandela did in prison who found a way to love his captors and eventually forgive them or gandhi with the oppressive, imperialistic regime, but still found a way to love his enemy, or martin luther king who literally got on his knees and prayed for white supremacists, no. i'm just asking you, hey, can you sit down with somebody that's wearing a red "make american great again" hat and have a conversation. and, by the way, one of the best pieces of advice i've ever been given, was simply this, "talk to the person, but you don't have to attend every argument you've invited to." you could look for
other common ground. but that brings me to the last person and who i want to end on. because this was my mentor who lived these lessons that i am struggling to embody. this man's name was frank hutchins and he was a legend. by the time i was a law student, coming to newark, the stories of him as a tenant activist and a tenant organizer were legendary. he literally was responsible for the longest rent strike in newark's history against the worst of slum lords, the federal government and newark housing authority. and he won. by the time i met him, we were organizing these neighborhoods that had high-rise buildings that had some of the most difficult slum lords imaginable, people that were caricatures of slum lords. but i'll never forget this guy, when
we would sit in negotiations and i would be angry and be fit to fight and yet he still found a way to look at them with grace and even mercy. he seemed to understand that you don't have to be mean to be tough, you don't have to be cruel to be strong, that you don't have to curse the person who curses you. i saw frank now in tenant meetings where we would sit up and have to take people's complaints, to try to write it down, to fight these battles and it was amazing to me how frank would sit in the tenant meeting that would go on for hours and hours, i would get restless as another person would get up and tell their whole life story but he never seemed to falter at looking at those people, teaching me that perhaps the most valuable thing you can give someone in your life, is your attention. as he sat there, i talked to him after the meeting
and i said, "god that was too long, people went on" and he goes, "cory, it's important that down, to fight these battles and it was amazing to me how frank would sit in the tenant meeting that would go on for hours and we heal those buildings from the crisis that they're in but people too need healing, we're all fighting hard battles, pay attention to people, see them." well i would become a councilman and a mayor and frank and i would still work together. and yet, he got older and older and then he started getting sick. his disease took his eyesight from him and i would still take him out to restaurants and i would still take him shopping and he would demand that i still take him to the movies and i was like, "frank you can't see man"" and he would say, "no, no take me there i want to listen, i want to listen." by the time frank's health became failing, they put him in hospice but i would still go visit and i confess to you, i was frustrated at times that the hospice room wasn't full of people. here's a guy that thousands and thousands of people relied on, i was frustrated that he was alone. and i'll still always remember the last day i saw him alive.
this is my hero. and i walked into the hospital room after the nurse told me that he wouldn't last long and i could see his breath was faltering. now, when frank's eyesight started going we started a little joke, i would see him before i would take him out to dinner and i'd say, "hey frank, it's cory" and he'd push me off and he'd say, "i see you cory, i see you." well it became our thing, hey frank it's cory, and i see you. but now in this hospital room, his voice is not there, his breath is rapid and i said, "frank, its cory." i saw him with such effort, he labored and he said to me, "i see you". i walked to the side of his bed and i held his hand and i talked to him and as i sat there i felt this peace and i still saw his light and i realized that he was trying to teach me that, cory i am here and i've lived a good life.
i felt like he was trying to teach me that ultimately, life is not about celebrity, it's about significance; life is not about popularity, it's about purpose; life is not how many people show up when you're dead but about how many people you show up for while you are alive. [applause] i sat with him for as long as i could, i felt such love for this man and i knew this would be our last time. he said no words except for that when i entered, "i see you". then i had to go, i told him i was leaving, i stood up and i leaned over and i kissed him on the forehead, i put my hand on the side of his face and i said with all of my heart, i said, "frank, i love you." and then as i was
beginning to pull away, he wanted to say something again, i lean close to his bed and he repeated my words, he looked at me and with short breaths, he forced out, "i love you." i i walked out of his room, i closed the door, i started crying, i knew it would soon be over and it was, he would die there soon after. so class of 2017, i got to leave you with those six words that frank said, "i see you. i love you". i see you. i love you. i see you! i love you! class of 2017, you're going to go out for the big challenges, the big fights, i see you, i love you. you're going to have tough days, you're going to fall, you're going to fail but i see you and i love you. may your vision and your love not just change the world but make a world of change
gotten me to this place. i'm free, i have no secrets. i know i will always be ok. no matter what, i know ym. so in conclusion, when i was younger i thought, that was something different. i thought when i grow up, i want to be famous, a star, in movies. when i grow up i want to see the world, drive nice cars, have movies, to quote was he cap balls. but my idea of success is different today. as you grow your life -- for many of you, today's success is being able to hold down 20 shots of tequila. [laughter] for me, the most important thing in our life is to live your life with integrity, and not given to appear pressure to try to be something you are not come until of your life is an honest and compassionate person, to conclude my [laughter] conclusion --
probably her passion, stay true to yourself, no longer follow someone else's path. -- the economyce the planet is just mind. some of the most devastating things that will happen to you to teach it the most -- the third session to us -- salute to conclude my conclusion that i have previously concluded , i'm kind of sales, life is like one big mardi gras. you like what they see, the more beats and to know what to do with.
most of theunk time. to the concept of as thousand minus eight, congratulations. if you don't remember thing absent today, remember this. you are to be ok. [laughter] ♪ what senator tammy duckworth gave the commencement just is here at george washington university. illinois democrat spoke about her experiences in the iraq war, and her time in the u.s. house and senate. [applause] sen. tammy duckworth: thank you! thank you all so much! congratulations, class of 2017.
and, of course, congratulations to all of the parents, sisters, brothers and family members who loved ones, children who made this day possible. the last time i was at one of these, i was down there as a student. it looks a lot different from up here! to the faculty, staff, students, and the entire gw community, thank you for this honorary degree and for inviting me to speak to you. it's such an unexpected honor, and i hope i'm able to live up to the standards set by the previous speakers. you know, no one special like hillary clinton or michelle obama or my colleague cory booker. it can't be that tough, right? [laughter] and to president knapp, thank you for your service to gw over the last decade. i really want you to pay close attention here, mr. president -- not only because i have a lot to say about all the work you've done
to make this university a better place but also because i've been asked by some students to distract you for a few minutes as they try to kidnap your dog ruffles, who i hear is quite the celebrity. in fact, go, go, go. go get her. we're going to keep her. mr. president, you get this one. i'm sure it's not the first commencement ruffles has come to. seriously, though, we are here at a crucial time in our nation's history. every day we are reminded of the challenges and threats that we face abroad and here at home. our infrastructure is crumbling, student debt is sky rocketing. in fact, there is more student debt held in this country than there is credit card debt, over $1.3 trillion. and we still have troops in harm's way all around the globe. many of you might feel like we're engaged in a battle for the heart and soul of our nation. there are leaders in washington with a dark vision for our future, who will say anything, criticize anyone and everything just to further their own self-interests, seemingly
without regard for what's best for our people and for our nation. the thoughtful, principled leaders once common in congress and the white house, the kind of leaders who fought over policies during the day, compromised, and then shared a drink together as friends in the evening, those kinds of leaders today are too often drowned out by the loudest voice in the room, whether or not that voice has a plan or even cares to string together a coherent sentence while they're spewing hate. it's in that environment that i've spent a lot of time thinking about what i wanted to say today. thinking about what i wanted you to take away from your time at gw and hopefully from this address.
my message to you, wherever you fall on the political spectrum, is to get involved, not discouraged. the less well-known president roosevelt, teddy roosevelt, once said when explaining what it meant to be a citizen, quote, "it is not the critic who counts, not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. the credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and short coming." think about that -- there is no effort without error and shortcoming. it's really just an eloquent way of saying don't be afraid of failure. don't be afraid of being embarrassed or of being criticized. just try get into the arena. successful people didn't make it because they never failed, they made it because they never gave up. when you don't get that job you really, really wanted, see it as an opportunity to find something better for yourself. if you weren't
happy with the outcome of last year's election, think of it as a chance to get involved in your community as a catalyst for the change you want to make. the point is you need to get into the arena, and then you need to stay there and make your voice heard. when i arrived at gw, becoming a helicopter pilot or a united states senator were not a part of my wildest dreams. i came here because i wanted to be a foreign service officer, and i knew that there was no better place to prepare for the foreign service than the george washington university. [applause] so with the help of student loans, grants, a full-time job, i enrolled in the elliott school.
