Katie Couric Graduation Speech – Video & Transcript

by DataEntry on May 8, 2010

Katie Couric Graduation Speech Transcript:

PresidentSnyder, Deanand faculty of this distinguished institution, honored guests, parents, grandparents and most of all the class of 2010. I am so honored and thrilled to be part of your special day but I have to warn you, from here on out you are going to have to call me Dr. Katie.

This honor is even more

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meaningful because ofDr. Sandy Markowitz. He is a long-time friend whose lab is doing extraordinary work in the field of colon cancer. Among other things, discovering the colon cancers with microsatellite instability activate a polyadenine repeat with the type two TGF receptor to become a mutational hot spot. I don’t really know what that means eitherbut believe me his team is doing critically important and lifesaving work and I’m

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so proud to be associated with their brilliance and dedication.

It appears that with the exception of a few of you nodding off over there on row 12 that you have recovered from senior week. I’m certain the jolly scholar however was more jolly than scholarly and I’ve heardthey’re also still cleaning up what’s left of the pub crawl on West 6th.

You’ve earned it. You’ve spent four long years and in some cases even more, pouring your hearts into your studies, squirreled away in one of those little cubicles at the law or med school libraries cramming for those big tests, writing those big papers, hopefully minus the aderol and taking a break for a couple of doughnuts and a milkshake.

I was told as a student body you all skew nerdy, more MIT than OU but since the definition of a nerd is a person who is single minded or accomplished in scientific or technical pursuits, I say bring on the nerd fest. Who says he says Case students don’t know how to party? According to an article in the Observercalled “The Best Bars in Cleveland”Nick Nolte’s at Coventry scored high marks because of its proximity to taco bell. That’s keeping it classy Cleveland.

Clearly there has been a lot to learn during your years at case and now you’re leaving your ivory tower for the concrete jungle. These are difficult times and the job marketoutlook is less than rosy. That’s not exactly a news flash is it? Sadly it’s not really possible to follow the onions advice that newly minted college grads be cryogenically frozen until the job market improves although that is one way to avoid moving back in with your mom and dad.

The good news is your graduating from a truly outstanding institution and you’re well-equipped to face the world. I know you may be anxious if you don’t have a job and even if you do I’m sure you’re wondering, “Will I do well? Isthis the right fit?” Well for those of you who are still looking, I had a conversation this week with EllenGordon Reeves author of CanI Wear my Nose Ring to the Interview.

I didn’t really peg you guys as the nose ring types but I do think she offers some terrific tips like, get a business card before you even have a job. That’sright; you never know who you’ll meet at the dentist, on

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the bus, at a party and she says make sure there’s a professional email on that card, no hotmama@hotmail.comand that you have a professional message answering the phone number, no “Yo, what’s up dude?” Clean up your face book page, monster.com reports at 55 percent of graduating seniors have already tailored their profiles to be suitable viewing for potential bosses. Good thinking, posting photos of you guys doing body shots is TMI and that is B-A-D.

Use social networks to network. Ask your 3000 plus friends if anyone knows someone at a company and if they’d be willing to connect you. Don’t just send your resume into the black hole of cyberspace; find people, not jobs, someone to talk to, even if it’s just an informational interview. It’s so hard to convey your energy, enthusiasm and your emotional intelligence online. Do your homework first, use your Case alumni connections.Nothing gives alums as much pride as helping one of their own. Checkout career advice on other college websites as well and once you get your foot in the door, remember the old head and shoulders commercial, you never get a second chance to make the first impression. So ditch the “like, you know, like” and remember the importance of a firm handshake and eye contact. Good grammar is very important.I mentally cross off people when I hear the wrong pronoun, harsh but true.

I was once of course standing in your pumps. In1979 when I applied for entry level job at
ABC in Washington for three months I heard crickets. So asked my mom to drive me down to the WashingtonBureau in our Buick station wagon and wait in the car. I walked into the building and I said to the receptionist “May I please speak to Davy Newman?” She got him on the phone and I said “Hi Davy.” He was the executive producer of World News Tonight, by the way, “You don’t know me but your twin brotherStevenEddy went to Yorktown high school with my sister Kikiand I used to play with your niece Julie who lives up the streetfrom me. Do you think I could come up and say “Hi.”

I think he was so completely surprised that he said sure and he ended up introducing me to the Deputy Bureau Chief who was in charge of hiring. That individual told me he admired my moxie and I watched as he moved my resume from the bottom of the pile. So now more than ever you need to have hutzpah. You need to do something that sets you apart, that impresses. Ask not what the company can do for you but tell them what you can do for the company. Be realistic.

