Advice for Grads

COMMENCEMENT 1989

HERE is a sampling of what this year's commencement speakers are saying to college graduates: Mike Wallace, CBS newsman, at the University of Pennsylvania:

I was in Ann Arbor a month ago, talking with a group of graduate journalism fellows .... They told me that today's undergraduates and graduate students want to get involved, are getting involved with something beyond themselves. They can be touched, they can be moved, and that they want to be.

``Idealism?'' I asked. ``Public service?''

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``Well, maybe that's just not it,'' was the approximate answer. ``But the young men and women are turned off by what they see of the Exxons and the Milkens, the Jim Wrights and the Ollie Norths. And they want to do something about it....''

So, as I said, chances are - if you're any good at all, and lucky, you're going to do well - financially. But there is so much more to life than that. Simply put: Do well - but do good, too.

Oh, I know, we Americans learned to curl our lips at do-gooders somewhere along the line. Do-gooders, bleeding hearts, people with a conscience went out of style. Pragmatism, selfishness, the free-market euphemism was used. All that took over.

Don't let that happen to you. Don't let time tarnish the ideas you cherish at this moment.

Hillary Clinton, lawyer and wife of Gov. Bill Clinton, at Arkansas State University:

When I talk about a changing era, I'm really talking about how we have moved from a position where we wanted the rest of the world to understand what we have learned for over 200 years about how to try to maximize opportunity for people. And they took that lesson to heart, and so that countries that didn't even exist at the end of World War II, places like Taiwan, countries that lay in ruin, like Japan and Germany, are now competing with us throughout the world.

And what is our response? Well, our response is to complain, to argue, to say it's not fair, to wish it would go away, to think we don't have to do anything differently because why can't the world stay the way it was.

Or we can say to ourselves, ``You know what? We were successful at trying to help other people do better for themselves. We better make sure we do better by ourselves.'' And the key to doing better by ourselves is education.

Jules Feiffer, cartoonist, at the University of Southern Maine:

Instead of the mythic united America of the American dream, the last 20 years has devolved into 200, 300, 500 different Americas sharing but one thing in common: a mutual fear, distrust, and hostility toward the other 499 Americas.... When Exxon looked upon its unprecedented Alaskan oil spill, its first thought was not to cleaning up the mess, which was according to US law. Its first thought was to evade the cost of recovery and raise gas prices. That was Bottom-Line law, which after all was in Exxon's interest because Exxon lives in Bottom-Line America. It was first and foremost loyal to its profit margin.

Now, out in Environmental America, they didn't understand that. But to Exxon it's just plain common sense....

The truth is not that nothing can be done. The truth, the God's honest truth, is that nothing is necessarily for keeps, except the faith. Nothing is written in stone and, even if it is, this is America: Who reads?

Clayton Yeutter, secretary of agriculture, at Clemson University:

I've evaluated a lot of folks as they've come up through academia, the business world, and government and my conclusion goes about as follows: that when you look at the very top people in this country or anywhere in the world, there's not a whole lot of difference in ability. There are a lot of smart people in the world, a lot of smart people sitting out in this audience today. There are a lot of people in the world who work hard, really hard. I'm one of them, and I hope many of you will be too. But that's not the distinguishing characteristic. There are many people who are smart and work hard and who do not reach the top. The distinguishing characteristic at the top in almost all cases is what your faculty here would call ``interpersonal skills,'' or some would call ``human relations.''

Some might simply say it's following the Golden Rule.

Lou Holtz, Notre Dame football coach, at Gonzaga University:

The greatest power God gave us is the power to choose. We have the opportunity to choose whether we're going to act or procrastinate, believe or doubt, pray or curse, help or heal. We also choose whether we're going to be happy or whether we're going to be sad....

We have three simple little rules on our football team:

Rule No. 1 is what I refer to as the Do-Right Rule. You know the difference between right and wrong. Do what's right and avoid what's wrong, and if you have any doubt about it get out the Bible.

Czeslaw Milosz, Nobel Prize-winning author, at the University of California at Berkeley:

In a world dominated by the mass media, and leaving less and less time to reading, the attention riveted to a book is a pure gain and it may change the life of a given person.... Wild escapades of 20th-century literature into cruelty and ugliness, under the guise of so-called complete freedom of art, probably will be assessed by the future as simple lapses of taste.

Michael Eisner, chief executive, Walt Disney Productions Inc., at Denison University:

US films capture 87 percent of the box office in Australia, 70 percent in Greece, 80 percent in the Netherlands, and 92 percent in Britain. Why? My contention is audiences worldwide want to see the American way of life. For viewersoutside our boundaries, the United States is the place where the individual has a chance to choose. That is a very powerful message for people in other countries. What the world sees in American entertainment is the portrayal of a people living in a system of political and economic freedom. Freedom of expression, the freedom to succeed, the freedom to fail and try again.