[applause] when i got to my classes, i got to know servicemen and women and veterans from all different backgrounds, who were also student veterans. i always knew i wanted to serve my country, but my classmates at gw helped expand my vision of what that service could look like. these were individuals who were so unapologetically patriotic but also weren't afraid to think critically and criticize our government and how our nation conducts itself in the world. they helped me understand that our nation's strength doesn't just come from tanks and guns and helicopters -- although i do love them, and personally, i find helicopters sexy. [laughter] you do too, right? yeah.he used to fix black hawks. i used to break black hawks. [laughter] so it's a symbiotic relationship.
but that strength also comes from a strong diplomatic relationship around the world and a willingness to engage with those who are different from us. here at gw, i was surrounded by servicemen and women and veterans, and they showed me that serving in uniform and supporting diplomacy were not mutually exclusive. then it came time for me to decide what my own service would look like. i'd just been laid off from my job because the company i worked for had been sold, and i chose to take that job loss as an opportunity to do something really different. at that point -- i'm aging myself -- but at that point, the berlin wall was falling, the gulf war had began, and it became clear that joining the army was a way that i could serve this nation that i love during a critical time.
.so off i went to basic woop! i wasn't sure where it would take me, but i knew i had a duty to serve my nation. i wanted to think i had everything figured out, but there was no way i could have known how things would play out. i couldn't have imagined the challenges i would face -- challenges in the military, in congress, or as a new mom. but that's the thing -- none of us can ever figure out and predict what's going to happen. we can't predict our successes or our failures. we can only control how we react to them. when you're in the arena, failure is part of the process. part of the success. but these failures, these challenges, aren't what define us. we are defined by how we respond and our perseverance. don't get me wrong. it's not easy. it's not easy to face rejection, to face failure, to feel defeated by forces beyond your control. i've had plenty of moments when i thought of giving up, moments when i knew i had been defeated. november 12, 2004, is my "alive day." it was the day i almost died, but didn't. it was a good day for me. i was flying high that day over iraq in my black hawk with the best crew out there. then, without warning, an rpg tore through the cockpit of my aircraft. it was a lucky shot. for the bad guys.
one of my legs was vaporized, and the other amputated by my instrument panel. the explosion blew off the entire back of my right arm. i was quite literally in pieces. my pilot-in-command managed to land our aircraft, and they started pulling out the wounded. they thought i was dead at first, but when they tried to give medical attention to one of my crew members, chris, sergeant fierce -- that's a great name for an nco, right? sergeant fierce. sergeant fierce refused help and told them to help me instead. he saw that i was still bleeding and thought maybe, just maybe, her heart was still beating.
he did what every troop in combat is willing to do without thinking, even if they hope they never have to do it -- he refused treatment for himself to save someone else. my buddies wouldn't give up on me. they refused to leave me behind. [applause] it was a hard day for me and a harder day for my crew. they picked me up, covered in my blood and tissue, as they tried to keep my body intact. if i didn't make it, they knew they could at least return what was left of me to my family. but they weren't going to leave me behind in that dusty field in iraq. but it was a good day for me because good men saved me, and i lived. i survived to serve my nation again. the days, weeks, and months that followed were some of the hardest i've ever endured.
but in those most challenging moments, my life's mission couldn't have been more clear. i knew from that moment on i would spend every single day of the rest of my life trying to honor the courage and sacrifice of my buddies who saved me. so with the help of my family, friends and fellow service members at walter reed, i began my recovery. it was anything but easy. tasks like picking up a pencil -- or even just sitting up without passing out -- were no longer simple. at first, it was unclear how i would lead a regular life, let alone continue to serve my nation in uniform. i can't tell you how disappointed i was when they told me i couldn't go back to serve in my helicopter battalion. being separated from my buddies ripped my core identity out, just as if that rpg ripped out my heart too when it took my legs. but after every time that i couldn't do something, after every day when i didn't know how i would make it to the next, i made the choice not to give up. it wasn't a choice really. giving up would have been a betrayal of the effort my
buddies put into saving me on that day, and i will never, ever betray them. then one day, senator dick durbin from my home state of illinois invited me to be his guest at president bush's state of the union address. even though i was just a few weeks into my recovery, i wanted to see the democracy that i had given up my legs -- and my career as an army helicopter pilot -- to protect. senator durbin also made a foolish mistake when he gave me his business card, and he wrote his personal cell phone number on the back. [laughter] senator 101. don't do that. because i used that phone number a lot. i figured if i had this
chance to speak to a united states senator about the problems my buddies at walter reed faced every day, i couldn't pass it up. i wanted to make it clear to all who lead this nation -- and really to anyone who would listen -- just what a dear price we pay when we send our troops into harm's way. i got back in the arena. i may have been broken, but i could still be an army officer. i could still take care of my troops. maybe i was done serving in combat, but i could see the next step in my life's path because it meant that i could serve my fellow veterans. after i got out of walter reed, i went to the va, i ran for congress and then i won my seat in the senate. thank you. [applause] so now, i get to bug dick durbin in person every single day. [laughter] and i have all his phone numbers. my life since my black
hawk was shot out of the sky has been incredible -- and improbable. there have been highs, and there have been unbelievable lows, over the last 12 years, but one thing has always remained constant. every time i got knocked down, i got back up. i dusted myself off, and i got back in the arena -- when my face had literally been marred with dust and sweat and blood. and i am so glad that i did. my story has a few years on it more than you do. but i'm really here to tell you that it's not that different from any of you. i've been in that audience. i know each and every one of you can get into the arena too. have already gotten into the arena as well, which is good because our nation needs you now perhaps more than ever. you've been training for it, but now you need to step up. you can be our nation's next generation of leaders. luckily, as gw grads, you already have a head start on many of your peers. over and over, the students of gw have proven to be some of the most civically engaged students in the nation, showing
leadership in and out of the political arena. gw students and graduates show their commitments to serving others, to making sacrifices in order to serve something bigger than themselves every single day, day in and day out. in the past year alone, in just one year, gw students have donated over 700,000 hours of service in local communities and around the world to improve our environment, our education system and open up spaces for minority voices. many of you take an active role in government, at both the local level and the national level -- including two of you who interned in my office this semester. so kathleen hunt and steven, thank you both for all the help.
