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Commencement Speakers Challenge Graduates to be Worldly and Humble

Warm, sunny skies greeted some 2,200 Old Dominion University graduates at the school's 112th commencement exercises on Saturday, May 8.

Hearing words of wisdom from German Ambassador Klaus Scharioth and Alina Cho, a national correspondent for the Cable News Network (CNN), students from ODU's six colleges walked across the stage in the Ted Constant Convocation Center to receive their bachelors, masters or doctoral degrees, greeted by the deans of their respective colleges.

The day was split into morning and afternoon ceremonies, with three colleges attending each. Prior to both ceremonies, students assembled and processed across Kaufman Mall and in keeping with tradition, walked over the university seal in the center of the concourse for the first time, before proceeding to the Constant Center.

During the morning ceremony, Scharioth told graduates of the Darden College of Education, Frank Batten College of Engineering and Technology and College of Sciences that they are entering a world far different than the one he entered as a university graduate in Germany in the 1960's.

He mentioned issues like climate change, nuclear proliferation and terrorism, as challenges the world must confront. "And there's a common theme. They are global challenges. No one can solve them alone. Not Germany, not the EU, not even the most powerful nation on earth, the United States of America," Scharioth said.

Scharioth has been the German ambassador to the United States for four years. He joined his country's foreign service in 1976 and has focused on work involving security, defense policy, transatlantic relations, European policy, crisis management, arms control and disarmament, as well as negotiations with Iran, Russia and Group of Eight (G8) nations.

In his address, the ambassador challenged students to be more worldly, to travel and to learn another language. "And to be able to do that, we have to understand different attitudes, traditions and ways of life," he said. "Put yourself in other people's shoes, and try to feel what they feel, even if they are half a world away."

Born in 1946 in impoverished, post-World War II Germany, Scharioth saw first-hand the good that public service can do, speaking eloquently about the contributions of the United States and other nations in helping Germany ultimately unite again and prosper.

Scharioth said he hoped Old Dominion University graduates would continue to see the value of public service, which historically has led to great progress for society. "After my wife and three children, the public service I've done is the most important thing in my life," he said. "It was and is a joy to be part of."

Scharioth received an honorary doctor of humane letters degree from Old Dominion University. An honorary degree was also bestowed on Patricia J. Williams, the James L. Dohr Professor of Law at Columbia University in the morning ceremony. She is the author of numerous books and papers critiquing the American legal system from the standpoint of race.

In the afternoon ceremony, Cho spoke to graduates of the College of Arts and Letters, College of Health Sciences and College of Business and Public Administration.

She encouraged graduates to believe in themselves and pursue their passion. "You will never get to the top, if you can't imagine being there," she said. Cho also reminded graduates to be humble and kind as they pursue success. "On your way to the top, treat the janitor the way you do your boss. You never know, that janitor might be your boss someday."

Cho joined CNN in 2004 and has reported on major news events such as the election of President Barack Obama and Hurricane Katrina. On election night, she reported live from Chicago's Grant Park where Obama gave his acceptance speech. She was part of the Peabody and Emmy award-winning CNN team that covered the Katrina aftermath in New Orleans.

Cho received an honorary doctor of humane letters degree at the ceremony, along with Elizabeth Duke, an M.B.A. graduate of ODU who is a member of the Federal Reserve Board.

Old Dominion University President John R. Broderick paid tribute to members of the ODU community taking part in their final commencement exercises - including University Marshal Gary Crossman and Deputy Marshal Phyllis Barham, who are retiring from their duties.

This article was posted on: May 8, 2010

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