Camille Cosby, philanthropist and wife of Bill Cosby, at Spellman College:

There is the poverty of drugs in the midst of millions of television and newspaper pictures showing only faces of color.... [Yet] 80 percent of drug users are white, and 100 percent of the top distributors clearly are.

Couldn't the government find and nail these guys? I mean the same government that can track down spies using library materials, the same government that can hunt you down for 7 cents you owe on taxes, and the same government that lets white, male bankers off the hook who've defrauded savings institutions and depositors of millions of dollars.

Couldn't they find these guys?

Rep. Patricia Schroeder of Colorado at Simmons College:

It is tragic that our history got rewritten so we didn't put in the role women really played. Women came to this country, not on cruise ships; they came here on the same ships men did.... You've got a long, proud tradition of women who helped build this country, and so don't feel at all bad about wanting to walk shoulder to shoulder with the men. That's what we've got to do. We need all the brainpower this country can have if we're going to compete in the new, global village.

Danny Glover, actor, at Johnson C. Smith University:

As a corporate professional, or graduate student, or businessman or college educator, you become a strong symbol of the continuing progress of African-Americans and provide an inspiration for others striving to succeed.

A poet once said we make our living by what we get. We make our life by what we give.... You don't have to be a Bill Cosby or Oprah Winfrey or Michael Jackson to tear these obstacles down.

Susan Estrich, lawyer and Dukakis presidential campaign manager, at Wellesley College:

My women friends who have climbed the slippery slope in the legal profession fall off regularly. They are free to compete on the same terms as men: no discrimination - or at least not so much, in the better places - but no special rules, either. For years, men have left crying children to go to work, or to travel on assignment. Today, women are free to do the same.

Glenn Close, actress, at the College of William and Mary:

Our daughter is one year old. She is a brilliant actor because she lives absolutely and truthfully moment to moment. She's not interested in the movie that may or may not be made. She could care less about the deal that may or may not fall through or the part that may or may not be offered. She is interested in lunch, a beautiful flower, a tiny speck on the rug, the wind in high branches, a bird flying across the setting sun. She has taught me that after all the compulsion and ambition and anxiety, the little moments are the sum of our lives, not the huge, klieg-light, earth-shattering events. Life is now.

Victor Kiam, CEO, Remington Products, at Bryant College:

There's a marvelous exchange in the Hooker translation of Cyrano de Bergerac in which the Count de Guiche, referring to Don Quixote, reminds Cyrano that ``Windmills, if you fight with them, will swing 'round their long arms and cast you down into the mire.'' And Cyrano, the eternal entrepreneur, responds, ``Or up, among the stars.''

Geneva Overholser, editor, Des Moines Register, at Grinnell College:

Totalitarianism, as today's events in China remind us, is embattled. Openness, tolerance, free markets, a free press, and democratic elections are springing up here and there throughout the world. We are moving from a military to an economic competition. And the problems we face, from environmental degradation to the maldistribution of economic resources - require cooperative action rather than forceful domination if solutions are to be achieved.

John Kenneth Galbraith, economist, at Smith College:

The institutional truth of the financial world holds that association with money implies intelligence. And it holds broadly that the greater the amount of money, the greater the intelligence. And that the pursuit of money by whatever design within the law is always benign.... In truth, the larger the amount of money commanded, the greater very often the error, on occasion even the stupidity. So it was with the men (and, in the manner of the great banks, the few women) who made those loans to Latin America - loans that represented the much-praised recycling of Arab oil revenues and that, not infrequently, were cycled on to private accounts in the Swiss banks.

Donald Cram, Nobel Prize-winning chemist, at the University of Nebraska:

Research is exciting. It is high-class gambling with my time and my reputation, with the futures of my co-workers and with society's money. We win about 20 percent of the time and we lose about 80 percent of the time.... It's not fun to lose, but it is very instructive. And, believe me, I've had a lot of practice in this art.

James C. Lehrer, PBS television journalist, at Southern Methodist University:

It is the lying at the top levels of our society that concerns me the most because morality, like water and unlike money, really does trickle down.

I am concerned that some at the top have adopted a concept that lying for the higher good is all right. Dishonesty in the name of righteousness is just fine....

I am concerned when we of the press beat the brains in of any political figure who really does tell the truth. Defense Secretary Richard Cheney was the latest victim, saying he believed [Mikhail] Gorbachev would fail in his reforms. Chastised by everyone, he later admitted he was guilty of too much candor.

Guilty of too much candor. Think about that, please.

Vice-President Dan Quayle at the US Military Academy, West Point:

Future developments in technology areas such as electrothermal propellants, hypersonic boost-glide vehicles, and multi-spectral sensors could cause, over the next 10 to 15 years, a revolution in military affairs. This will require us to develop new operational concepts, new military organizations, and new methods of warfare.

The Defense Department has initiated a new strategic-planning tool called ``Competitive Strategies'' to help identify, develop, and field the weapons systems we need to be competitive with our major adversary, and to understand how those weapons might be used operationally.

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