i don't know if i just embarrassed you. [laughter] a lot of gw students also volunteer to serve their nation in uniform, just as they did while i was here. there are over 450 service members and veterans in the class of 2017 alone. i'll ask all of you to stand up, as well as those in the audience who are veterans. stand up and be recognized, veterans! [applause] i thank each of you. and your families for your service and sacrifice. every single graduate here today has something to be proud of. you also have a lot to be thankful for. as gw grads, you have been given opportunities millions of americans will never know, and this degree will continue to open up new experiences that you can't imagine yet. don't lose sight of the good fortune and luck that helped you get here.
some of you may have been lucky enough to afford tuition here without any help, but even if you worked three jobs, took out student loans and earned scholarships just to get to class, there are people out there who aren't as lucky. i guess what i'm saying is, to quote kendrick lamar -- whose real last name is duckworth, by the way -- be humble. be humble. i can't quote the rest of the lyrics on this stage. there are cameras. [laughter] the rest of you all will look it up and know what i'm talking about. it's a good single, man. because, in all seriousness, as gw graduates, you will have access to resources and opportunities that people who are simply less lucky than you won't have. but if you don't lose sight of those who are less fortunate, you can go out and make a difference. i hope that you continue the work
you've already started as public servants, as activists, as entrepreneurs, as scientists, as journalists. keep making the changes and be those change makers well into the future. it's your turn now, but you actually have to do it yourselves. earning your diplomas wasn't easy. i know you struggled mightily during your time here, but you made it. and i want you to remember this moment, the tenacity, the diligence, the work ethic and the dedication it took for you to get here. you have that within you. those qualities and the critical thinking skills that you learn here, that you learned here at this school, will take you far. but there will be hard times. and your journey will not be without its challenges. the struggles you will face in life from here on out may be harder than any you faced on campus, but you will only get better at reacting to them. you will only get better at reacting and overcoming whatever it is that's in your path.
remember that president roosevelt's words that there is no effort without error and shortcoming. there will be moments when you are discouraged. there will be times when you don't get the job you thought you wanted or moments when paying off that student debt feels impossible. trust me, i get it. i'm still paying off my student loan debt. [laughter] i'm not kidding. not all from gw though. i got a ph.d. as well. so there's more. there will be hard times when you get hurt or lose someone close to you. but those challenges, those struggles, those are what make success possible. we are not successful in spite of our challenges. we are successful because of our will to overcome them. president roosevelt understood that well. in his mind, the credit belongs to people who actually do things, people who -- and i'm quoting him again "at best know the triumph
of high achievement and who, at worst, fail while daring greatly." and his last line about that person who dares greatly, it's a good one. their place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat. i want you to think about that. it's not just about credit and who gets -- or takes -- it. it's about trying and doing. don't be afraid of failure. be afraid of never tasting it. take this as your call to action. i am calling on you to serve. we need your contributions. so get loud, get active, in whatever field you want to get involved in. make a difference in the lives of your neighbors, in your city, in your state, in your country -- just like many other gw graduates have done, including those who have gone into space, who have won olympic medals and held public office. they all took risks. they all got knocked down, and maybe failed the first, second, or tenth time that they tried, but every single one of them made the choice not to give up.
now, i'm not saying all you need to become an astronaut is to run for office. i'm saying put yourself out there. don't be a timid soul that knows neither victory nor defeat. you should never forget the time spent here or what you accomplished here. but you also shouldn't lose sight of what lies ahead, what you can still accomplish, what you must accomplish to move our nation forward. so with that, i cannot tell you how much of a honor it is for me to welcome each of you as the newest members of the gw alumni community. congratulations, class of 2017. it's time to get in the arena. god bless you all. god bless our troops. and god bless the united states of america. [applause]
who have come from near and far to share a special moment, and congratulations to a generation of promise, the university of notre dame class of 2017. we are proud of you all. [applause] you know, for this son of indiana, it is great to be back home again. but i have to tell you, it's deeply humbling for me to participate in the 172nd commencement here at the university of notre dame in her 175th year. my first-generation irish-american mother is actually with us today, 83 years young, nancy pence fritsch. and
[applause] and you know, i'm pretty sure my mother never thought she'd see me at a graduation at notre dame. [laughter] the notre dame class of 2017 is a class of extraordinary accomplishment. you came from every corner of america and from all across the world, representing all 50 states, the district of columbia and puerto rico, and a stunning 74 foreign nations. some 3,143 men and women will graduate today with 3,171 degrees. now, by my count, that difference means that we have about 28 graduates earning multiple degrees from notre dame today. [applause]
we have with us a two-time olympian, two rhodes scholars, two truman scholars, 15 fulbright scholars, a quadruple domer, national champions in fencing and soccer, the indiana campus compact wood award winner, and most impressive of all i say with gratitude that 38 of you will leave here and serve as officers in the united states army, navy, marine corps and air force, and we thank you for your service. [applause] now, today is a day of celebration, and the sun is out. it's also a day of appreciation, especially for all those who
believed in you and saw you through: your friends, these great professors, and your wonderful families. on behalf of all the moms and dads here, i can attest firsthand that this ceremony is one of the proudest moments of their lives. [applause] you know, i've been a governor and now i'm vice president of the united states, but the most important job i will ever hold is that of husband and father. [applause] in fact, my wife of 31 years, the second lady of the united states of america, is also with us today. would you join me in welcoming karen pence. karen and i are the proud parents of three amazing kids. one of them have just joined the ranks of college graduates this last month, so we know firsthand that while today is an
accomplishment for all of you who are graduating, it really is just as much an accomplishment for your families. you know you've come to this point because your parents and your families gave you a foundation of love and education. they encouraged you. they prayed for you. and in most cases, they signed a whole lot of checks to make this day possible. so before we go one step further, class of 2017, why don't you just stand up, turn around, catch the eyes of the loved ones who are with us today, and show them just how thankful you are for all of the love and support that carried you to this day.
one hundred and seventy-five years ago, the rev. edward sorin and seven of his companions left their home in vincennes, indiana, traveled north along the wabash through fields and forests amid the valleys and over the hills until they reached the very ground on which we stand today. here they broke bread, they said their prayers, and in the words of father sorin, they established an institution with a noble mission to, in their words, become a powerful means for good. and so it has. for 175 years, the men and women who have come before you in this place and graduated from this university have gone forth to do good. the university of notre dame is special. [applause] from the arts to engineering, from politics to prose, you've been given a strong foundation of critical thought and knowledge. you've studied the textbooks of your discipline and learned the facts and figures that you'll need to succeed in your chosen field and profession. but a notre dame education doesn't end with the formation of the mind. in these halls, you've experienced the formation
of the heart. your education here has prepared you for a life of service to your families, your communities and our country and the countries to which you will return. notre dame is exceptional. this university stands without apology for human freedom and the inherent dignity of every human person, and it holds fast to the faith that gave it birth. and the impact of notre dame reaches far beyond the sight of the golden dome. your educational initiatives bring knowledge to the children across this country and the world who need it most. your commitment to social concerns melds faith and action to overcome poverty worldwide. your focus on ethics and culture promotes the value of all human life. and know that in so many causes, i can assure you, that in these matters you have an ally in our still new administration. you know, the greatest honor of my life is to serve as vice president to the 45th president of the united states of america,
president donald trump. just as notre dame has stood strong to protect its religious liberty, i'm proud that this president just took steps to ensure that this university and the little sisters of the poor could not be forced to violate their consciences to fully participate in american civic life. [applause] and just as notre dame has stood for those who are persecuted for their faith around the world, just a short while ago in saudi arabia, this president spoke out against religious persecution of all people of all faiths, and on the world stage he condemned in his words the murder of innocent muslims, the oppression of women, the persecution of jews and the slaughter of christians. [applause]
and where this president has stood for the unalienable right to life at home and abroad, i'm so proud that the university of notre dame has stood without apology for the sanctity of human life. [applause] your education at the university of notre dame has been exceptional, but as the good book says, "to whom much is given, much will be required." so i urge you as the rising generation, carry the ideals and the values that you've learned at notre dame into your lives and into your careers. be leaders in your families, in your communities, and in every field of endeavor, for the values you learned here at notre dame, and in these divided times, i urge you to take one more aspect of the culture of this historic institution into the mainstream of american life.
