Duke, UNC grads urged to find challenge in hard times
Posted May 12, 2012
Updated May 13, 2012
Chapel Hill, N.C. — Robed graduates marched solemnly into commencement ceremonies Sunday at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Duke University to hear from high-profile speakers about the risks and realities of the world that faces them. Despite cloudy skies, the mood was sunny for proud parents and their grads, many of whom carried signs acknowledging that Sunday was also Mother's Day. Your photos: Class of 2012
At Duke, journalist and author Fareed Zakaria accepted an honorary doctorate in Humane Letters before listing for graduates the many reasons their future looks bright.
The economic downturn, conflict abroad and climate change are real problems, he noted. "But I want to sketch out for you, with perhaps a little bit of historical context, the kind of world you are really entering into," he said.
He listed examples of technological, medical and educational advancement over recent decades. "What I am pointing out is that there have been extraordinary challenges over the last 50 years, 75 years ... but we have overcome them," Zakaria said.
"When we look forward to the problems we face ... keep in mind these problems are real, but the human reaction and response to them is also very real. ... We forget that there are these extraordinary opportunities that human beings have to solve these problems. That is what you will be doing. And what I urge you to remember is that you will have a profound effect when you do that," he said.
At Carolina, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg tapped into school spirit quickly with the "Tar" ... "Heel" call and response. "I wanted to start this morning by shouting something," he joked.
Bloomberg offered graduates seven pieces of advice:
- Teamwork is everything.
- Assist others.
- Risks are necessary.
- Hustle, always.
- Elbows occasionally have to be used.
- Education is a lifelong journey.
- Love what you do.
Sunday's ceremonies wrapped up a busy graduation weekend across the state in which thousands of college graduates got encouragement from high-profile national figures.
First lady Michelle Obama regaled graduates of North Carolina A&T in Greensboro with the story of the four students who started the sit-in movement for desegregation more than half a century ago. She said their actions are an example of what young people can do to change the world.
"It all started because a small group of young people had eyes open to the injustices around them," Obama said. "Being engaged means not simply recognizing what's wrong, not simply complaining about and talking about our problems, but acting." 2012 commencement speeches
Alumnus and San Diego Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers saluted graduates of North Carolina State University in Raleigh. The record-setting quarterback who graduated from NCSU in 2003 told more than 5,200 graduates to identify their priorities and then plan to protect them.
"You are on the brink of your greatest challenge yet; don't take that step without a firm commitment to your priorities," Rivers told graduates. "On what foundation will you build your future?"
The nation's top law enforcement officer, U.S. Attorney Eric Holder, told 245 law students graduating from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill to think about the legacy they will build.
"You are among the most prepared to affect meaningful change no matter what path you chose," Holder said. "With all that you possess and all that you have been given, you have a special responsibility to our nation and to this world."
Holder, the first African-American attorney general, was chosen by a committee of law students to address the graduating class.
Rev. William Barber, president of the North Carolina chapter of the NAACP, told graduates of North Carolina Central University to fight against injustice.
"You live at a turning point in history," Barber told 536 graduates at NCCU. "If our values are right and our budgets are just, we can build a better society. We can finish the job of being, in word and deed, one nation under God with liberty and justice for all."