I’m not a subscriber to the helicopter parent refrain of ‘Honey, you can do whatever you want.’ I really don’t think you can. You have to take a good hard look at your strengths, your weaknesses, your skills and your shortcomings but most of all your passions.

In1978Ina Garten,AKAthe barefoot contessa, was writing nuclear energy papers at the White House but was spending much more time making dinner parties for her friends in Washington. According to Ina, “My sweet husband Jeffrey told me I should do what I loveddoing which was cooking and if I loved itI’d be really good at it.” She bought a small specialty food store in the Hamptons called the Barefoot Contessa. Her passion combined with the rise of a trend called nesting, created career kismet and lead to six bestselling cookbooks, and a hugely popular show on the food network.

Even if you’re not following your bliss right away a less than dreamy job can actually help you achieve your dreams. You’ll learn what you don’t want andyou may meet people who can lead you to what you do. Still doing what you love, as Ina Garten will tell us, takes a lot of elbow grease,and inher case extra virgin olive oil which brings me to my next point.

Work hard. There is just no way around it.It may take you a little time to find out what you’re good at, what you love, but once you do realize that hard work is really the answer. That’s a major point MalcolmGladwell makes in his bookOutliers.He writes that to truly master something you need to spend at least 10000 hours doing it. After all the Beatles played together more than 1000 times before they became “overnight sensations” on the Ed Sullivan show back in 1964.

Last year I interviewed Captain Sully Sullenburger, the pilot who landed that US Airways flight on the HudsonRiver after birds knocked out both enginesstaving all 155 people on board. While his stories about grace under pressure, it’s also about the value of hard work. “For42 years” he told me “I’ve been making small regular deposits in this bank of experience and on January15 the balance was sufficient so that I could make a sudden large withdrawal.”

No matter how hard you all work, there’s a good chance you’ll stumble at some point. Everyone does. So let me recommend the keyword, perseverance. Wherever you go, whatever you do, you’ll find someone who will stand in your way or tear you down. In1980 when I joined a little upstart venture called CNN it was derided by my colleagues at ABC as chicken noodle news.

When my first on air opportunity came around I fantasized that this would be the big break I would later describe in my bestselling autobiography. Instead it became my own personal Stephen King novel. I was asked to do a live report very early the following morning previewing the president’s schedule from the White House lawn. I was 22 and terrified, when I got into place and I put in my ear piece, I heard two incredulous anchors saying “Who is that girl, she looks like she is about 16 years old.” Yes I did look young and I sounded like Shirley Temple in Curly Top. What a disaster.

The president of CNN called to say “I never want to see that girl on the air again. I remember feeling heartened by a coffee cup on the assignment desk that said ‘Don’t let the turkeys get you down.’ To continue the poultry metaphor,I guess that’s what you call pluck.

But he wasright; at that point I really wasn’t ready for prime time.SoI worked hard and I got better and more confident and when opportunity knocked I wasn’t afraid to open the door. Don’t get discouraged. As LindaEllerbe once said, “Some days you’re the pigeon and some days the statue.”AfterFredAstaire’sfirst screen test, in fact, an MGM executive wrote, “Can’t sing, can’t act, slightly balding, can dance a little.”

You should also take chances. Most successful people don’t get where they are today without taking risks. WhenI was considering a move to CBS after anchoring the Today Show for 15 years, a friend of mine a boat is always safe in the harborbut that’s not what those are built for. Get out of your comfort zone even if that means, at times, being uncomfortable. The only way you’ll really grow is to stretch and I firmly believe that when it comes to the scorecard of life you do get points for trying.

As Teddy Roosevelt said “It’s not the critic who counts nor the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man in the arena whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood.”

Hard work and perseverance may bring you material success but they won’t bring you a life that is truly rich. For that you have to believe in a higher purpose. I found mine the hard way in April of 1997. My41-year-old husband was diagnosed with stage four colon cancer. Our daughters were five and one. WhenI wasn’t on the air I was getting a crash course in cancer, frantically calling medical schools, pharmaceutical companies and biotech startups trying desperately to find a magic bullet. I never did.

He died on the way to the hospital in January of 1988. During his nine month battle I marveled at his courage, humor and extraordinary grace. While he was sick and following his death I felt like there was a vice around my heart 24/7 but six simple words written by ThomasJeffersoninspired me to go on. “The earth is for the living.” I realized that we’re all terminal. We all have a finite period of time on this planet. I could not let cancer destroy two lives. My daughters needed me and I was in a unique position to try to prevent other families from going through the terrible loss mine had endured.

The National Colon/Rectal Cancer Research Lines has raised awareness of the second leading cancer killer and provided funding for critically important research like Sandy Markowitz’s.