you know, if the emanations of free speech were charted on a map like infrared heat signatures, one would hope that universities would be the hottest places, red and purple with dispute, not dark blue and white, frozen in decant orthodoxy and intellectual stasis. if such a map were to exist, notre dame would burn bright with the glow of vibrant discussion. this university is a vanguard of freedom of expression and the free exchange of ideas at a time, sadly, when free speech and civility are waning on campuses across america. notre dame is a campus where
deliberation is welcomed, where opposing views are debated, and where every speaker, no matter how unpopular or unfashionable, is afforded the right to air their views in the open for all to hear. but notre dame is an exception, an island in a sea of conformity so far spared from the noxious wave that seems to be rushing over much of academia. while this institution has maintained an atmosphere of civility and open debate, far too many campuses across america have become characterized by speech codes, safe zones, tone policing, administration-sanctioned political correctness, all of which amounts to nothing less than suppression of the freedom of speech. [applause] these all-too-common practices are destructive of learning and the pursuit of knowledge, and they are wholly outside the
american tradition. as you, our youth, are the future, and universities the bellwether of thought and culture, i would submit that the increasing intolerance and suppression of the time-honored tradition of free expression on our campuses jeopardizes the liberties of every american. this should not and must not be met with silence. [applause] you know, little more than two years ago, i was here when this university, this nation and the world bid farewell to a giant of this institution and of the 20th century, father theodore
hesburgh. his contributions as the longest-serving president of this institution are legion, but his moral example is greater still and will impact generations. and on this point of which i speak, he wrote words of admonition that i hope you will carry into the careers of consequence that unfold before you. he wrote, and i quote, "notre dame can and must be a crossroads where all the vital intellectual currents of our time meet in dialogue, where the great issues are plumbed to their depths, where every sincere inquirer is welcomed and listened to, where differences of culture and religion and conviction can coexist with friendship, civility, hospitality, respect and love."
as new graduates of this exceptional university, i urge you, be leaders for the freedom of thought and expression. carry the example and principles you've learned here into all the places where you live and work. from this day forward, like the generations who have gone before for the past 175 years, the graduates of the class of 2017, you are called to lead for good, to be men and women of integrity and values, to be salt and light in these ever-changing times, and you're called in one other way: to have faith. for as the old book says, "he knows the plans he has for you; plans to prosper you, not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." strive every day to lead for good with courage and conviction. live your life according to the precepts and principles that you have learned and seen here at notre dame, and in all you do, have faith that he who brought you this far will never leave you nor forsake you, because he never will.
if you hold fast to him, to the faith you've deepened in this place and to all you've learned and the examples you've seen, i know you will not only persevere, you will prevail, and you will lead your families, your professions and our country to unimaginable heights. university of notre dame class of 2017, this is your day. so go, irish. the future is yours. thank you. god bless you, and god bless the united states of america. [applause]
>> talking with the meltdown -- i'm not going to say that we're , suv overweight society rating comest total guzzling, beer guzzling, tv watching -- .ize xo wearing -- generation but i guess i just did. [laughter] forget that you are a mental thing with a humongous -- gigawatt hard drives at your disposal. you has been running it like crazy for the last 40 years, moaning about what had to you to pay for -- the pages
had to write coming at 10 -- the testament. about 1000 billion cups of coffee company made it. let me put it this way. i can find out where you live. [laughter] i have my resources. house, 10up at your years from now and find nothing in your living room of the reader's digest, nothing but the newest dan brown novel, and nothing in your bathroom but jokes for the job, and will chase driveway shouting, where the dam books? graduated college 10 years ago, how that --how come there are no books in your house? larry king live in the mental equivalent of a class --kraft macaroni and cheese life? [laughter] [applause] what i said like i'm not. if the brain under the cap you are wearing. take care of the damn thing.
looks like tom cruise -- wouldn't kill you to go to the movies once a month and have subtitles underneath a picture. you can read them coming went to 's sake.for god's >> former president bill clinton received an honorary doctorate from hobart and william smith colleges in upstate new york. he delivered the commencement address to graduates. this is half an hour. >> i now present, william jefferson clinton. candidate for the degree dr. a few -- [applause] what's when jefferson clinton, 42nd president of the united salute britain and italy
of hope, arkansas -- a forum in hope, arkansas, raised by caring grandfather was a high school education. inspired to public service is to president john f. kennedy, taught by his own college professor, that america was the greatest nation in history because people believed in two things are two things that: eric -- of part tomorrow could be better than today and -- everyone has a response ability to work for them. republic services arkansas's attorney general, governor and his the 42nd president of the united states, for continued philanthropic work across the globe with the clinton foundation -- we honor your public service and achievements. we thank you for your optimistic vision in mind and her always reminding americans to never tomorrow.inking about therefore, it is my distinct
pleasure by the authority of the to the stovetees, on william jefferson clinton, this degree, dr. of humane letters. together with all the privileges and obligations thereto pertaining. congratulations. [applause] what's ladies and gentlemen, to deliver our commencement address , the 42nd president, william jefferson clinton. [applause]
president clinton: president gearan, mary, your wonderful daughters, i thank you for bringing me here the first time in 2001. back then you had only been president for a couple of years and you were on your average job tenure. when i was president, mark was director of communications, deputy chief of staff in the white house and then the head of the peace corp and he did it all in 6 years. he couldn't hold down a job to save his life. [laughter] and here he is the longest serving president in the history of these great institutions. i am very proud of him and very grateful to him and to mary for their friendship to hillary and to me, and to all of you. i love seeing them together and i do think when she got that degree it was the only act of nepotism i have ever observed in their long relationship. which goes to
show you, that even though nepotism today is getting a bad name in some quarters, every now and then a little of it is called for. [laughter] i want to thank the trustees, the faculty, the staff and the administration and congratulate the classes of 2017 and your parents and friends. to everyone to whom it applies, i wish you a happy mother's day. i think it is a great thing to have a commencement on mother's day. i will never forget the relief on my own mother's face when i finally got my degree at georgetown 49 years ago. now the fact that i actually got my degree 49 years ago almost certifies me for becoming a mummy at the museum of natural history. but i bet you this, i
bet i am the only person here who has been out of college for at least 10 years who remembers their commencement speaker's address verbatim. and i learned the best speeches are short and relevant. we were at georgetown on the front lawn. the speaker, the mayor of washington d.c., walter washington, was introduced with great fanfare. a foreboding dark cloud came over the lawn immediately, lighting was seen, thunder was heard, you could see it raining right behind the campus as the cloud was moving. and here was walter washington's speech, "congratulations. if we don't get out of here right now we're all going to drown. if you'd like a copy of my speech, contact my office and i'll send it to you. good luck." and that was it. if we had had a race for president - it was 1968 - if the election had occurred in that moment, walter washington would have received the write-in votes of every member of our class. i'm going to speak a little longer, but not that much. i recommend you take some time today to ask yourselves: what did i really get out of this anyway? what did i learn? what's more important, did i learn a lot of things i did not know? that i learned how to relate to people who were different from
theory in physics. how good am i after all at connecting the dots? oh yeah, i got a university degree so i don't believe in all that alternative facts business. i still think it is important to be as accurate as possible and it really matters if you know anything, but can i connect the dots? can i see the big picture? can i see the patterns? and even if i can't, what's behind it? am i a better version of who i was four years ago or have i changed in some fundamental way? and what difference will it make to anyone besides me? i recommend you take just a little time to
think about those things today because you have all of these professors who worked hard, each in their own way, to get you to think about at least a piece of that. you got your families that help with their investment to give you a chance, to give you the space and support to grab a little piece of understanding of one of the most exciting and, i believe, interdependent and rapidly changing moments in human history. for whatever it's worth, i'll tell you what i think. i believe that this global interdependence in the
