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ODU Graduates Receive Words of Wisdom from Seasoned Journalists

Two respected members of the media addressed more than 2,000 graduates who participated in Old Dominion University's commencement ceremonies Saturday at the Ted Constant Convocation Center.

Leonard Pitts, a nationally syndicated columnist with the Miami Herald, received an honorary doctor of humane letters and spoke at the morning ceremony for graduates of the colleges of Business and Public Administration, Education and Science.

Pitts spoke to graduates of "evergreen truths," those things that are fundamental and by which one's reputation is made and that are not susceptible to fad and trend. He also told graduates of the importance of being able to defend one's beliefs by explaining the reasoning and logic that formed them.

"That right (to hold an opinion)...comes complete with a moral obligation to be able to defend it. Because...what you think and believe is not just a matter between you and your conscience...What we think and believe determines how we vote, which causes we support, how we shape the world," he said.

"Class of 2008, we need you to think, to question authority, to question the status quo, to question your own assumptions. Earn the right to your own beliefs. Because into your hands comes the unfinished business of the generations that came before. Into your hands come the vexing problems, the troubling hypocrisies, the moral conundrums that will shape the generations that come after."

Pitts finished his speech, for which he received a standing ovation, with some final words of advice for the approximately 1,000 graduates:

"You'll have less to regret and more to be grateful for than you can ever imagine if you have chosen your route based on the knowledge of your head and the love of your heart, on wisdom beyond trend or fashion and truths that evergreen."

Chris Matthews, the host of MSNBC's "Hardball with Chris Matthews," delivered the afternoon commencement address to graduates from the colleges of Arts and Letters, Engineering and Technology and Health Sciences.

In a speech punctuated with jokes and anecdotes from his life working with politicians, Matthews touched briefly on the current political climate and the upcoming elections this fall.

"This is an interesting country with an interesting choice," Matthews noted. He declined to make any definitive predictions about the election, instead highlighted positive aspects about each of the three potential presidential candidates. He described John McCain as "resilient," Barack Obama as having a strong story to tell given the "unique perspective" of his heritage and background, and Hillary Clinton as "one of the gutsiest politicians" he has ever seen.

Matthews went on to describe how the United States, as compared to many other countries, is great because its citizens continue to have hope, optimism and the belief in the possibility for change.

"When we face a big problem," he explained, "we think we'll come up with a solution."

Matthews closed his message to the students by encouraging them not to be afraid to ask for what they want in life.

"In dealing with ambitious people, I've learned that they do one thing different than everybody else: they ask for it. If you want something, ASK," Matthews said.

"There's a false assumption out there that talent will always be recognized. Don't believe it. The world is not checking in with us to see what skills we've picked up ... when a job opens up, it goes to the person standing there."

When seeking a job, for example, Matthews advised the students to "sell them on yourself," but also to "see it from their perspective" and demonstrate to the potential employer "what you can do for them."

Matthews conceded that it might take a lot of asking before you get your first yes, but reminded them that after the first one, it gets easier.

"The great surprise in life is once they give you a 'yes,' they'll give you another 'yes,' because now they are invested in you."

This article was posted on: May 10, 2008

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