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3-Star General and Political Consultant Addressed ODU Graduates at Saturday's Commencement Ceremonies

Over 2,000 graduates listened to words of advice and encouragement from Lt. Gen. Kathleen Gainey and David Gergen during the Old Dominion University 110th commencement ceremonies on Saturday, May 9.

Lt. Gen. Gainey, director for logistics, J4, Joint Staff, addressed the College of Arts and Letters, Frank Batten College of Engineering and Technology and College of Health Sciences at the 9 a.m. ceremony in the Ted Constant Convocation Center.

Gainey is a 1978 graduate of Old Dominion University and the highest-ranking female military officer among ODU alumni. She also is one of only five female three-star generals from all branches of the military service and the second-highest ranking female office in the army. Gainey was presented with an honorary doctorate of science degree.

In her speech, punctuated by applause and laughter from the audience, Gainey acknowledged the uncertainty of the political and economic climate the graduates are facing as they venture out into the workforce, but she encouraged the graduates to "follow your dreams and to take charge of your life," and to avoid the seduction of money and power as the sole motivation for their professional pursuits.

Quoting the novelist, George Eliot, Gainey reminded the audience that "it is never too late to be what you might have been," and then offered five final pieces of advice:

  • Always treat people with respect and dignity;
  • Do what is right - legally and morally - every day;
  • Set and enforce high standards and live by them;
  • Define the end-state and then empower others to achieve it; and
  • Live by the philosophy "Mission First - People Always."

At the 2 p.m. ceremony, Gergen addressed the College of Business and Public Administration, Darden College of Education and College of Sciences.

Gergen, director of the Center for Public Leadership at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, has served his country as a presidential advisor and staff member to Presidents Reagan, Nixon, Ford and Clinton. He also has worked as a journalist, political advisor and is a best-selling author.

In his speech to the graduates, Gergen spoke of the professional difficulties they might face during a recession. "In this tough job market, it might take time to get a job, but adversity can be a handmaiden to developing character," he said.

He also advised students to pursue personal happiness as ardently as they pursue professional success. "Find out who you really are, what makes you happy, what you are passionate about. Find your own authenticity," he said.

Gergen congratulated the graduates on three things: "You chose your parents and family well, you chose the right university and you chose the right colleges within the university," he said. Gergen then asked graduates to stand and applaud their families and the University for their support.

In his closing remarks, Gergen used a song by country and western band, The Oakridge Boys, to humorously send off the new graduates to their futures. "We don't care if you go home," he said. "But you can't stay here!"

This article was posted on: May 11, 2009

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