end will turn out to be a good thing. but there's a lot of good and bad to it. you get on the internet and do all kinds of searches and find things that sometimes are true. but we also know that, like every other technological development, it is capable of bringing great good and great trouble. a lot of you i'm sure have followed as closely as i have all this whole global ransom over hacking files. [coughs] turns out it was perpetrated by a young person in the uk who was thwarted by another young person, so the damage done did
not apparently reach any significant proportions in our own country. we know that this time of upheaval has thrown us not apparently reach any together in different ways that benefit some people much more than others economically. we know that rapidly changing social and living patterns have been embraced by a lot of people and have mortified others, and at the very least left many dislocated. at the beginning of all this, there was (in theory) a more settled time, when a higher percentage of people knew exactly who they were and exactly where they belonged. and somehow that was better,
although that all depends on where your forbearers were in that mythical time. william jefferson clinton when i was a boy i fell in love with the great humorous will rogers even though he was long dead by the time i was born. one of his greatest sayings, i thought, was, "don't tell me about the good old days, they never was." you have to ask yourself that. what do i think about this? who am i? how do i fit in this world? do you believe that it is the most interdependent phase in human history? if so, is the primary object to have you and your crowd dominated, or do you want to create a world in which every single person has his or her shot at the fast lane? do you believe constant combat works better to produce prosperity, harmony, peace? or are diverse
networks of people working together more likely to produce those good ends? there's lots of evidence on this, you know. if we could take the person in this graduating class with the highest iq, if you could be identified, and we could miraculously spirit you off to one of these rooms, and say you're going to be here for two days, tell us what you want and we'll get it for you. and the rest of us were compelled to spend the next two days under the elements hoping we didn't get rained on, drinking increasingly cold coffee and increasingly stale rolls. and the genius and we were fed 10 questions over two days. over two days, you'd make better decisions. and, your diversity would guarantee you better decisions than a homogenous
group of geniuses. we should relish our differences. and we should feel self-confident in doing so because from a strictly biological point of view, gnomically we are about 99.5 the same. all of us on planet earth. there is every difference evidenced in this crowd today: gender, race, body-type, hair color, eye color, every single solitary thing we can see that is different is lodged in 1.5 percent of one percent of our genome. otherwise we are kind of carbon copies. now that half of
one percent, since there are 3.6 billion of them in your body, is a substantial number and it makes life much more interesting and much more important. but the point i am trying to make here is you can't nourish that diversity without first a bedrock acceptance in our common humanity. and yet we know in times of upheaval when people are unsettled and their identities are not clear - that sounds like just pap - and tough talking realism is all about how this group is a threat, that group is a threat, another group is a threat. i'll give you an example. nine-tenths of one percent of america's population are muslims. 210,000 people have been killed in gun violence since 9/11. the percentage of
them killed by muslims is less than three-tenths of one percent. in other words, their murder rate is one third the national average. but we've all heard about it. does that mean we shouldn't be tough on terrorism committed by islamic radicals? of course not. but it means we shouldn't go around in a blind stupor mixing apples and oranges and terrifying some of the most talented, devoted people in this country, who want to make their contribution, who help make us better, because diverse groups make better decisions and make a more interesting life. i'll give you another example.
are there are too many undocumented people? yes. why? because we've let over 30 years pass without adopting an immigration update. you can't change as much as we do without constantly revising your laws. if you want to protect your border and have standards for citizenship. and the underlying facts are changing all the time, you have to be prepared to update your laws - in the best case every five years but certainly every 10. and we know the reason we haven't passed immigration reform. because there's been a lot of bipartisan support for it. economically, it's easy to make the bipartisan case. but politically it's not because immigrants tend to be more communitarian in their voting, more familiar, and have more belief that governments should do their part to create better life chances for everybody. so now we have these crazy results, where a guy does
two combat tours in afghanistan, risks his life for the rest of us. whether you approve of what we're doing over there or not, he did things that most americans don't do. and he got taken off the street and sent home the other day. two combat tours. it kind of embarrasses me that we let someone risk their life for us and then kicked him out. william jefferson clinton a little town in west virginia was convinced the immigrants were bad. a man who ran the local mexican restaurant was sent home. the town was in an uproar. "i thought we were only sending bad people back?" he'd just been there for 15 years paying taxes, employing people, feeding people. was it the right
decision? whether you think it was right or wrong, the point is this: a) you have to decide whether you think our common humanity is more important than our interesting differences, and a pre-condition for making most of them, and b) we have an invested interest in diversity. now if you're a native born american, you also have to face the fact that like every other prosperous country in the world, our birth right among the native born goes down every year. and we are barely at replacement population levels. so without immigrants, our future growth rate will be much lower, and the tax burden that will be on those of us left will be much higher because those of us who are
older are america's fastest growing part of the population and we consume more health care costs, for example. i'm not asking to resolve this today. i'm not even trying to make a political point exactly. the point i am trying to make is: you have a precious resource in this country. it has given us among other things the best system of higher education, especially for undergrad, in the world and in the history of the world. this is a special place. i'm looking out at my proud friends james carville and mary matalin, i don't want to embarrass their daughter, matty, who is in this class, but i
actually recommended she come here. and i said, this place [hobart and william smith colleges] is great. they love community service. its service oriented. we all have to expand our definition of citizenship to include that. i'm not arguing for any specific position. i am just trying to say, you don't need a world that will put america's experiment in peril by saying "us and them" is a better model than expanding the definition of "us" and shrinking the definition of "them." you know, i do a lot of work now with the second president bush. we have fought like cats and dogs in our life. we have disagreed over all kinds of things. but he is not afraid of immigrants. he would happily go with me to south texas and have a political debate on any issue. and he knows we need them. if you look at his beautiful portraits of wounded veterans, it's obvious that some of them are first generation americans. this doesn't have to be a party issue. you have to decide and your generation will
determine, whether we view diversity as a strength or a problem. whether we think our common humanity is more important or our differences matter more. everything else is going to be background music. and i promise you, much as i hate it, russia's cyber warfare doesn't bother me. not if america keeps being america. they beat us into space too, and look where we are today with our space programs. life's always going to have problems. we have a serious challenge today to create more jobs in places where jobs have been left behind. but
if we quit playing politics with it and think of the best way to do it, it would be fairly straight forward and simple to do. i'm not worried about that. i'm worried about what's in your mind and what's in your heart. as long as we believe that our common humanity is what's important; as long as we understand that diverse groups make better decisions than homogenous ones or lone geniuses; as long as we realize the great thing about life is not final victories and the great tragedy is not final defeats, that there's no final victories or final defeats. it's the journey, it's the deal. you stand up and do the best you can in the moments you have. and then you go on and live the next moment. it's going to be fine. i'd give anything to be your age again just to see what's going
to happen. in the last 20 years, 20 planets .in the last 20 years, 20 planets have been identified outside our solar system that seem to have sufficient distance from their sun, and sufficient density that they might be able to contain life. now that's the only thing that'll eventually finally unify us. [laughter] it doesn't matter if you don't have to have ultimate answers. it's the attitude, the approach. do you believe that when the founders said, "we have to make a more perfect union" they meant, "there needs to be more of us and less of them. every year more of us, fewer of them." every year believing that we can do better. you heard mark say my professor
of ancient civilization, carol quigley, said that our civilization was the greatest because it believed that the future could always be better than the present, and that people had a personal and moral responsibility to make it so. which translated into my 1992 speak, "don't stop thinking about tomorrow." you can decide what it means for you, but believe me, whether you're a conservative or a liberal or a republican or a democrat, it doesn't matter as long as you believe that our common humanity matters most; as make up this vast, teeming sea of humanity that is breaking down all kinds of barriers and knowledge.
