Norah O’Donnell, co-host of CBS This Morning, shared lessons from three of her favorite interviews in her Commencement Address before the Kean University Nathan Weiss Graduate College Class of 2017 on Tuesday, May 16, at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center in Newark. O’Donnell called on the graduates to reflect on their future selves and offered Kean’s motto, “Sempre Discens” - Always Learning - as a guiding principle.
“Listen well. You’ll learn something from everyone you meet. The trajectory of your life will be challenged, but it is ultimately up to you alone. When something seems designed to set you back, make it the thing that makes you strong, and the quality of your life will be based on the quality of your relationships,” said O’Donnell, recalling wisdom she gleaned from interviewing Vice President Joe Biden, Nobel Laureate Malala Yousafzai, and a six-year-old golfer, Tommy Morrissey, who was born with one arm.
With bagpipers leading the procession, the faculty, administrators, graduates and their families filled NJPAC as the College conferred 662 advanced degrees, including eight doctorates in education and nine Doctor of Psychology degrees, to graduates who hailed from 14 countries, including Cuba, China, India, Nigeria, Zimbabwe as well as the United States.
Kean University President Dawood Farahi, Ph.D., told the new graduates that their advanced degrees place them “in an elite class of educated individuals” and that with their academic achievement comes responsibility.
“Don't forget your values. Your education gives you the opportunity to lead, to transform the little world around you, the bigger world that surrounds you, and maybe the whole world. You can do it. People like you have done it,” said Farahi. “You are capable of becoming the next innovator, the next creative mind, the next entrepreneur.”
Nathan Weiss Graduate College Dean Jeffrey Beck, Ph.D., praised the graduates for their resilience, strength and intelligence as they pursued their degrees. He encouraged them to continue to learn, to give back to others and to always dream. “Remember that if you do not achieve a dream, you are being given an opportunity to fulfill an even greater dream,” Beck said. “Think of this degree as a milepost in a life with unending opportunities to learn.”
Also addressing the class was Graduate Student with Distinction Julio Carvalho ’17 from Hillside, who received a Master of Social Work. He shared with his fellow graduates the important lessons he learned through his internship at a hospice. Carvalho noted that “the basic premise for having happy relationships is to recognize the contribution that others make in our lives,” and encouraged his peers to express their gratitude to all who contributed to their success.
Graduate and Part-time Student Council President Lawrence Owens of Irvington, who received his Master of Public Administration, spoke to the Class of 2017 about sacrifice. “Through our sacrifices, we also learned more about ourselves, in some cases pushing ourselves to limits we thought we could not reach,” he said.
O’Donnell ended her address with a reminder that life, in itself, is an endless learning experience.
“In some quiet moment today, or in the days to come, imagine the conversation you might have with your future self. Think about the path you’ll take to get there,” she said. “The values you live, the qualities you embody, the example you set, even when nobody is watching. I hope you begin that conversation with ‘I got this,’ because I know, you, the graduates of Kean University 2017, you got this.”
Kean University’s Undergraduate Commencement will be held on Thursday, May 18, at the Prudential Center in Newark. Kal Penn, Designated Survivor actor and White House staffer for President Obama, will deliver the Commencement Address to the 2,958 graduating seniors of Kean’s undergraduate Class of 2017.