Meanwhile my own on air colonoscopy demystified a procedure that is that saves countless lives. It’s been called, as we heard, the Couric effect but I call it the Jay Monahan effect. Michaelreally was to create a movement which may be a very bad or very good choice of words.

Stand Up to Cancer has been another exciting initiative. It’s so far committed 85 million dollars to fund scientific dream teams working on all different kinds of cancers. From a number of institutions who for the first time are being forced to be collaborative, not competitive, the scientists participating in this new research model are incredibly jazzed and believe it will move life-saving research forward faster.

Finally the Jay Monahan Center for Gastrointestinal Health at NewYork Hospital has treated more than 12000 patients who have found a place that offers seamless, comprehensive, compassionate care. So many families have told me it’s been a godsend during a terrifying and anxious time.

For all of you going into the medical field, please remember your bedside manner really matters. I know I’ve been there. My colon cancer work has been more gratifying than any interview I’ve ever conducted or any story I’ve ever done. It’s helped me to serve others and I hope it teaches my children well.

I know this message will resonate with all of you because this campus has become a model for volunteerism, from after school programs for inner city kids to law clinics, to health care screenings. I know some of you who are graduating from the School of Social Work are committing your lives to getting back. I know that all of you and I hope all of you will carry this generosity of spirit with you long after you see Case Western Reserve in your rear-view mirror.

Finally, be kind. English poet WilliamBlake wrote,“He who would dogood to another man must do it in minute particulars.” How you treat others, the minute particulars, will inform the big decisions you make and small acts of kindness are the measure of a man or a woman.

As author AnnieDillardwrote, “How we live our days of course, is how we live our lives.” and it’s not only the right thing to do it also pays off. People want to see good things happen to good people. If you’re kind and caring they’ll be cheering you on instead of booing you from the sidelines.

WhenI was promoted to co-anchor ofThe Today Showa hardnosed veteran producer looked at me and said, “Kid, today you may be drinking the wine, tomorrow you could be picking the grapes.” Those same people you pass as you climb the ladder of success will be the same ones who will catch you if you fall.

Be kind macro cosmically as well,in this digital age it is so easy to be a hater. Elevate the conversation online and in

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life. Don’t let civil discourse become an oxymoron and pursue whatever you do with honor and integrity.

I’ve met so many talented and accomplished people in my career. I emailed a number of them when I heard and was asked to give the commencement address and I said advice would you give to the Case Western Reserve University class of 2010 and believe it or not some of them even wrote me back.

Former vice president Al Gore said, “Choose the hard right over the easy wrong.”

Attorney General Eric Holder said, “You’re better prepared than you may realizeand your gifts, skills, contributions and acts of service have more power to make this world a better place than you may ever know. My generation and future generations are counting on you all. No pressure.”

Michael J. Fox said “As much as we can it’s helpful to be in a place of gratitude. None of us are entitled to anything. We get what we get not because we wanted it or because we deserve it but because we earn it. We respect it and only if we share it do we keep it.”

The queen of Jordan wrote, “If you’re too big for a small job, you’re too small for a big one. Commencement has one more lesson to teach you, beware of arrogance and hubris. Why do you think they make you wear that silly hat?”

Condoleezza Rice told me “I’m so often asked ‘How do I get to do what you’ve done?’ and I sayyou startas a failed piano major.” The point is that life is full of surprises and serendipity.

Drewbraes quarterback of the NewOrleans Saints wrote, “Find what you love to do and then figure out a way to get paid to do it.”

ChelseaHandlers words of wisdom, “Always be generous to those who help you, those who advise, to those who work for you and those who love you,Generosity brings success your way and goes further than talent of any kind. No matter what don’t sleep with your boss.” I think there’s a story there.

The US commander in Iraqwrote, “I have learned that greatness is never found in possessions, power, position or prestige. It’s discovered in goodness, humility, service and character.”

In exactly 140 characters Twitter co-founder said, “Think about what is valuable before thinking about what is profitableand note that there’s compound interest in helping others. Start early.”

Anna Quinlan, one of my favorite writers, described fear and said it’s your biggest enemy and she said, “Carry your courage in an easily accessible place every day, the way you do your cellphone or your wallet. You may still falter or fail but you will always know that you pushed hard and aimed high. Courage is the ultimate career move and don’t pass on dessert.”

Sheryl Crow inspired by a book called The For Agreement said,“Don’t take things personally, don’t make assumptions. Make your word impeccableand do the best you can.” As Sheryl sang, every day is a winding road. As you map out your life and program your personal GPS, remember the shortest distance between point A and point B may be a straight line but it really is the twists and the turns even the detours and the stop signs that make the journey worthwhile. So roll down the windows, soak up the sun and enjoy the ride.

By the way, don’t text and drive. Congratulations to all of you and good luck.

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