don't choke the future, lift it up. and don't ever be under the illusion that power can ever be the end of life and that there are permanent victories -- there aren't. except in systems that choke themselves off and die on the vine. america is a work in progress, always becoming. and don't forget that there is a reason this great institution is -- in both these colleges -- are ranked fourth in america in the importance of community service and public service. [applause] pres. clinton: you don't have to hold a political office to advance the public good.
so, that's about all i have to say. [laughter] pres. clinton: what we have in common is more important than our interesting differences and it makes it possible for those differences to flourish. diverse groups cooperating do better than homogenous ones trying to jam things down our throat, and they are capable of morphing and meeting new challenges. no one should be left behind, and no one should be denied the chance to exercise a responsible role. the future is full of challenges, but there are even more opportunities. you're supposed to work all of that out.
and there's a reason you are sitting on this lawn today. think about what people were like the first time your first forebears of homo-sapiens stood up on the east african savanna 150,000 to 200,000 years ago. from that day to this, most people who have ever lived had no choice about how they would spend their waking hours. they had to struggle to put food on the table and support their children. and yet here you are, in one of the greatest institutions of higher education in a country that has 300 or 400 world-class undergraduate institutions of higher education. the great microbiologist theo wilson says that it's because we, along with ants, termites , and bees, are the greatest cooperative species in the
history of life on our planet, and we have more potential and present more peril to the future because we have a conscience and consciousness, so we're prone to arrogance, but full of unlimited potential. i would love to be your age just to see what's going to happen. so remember that -- no permanent victories, no permanent defeats, but a life of permanent possibility. as long as you remember those simple things. and the most important of all is , every single day, we should each find a way to expand the definition of "us" and shrink the definition of "them." because in the end, there is not
[captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2017] [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit ncicap.org] >> at the end of the day, it does not matter the decision you make so much, because god is so all-powerful and so great that he can turn any decision you make into the right decision. it does not matter what decision you pick what law firm or what field of law you choose. he can turn a wrong answer into a right answer if he wants to. it is not the decision that matters. it is why you made that decision. and if you seek him in that decision, he will honor it, i promise you, he will honor it. i say these things to you because -- you may ask, why do you achieve this piece in all the stuff you talk about? i will let you know when i fully find out, because we struggle with that to this day. one is to simply accept that
this is not a human thing, that achieving the piece that allows you to shine your light on the world is not something you are going to be able to accomplish. it is a grace. you pray for it, because it is given to you, as was man's original estate given to man. the other is to become more childlike. that is the advice i can give you -- not immature, childlike. what i mean is, i look at my own children. when they are very young, anything i asked them to do, they will do. i have a son who is almost six. he has become increasingly obsessed with football, being a football player, but he does not like to eat a lot, so i have convinced him, the more you eat, the better you will become, and he believes me. he believes me because he knows i love them. he believes me because he believes i would never want anything bad for him. he trusts what i tell him because he knows that of all the people on earth, not love him more than me. i love my son. how much more does god love you?
so i would say to you to try to become more childlike. as my kids get older, they believe me less and less. sometimes, i fear that the more educated we get, the dumber we get. that the more we embrace the wisdom of the world, the further away from the simple truths we get. announcer: former senator kelly ayotte delivered the commencement address to graduates of the university of new hampshire's manchester campus. he talked about losing her reelection bid in november 2016 and the importance of learning from mistakes and failure. [applause] sen. ayotte: thank you so much, dean decelle. i am very honored to be here tonight. president huddleston, chairman riley and members of the unh board of trustees, senator
faculty and staff, students, parents, family and friends, thank you for inviting me to celebrate this very special day with you. to the class of 2017, congratulations. you have worked very hard. you can finally relax. you turn all your assignments in. you have done your exams. and now is the time to recognize all you have achieved. many of you have pursued your degree working full-time or taking care of a family. that's not easy, and we admire you. it takes special determination and grit to earn your degree while holding a full-time job for taking care of a family. because of what you have accomplished, you graduate today well prepared to pursue your dreams, because you already know that to be successful you have to be able to manage more than one responsibility.
you are well positioned to find that balance between your profession, your family life, and your health, so you can be at your best to live a full and rewarding life. now, days like this, they don't just happen, do they? you all worked hard. you make sacrifices to be here. and you can take great pride in receiving your degree today from unh. but none of us truly accomplishes anything alone, do we? there are many people here with you today -- parents, spouses, family members, friends, mentors , people who supported you along the way, people who went the extra mile and made a difference for all of you. can we give another round of applause for the collective efforts of everyone who helped get you here today? [applause]
thank you.: as i look out at all of you, i am struck by one simple truth. you are our future. the future, not only of our nation, but of our state. and we live in a great state. with your degree from unh, i encourage you to do something i did -- make new hampshire your home. continue to grow your roots here. you can have a rewarding career and live a vibrant life in this state with an excellent quality of life. after going out of state for my degrees, the best decision that i ever made in my life, really, was to come home back here in new hampshire to build my life. there are so many opportunities in new hampshire to get involved in your community and to be part
of something that's bigger than just yourself. whether it is serving in local or state government, volunteering with a nonprofit, coaching a team, or even running for office -- if i could do it, you can, too. i know for sure, had i started my career somewhere else, i would have never had the amazing experiences that i have had, and the privilege of serving the state of new hampshire. -- if youise you this stay in this state and you build your post-graduate life here, you will not regret it and will get so much in return. -- so much in return from new hampshire. now, i remember what it was like sitting where you are. i know it was many years ago. some of you may already know what you want to do next and have a very clear vision and have it all lined up. some of you may not quite be sure what you want to do next.
