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Two seasoned journalists addressed approximately 1,800 graduates during commencement ceremonies Saturday at Old Dominion University's Ted Constant Convocation Center. They spoke of the changed world that the day's graduates have experienced during their college careers and the tools they would need as they get on with their post-college lives.

John McCaslin, "Inside the Beltway" columnist for The Washington Times and Chicago Tribune syndicate, reminded some 900 graduates at the morning commencement ceremony that most 2005 graduates began their studies about the time of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. "I can't imagine navigating through my freshman year of college and 9/11 at the same time," he said. "How difficult it must have been for you."

The post-9/11 era, with America no longer an "invulnerable fortress," requires citizens who do not withdraw in fear, but are eager to "fill spaces," as he put it. He said this means the graduates should accept challenges and take every opportunity to expand their horizons.

When he was invited recently to travel with a Public Broadcasting System crew to the Middle East, he said, "I hesitated filling that space because I was scared." But he went and, "How glad I am today that I made the trip." Travel and experiences with other cultures are important elements of citizenship today, McCaslin said. The Washington, D.C., area, where he lives and works, is a "barricaded fortress" and many people, particularly those from the Middle East are eyed with suspicion," he said. "But thanks to that space I filled, I have a new appreciation for the Middle East and its people."

Harvard Business Review publisher Cathryn Cranston spoke to some 900 graduates Saturday afternoon of engagement, curiosity, civility and humanity as tools that would help them deal with the challenges of the early 21st Century.

"Read the paper, skeptically when necessary, " she said. "Listen to leaders, skeptically when necessary. Engage in debate. Listen and think and challenge. Vote. Engage. Engagement in the world mirrors and nurtures the imagination."

Cranston said civility and humanity might be the qualities most easily lost in the course of day-to-day life. "I'm guilty -- overbooking, multitasking, allowing myself to be enslaved by my digital devices -- cell phone, telephone, Blackberry, laptop. Many things suffer as we encourage the flood of incoming information. I'm convinced that our daily attention to civility and humanity -- at all levels -- suffers as well. Do I always say please and thank-you? If I don't, how can I expect that of my children?"

She urged students to look around at their classmates, relatives and friends. "This is your community," she said. "They are the foundation for the commitments you will make from this day forward. It is arguably the most effective, reliable, resilient network you will ever have, and you have the privilege of taking with you as you leave Old Dominion today for destinations known and unknown, may not yet revealed."

Cranston credited her own network -- a school friend, her husband, children, mother, father, siblings, aunt and uncle, friends and colleagues -- for supporting her Saturday and helping her prepare her speech. "Your network will be there for you, too. Nurture it with phone calls, letters, e-mails. It will develop deep, strong roots, flower and provide you with guidance and support as you explore your commitments."

Timothy J. Sullivan, outgoing president of the College of William and Mary, received an honorary degree during the morning commencement ceremony. Prior to his presidency, he taught law at the University of Virginia and at William and Mary, where he also served as associate dean.

G. Robert Aston Jr., chairman of the board and CEO of TowneBank, received an honorary degree during the afternoon commencement ceremony. Aston, who founded TowneBank in 1998, is a former president and current trustee for ODU's Intercollegiate Foundation.

This article was posted on: May 7, 2005

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