there is only one thing i can guarantee you, and that is, in a manner -- that is, no matter what your vision and plan is right now, your life will not proceed in a straight path, and there will be surprises along the way, things you can't anticipate that come before you, opportunities that you would have never thought about. in my own career, i could have never imagined, when i was sitting where you are today, that things would happen in my career, twists, turns, things i never expected. and often what looks like a detour is something that is really actually bringing you to your true calling and is something that you love to do. after i graduated from law school, the thought of becoming a prosecutor or attorney general, or senator for that matter, never even crossed my mind. in fact, my plan was to go to
a private law firm, make a good salary -- i have student loans, like i'm sure many of you do -- just wanted to pay them off and kind of figure it out. so i did that. i actually went to work for a big law firm right here in manchester. here i am, working at this law firm. and one day, a more experienced lawyer in the office came into my office, and he asked me to take on an assignment. he asked me to take -- to do what is called an arraignment in federal court. basically, an arraignment is the beginning of a criminal proceeding. so i was really eager to prove myself, so i said, i will do it. little did i know, i had no idea what i was walking into. he sent me to cover a case in federal court, a very serious criminal case, a case that involved five defendants who were charged with committing bank robberies up and down the
east coast. and in fact, one of those bank robberies happened in hudson, new hampshire, where unfortunately two guards were murdered. and so i walked in to this case not knowing anything. let me just be honest with you -- i had only been a lawyer for a few years and i had never done an arraignment or any criminal trial. never mind one that was so important and serious. , and way over my head there were many more experienced players in the courtroom -- many more experienced lawyers in the courtroom. even my client had more courtroom experience than i did. [laughter] sen. ayotte: the first time i met him, i'm at this hearing. i go down to the cellblock to meet my client. here i am, this young woman, and i meet this really tough looking guy. but he had a look of terror on his face, and the only thing i could think to tell him is,
don't worry, i am not your only lawyer. i'm sure that was very reassuring to him at the time. at that first hearing, i spent most of the day watching the makingperienced lawyers, sure i was actually facing the right direction in court. we have all felt that way at times, right? we are in over our head, but it is a great opportunity and we should do it. i was not exactly sure what i had gotten myself into. but when i returned to the office that night, i told the lawyer who had sent me into the lions den that i wanted to work on that case. as a result, my jury trial was a first three-month trial in federal court, where i learned about things like dna evidence. but most importantly, when i learned is what i loved to do -- i loved being in the courtroom, and i knew i wanted to be a prosecutor and serve the public and help victims of crime.
so that started me on a whole new direction. so i applied for a job as a prosecutor at the attorney general's office, and guess what -- they rejected me. so i applied again, and i stuck with it. eventually, you find out, if you are persistent enough, they will hire you. so i became a murder prosecutor, and within a decade, i was the first woman to serve as attorney general of our state and, several years later, i became a senator. [applause] sen. ayotte: thank you. to share with you about that experience is foremost, what i took from this is this. if there is something you really want to do, you have to be willing to take risks and not be afraid to take those risks. it is the only way you can find out through the what you can accomplish. push the boundaries of your comfort zone to find the true
potential within yourself. find out what you are passionate about. there is a common thread with the many successful people i have met in my life. they are passionate about what they do. it is really tough to be good at something that you don't care about. what your passion is -- find out what it is, and it is going to be different for each and every one of you. as steve jobs, the founder of apple, once said at a commencement like this, "your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. and the only way to do great work is to love what you do. if you haven't found it yet, keep looking. don't settle." and be determined.
if you want something, refused to give up, no matter how many setbacks that you face. you all know that because you have faced setbacks getting to this day, i am sure, each and every one of you. this fall, i lost my reelection to the senate by a narrow margin. and it was tough. i wanted to win. and i had to pick myself back up after that loss. and i am reminded of the words of winston churchill -- "success is not final, failure is not fatal -- it is the courage to continue that counts." we have all had times in our lives when we have worked hard for something that we wanted, but it didn't work out. there is not a successful person out there who has not had failures. but i am here to tell you,
success is actually not the best teacher. often when things are going our way and going well, we don't take the time to evaluate how we can be better. if you are willing, you will learn the most about yourself from your mistakes and your setbacks. own them and learn from them. and you will emerge stronger as a result of having gone through them. -- andlong run, nothing i mean nothing -- can stop the combination of hard work and perseverance. if things don't go your way -- and once in a while that is going to happen -- get back up and try again to reach your goal. and don't settle for anything less than you are fully capable of doing. and i know you won't, because
you are here today. you worked very hard. you have already demonstrated, by earning your degree, that you have that tenacity and perseverance to succeed. enjoy this important and great moment in your lives. ,ll the hard work has paid off and we are also proud of you and what you have accomplished. with what you have learned at unh, you have the tools to have a rewarding and successful career here in new hampshire, add anything you put your mind to -- at anything you put your mind to. i want to thank you so much for having me here today. it is a deep honor to share this special day with you. i wish you every success in your career and life. i know we are going to see great achievements from the class of 2017, all of you here today, and i wish you the very best luck.
thank you for having me. [applause] announcer: general serving as the chair of the joint chiefs of staff, the highest ranking officer in the u.s. military. he gave the commencement address at his alma mater, st. michael's college in vermont. [applause] general dunford: let me start with the father. thanks for those words. but more importantly, thanks for over six decades of service. it is very humbling to be here with you. [applause]
for the record, you do outrank me. class of 2017, you would expect me to say it is an honor to be with you, but it really is. i would like to begin by joining the president and others by thanking the family members here with us as well as the faculty and the staff and the mentors that invested so much over the years. i know your support made it possible for each of the graduates out here today to have accomplished all that they have accomplished and i know you are i.y proud, as am several people mentioned mother's day to avoid getting in trouble at home i want to join those that have recognized mother's day. what i think i will do is just ask all the mothers here to please stand up and be recognized. [applause]
i know that some of us have lost our moms along the way and they are in our thoughts and prayers today. i want to take a moment to offer personal condolences for those that have being remembered today. i know there are some empty seats at here. i want to remember them as well. as i have prepared my remarks this past week, i reflected on my own graduation from st. michael's 40 years ago and i know that probably sounds like engine history to the class of 2017, but i remember quite a bit of detail for my graduation. that morning, i was one of two students that was commissioned in the rain core. i can still remember taking the oath of office. i remember being surrounded by friends and family and the sense of promise that was there that morning. i remember watching across the ceremony surrounded by my classmates and just like it was as i watched you this morning, it was a tremendous amount of excitement.
i also remember our commencement speaker, senator margaret smith from the state of maine and before i graduated, she was an iconic figure. the speech she gave was recognized as one of the most significant speeches in u.s. senate history. unfortunately, i am not sure i heard a word she said that morning. i made that comment about a year ago in the margaret chase smith library -- and the margaret chase smith library sent me a copy of her remarks. i read the remarks and i missed a very powerful message on values and ethics. by the time she spoke on my graduation day, my mind was miles away. i had enjoyed my four years at st. michael's and develop many important relationships in my life, but i was ready to move on. mentally, i had made the break from my college days and i suspect there is one or two of you out there that share that
sentiment. with that in mind, i challenge myself to say something this morning that is relevant to those of you graduating. something you may actually remember at least until tomorrow morning. i am going to a cop is my -- accomplish my mission by sharing just a few thoughts -- accomplish my mission by sharing just a few thoughts. maybe just be a bit more attentive than i was. i chose to talk about leadership because i believe we should expect leadership from graduates of an institution founded by the society of saint evan. a group committed to serving others. we should expect leadership from men and women who graduate from a college that emphasizes social justice. the should expect graduates from a school that consistently ranks best liberal arts colleges in the nation.
i remember the words of president henry back in 1977 when they were asked why st. michael's part of their answer was "because we don't train students for followership, for jobs that may become technically obsolete." st. michael's aims to give you sound thinking, creativity, resourcefulness, self-assurance, universal skills in every profession in any age. i think their words are as true in 2017 as they were in 1977. one of the qualities all great leaders share is moral courage. it was alluded to earlier this morning. the ability to think for yourself and the willingness to do the right thing regardless of the consequences. i didn't appreciate it at the time, but that characteristic defined my commencement speaker, margaret chase smith. in part to pay her back for my inattentiveness in 1977, i would like to share a little bit about her story. she was born in 1897. she was the first woman to serve in both houses of congress and only a handful of women served
in the house when she joined in 1940. for over a decade, she was the only woman to serve in the senate as a result of winning a general election. she was a trailblazer with many admirable qualities, but it was the moral courage that she demonstrated in 1950 that established her as a truly extraordinary leader. in the 1950's, the nation's confidence was shaken by financial trouble, russia's success at developing an atomic weapon. in that context, the political opportunist senator joseph mccarthy took advantage of what senator smith called the hart -- the four horsemen. unfairly called into question the patriotism and integrity of many good americans. he literally destroyed lives and careers with rumor and innuendo. although many agreed with his broad sweeping accusations, very
few had the courage to take on senator mccarthy. on the first of june, 1950, center it margaret chase smith took to the senate floor and delivered a speech she declared as a declaration conscience. for many reasons, it was a bold step for her to take. she was a very junior senator and at the time, mccarthy was very popular here in new england. as the only woman in the senate, she was under extreme scrutiny at a time when many believed that women had no place in politics. she was well aware she was risking her reputation in a political career. she looked at the evidence behind mccarthy's accusations and concluded what he did was wrong and harmful to our nation. to give you some sense of what she was experiencing, there is a train that runs under the capitol building. that morning before she took to the senate floor, she found herself on the small little
train that moves from one building to the other with senator mccarthy. mccarthy had some hint of what was going to happen on the senate floor and he got right up in her face and said, senator i understand you are going to give a speech this morning. is there anything i should know? senator smith moved to the senate floor alone and took on joseph mccarthy and after her speech through for example, others began to speak out and the dark chapter of mccarthyism was eventually closed. senator smith knew what it meant to be a leader. she knew that being a leader meant doing the right thing, even when it was hard. in her own words, the right thing is not always the popular or the easy thing. standing for right when it is unpopular is the true test of moral current. h --leridge -- corey courage. graduates of st. michael's 2017, future leaders, you will all
have -- you won't all have a moment in your lives as consequential as senator smith, but you will have a moment when standing for right is hard. remember the example of senator margaret chase smith who stood right here 40 years ago speaking to the class of 1977. another quality i have found in great leaders is a commitment to serve something greater than yourself. a passion and a willingness to serve others. to hear the words of christ to offer inspiration "the son of man did not come to be served, but to serve." as a 13-year-old growing up here in vermont, he watched -- serving african-americans in alabama and felt the calling. he was posted in alabama and spent his days doing what any priest would do, visiting people in their homes, caring for the sick, and offering mass. he opened up a hospital and
educated children in a parish school. but he early 1960's, it earned the trust of african-americans in selma. and when civil rights leaders came calling, he linked arms with them viewing their struggle as a natural extension to his service to the community. he offered his parish as a training place for volunteers. they spoke out against injustice and he called on christians from across the country to join the fight for civil rights. in doing so, he became a target for those resistant to change. he was hauled before a grand jury and accused of being a communist. he received menacing phone calls in the middle of the night and endured repeated threats against his life. none of that could keep him from answering his call to serve. he continued to care for the sick in their homes and in the hospital. he worked as a handyman and he used his position to call for quality.
1965 when civil rights leaders rallied, father will let open them with open arms. werepeaceful marches beaten on the bridge, he found care at the hospital. he would get out of his hospital bed to help those who had been injured at day. as protesters reorganized, father willett worked behind the scenes and brought priests, ministers, rabbis, and layman to alabama. conviction and turned the tide on march 26, 1955. in a procession of the 5000 americans shortly after they arrived on the steps of the capitol in alabama. five months later, the voting rights act was passed, providing protection for those who marched on montgomery.
as the nation celebrated the victory, father willett felt the sting of loss. his archbishop was angered by his role in the civil rights movement and removed him from his parish. demonstrating what it means to be a great leader, father willett maintained his commitment to serve others. even through his final sermon at selma. rather than give into bitterness and disappointment, he concluded with these words, "all we do we must do with love. as a person and individual, i matter very little. although, the church matters a great deal." that is what it means to have a passion for serving others. as a leader of consequence, it is never about you. of st. michael's class of 2017, future leaders, a few of you will be called upon to serve in a manner such as father willett, but many of you will
lead in education or public service and i hope you remember the story of father willett. the greatest call is to serve those you lead. those who may be still with me are probably having a hard time identifying with these examples. you may have taken a deep gulp and wondered if being a leader requires the selflessness of margaret chase smith. if you sit with those concerns, i do not share them. what i learned in my 40 years of service is that extraordinary leaders are actually ordinary men and women who make a commitment to excellence. leaders are men and women who take down deep and do what is right, even when there is a voice inside that says take the easy way. i do not share your concerns because i look at the generation of st. michael's graduates who sat where you sit this morning and have gone on to be leaders of consequence in a wide range of endeavors. several examples i am honored to be up here on the stage with --
a human rights activists, brian lacey in the creative arts, senator patrick leahy, and a leading marine biologist. in the interest of time, i did not describe the challenges that currently face our nation. from a security perspective alone, i think it is fair to say the challenges we face today are as complex and difficult as any we faced since world war ii. the pace of change is unprecedented. navigating in the days ahead will require leadership. your generation of leadership will play an increasingly important role. our education system, our military, the public and private sector, all need strong, value-based leadership. as graduates of st. michael's, i believe you are uniquely capable of providing that leadership. i will close by making a simple request regardless of where life takes you, have the moral
courage to do what is right even when it is tough. commit to being something bigger than yourself whether it is in your professional life or your personal life. remember the ethics instilled here at st. michael's and bring that forth with you as you go to through your life. perhaps inspired by the story of margaret chase smith or father willett, be a leader of consequence. to the saint michael's community and class of 2017 and the families here today particularly to the faculty and the staff, it has been an extraordinary day for me to be literally back home here at st. michael's and to have a chance to look at your faces -- two look at the proud faces of the parents here and to be part of such a big day in your life. i wish you all the best as you go forward to be leaders of consequence. god bless you all and is the father said, "remain always faithful." thank you so much. [applause]
that was freshman year. made sophomore year she had had several at tiffany's and realized what all of you have come to realize, you do this for yourself, you don't do this for anybody else. heard aboutou have this institution is true, it is a prestigious and powerful place that will wear you out. is something -- that woman thing starts to kick in. kicking in, that little woman thing. she came here a naive girl from dallas. those who love her are grateful to you for the women and process that you gave us back. we are grateful for that. the change a year