Excerpts from Mary Richardson's Speech
May 22, 2011
I am so delighted to be here today to be able to offer congratulations to the graduates and their parents, grandparents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, families and friends. And to the faculty, staff, and trustees who are responsible for this wonderful institution, congratulations to all.
There are so many reasons why I am delighted to be here this morning, not the least of which is the discovery of my long lost cousin. My father was first generation Irish, Edward Patrick Creehan, and when Fr. Cregan called me I checked my Gaelic dictionary and discovered our last names have the same derivation.
When I met Fr. Cregan, I discovered he is smart, educated, an attorney, handsome, charming...He is definitely a Creehan.
I am so impressed with this school and the work that is being done here under the leadership of the Congregation of Holy Cross. It is not just your lovely campus it is the spirit of this place and this class. Your memories will include sliding down Donahue Hill on snowy days on borrowed cafeteria trays...enjoying a hamburger at the Hill with your friends or maybe a beer at Brother Mike's, sports, the theater, the professors, the memorable classes, and, most of all, the friends.
I learned how this year the campus came together though Campus Ministry to support the families of those with loved ones in Iraq and Afghanistan. And I learned of the incredible ratio of faculty to students, which creates an ideal climate for you to learn and grow.
And I said to myself, these are lucky young men and women. At a time when everyone seems to be trying to find their place in the world...where they belong...you will always belong to the Stonehill College family. And, the achievements you celebrate today and the degree you receive are something no one can ever take away from you.
I am here today to tell you the truth about graduation speeches. The truth is that no one listens to them.
Years later you will have difficulty recalling a single word that is spoken here today. You may even have difficulty remembering who spoke recently. I talked with a friend who is a vice president at my alma mater, the University of Santa Clara.
He told me about a brilliant article an alumnus had written to be printed in the school magazine. She had recalled her graduation 20 years before at Santa Clara and the inspiring words of the Commencement speaker...actor John Wayne.
The only problem was, John Wayne had never set foot on the campus and had never been to Santa Clara. It was actually the actor Fess Parker...Davy Crockett for those of you old enough to remember. So, years from now, I hope you will take your grandchildren on your knee, and tell them how Diane Sawyer spoke at your graduation.
Why is it so hard to sit and listen to graduation speeches? Because whether you are a graduate or the proud parent of one, this is one of those days in your life when the adrenalin flows like the sap of the maple trees in New England in Spring time. Those days in your life are so rare that you can count them on one hand.
For some of you it might be the day you get married or the day you land your dream job or it might be the day you give birth to your first child....graduation is one of those few golden days where the past and the present and future all come together.
There is tremendous joy and pride ... And a sense of accomplishment. And if truth be told ... Not a little bit of fear about what the future will bring.
I've been invited here today to talk to you about the future ... About the issues facing you in the world today.
I promise to try to be brief ... Succinct and honest. In the interest of honesty, I must share with you one bit of personal advice. Many well meaning people will tell you that this is a tough year to be a graduate.
School has been for you a kind of security blanket. And now you move on, either to compete for admission to graduate school or out into the world to face a poor economy and a bleak job picture. Let me tell you something ... There will always be external events to worry about.
This year the focus was on wars in Afghanistan and Iraq... In my time it was the war in Vietnam and inflation. For my parents and your grandparents it was the great depression and World War Two and stopping Adolf Hitler.
There will always be external events to worry about, but that's why it's so important to have your own internal compass.
We cannot always change the world around us but we can change ourselves. The famed German author Goethe said: "if you would change the world ... Change the person who walks out your door each morning."
These days, it takes courage to face the world out there if you're leaving school ... Everyone is telling you this is a terrible time to graduate. You hear stories of older brothers and sisters who graduated last year and who still can't find a job. The worst part is that when those young people can't find jobs ... It goes right to their self esteem, right to their feelings of self-worth. You cannot blame yourself for the state of our economy. It is not your fault that we are in the midst of a recession.
So, if you are leaving school for now and beginning the job hunt ... Some advice: no matter how many resume letters you send out ... No matter how many interviews come to nothing ... Do not allow yourself to get discouraged, being that you are Stonehill graduates, I know that gives you an excellent chance of finding a great job and you have a terrific network to help.
Reach out to others. If you can't find something immediately, go teach at an experimental school for peanuts, volunteer to read books to homeless children, and in your reaching out, you'll not only grow as a human being but you'll be doing something very practical, you'll enhance your resume.
Be open to possibilities. I was just talking about this with Rob, one of the other honorees. We were talking about how possibilities are sometimes standing right next to you, right in front of you, but if you aren't open to seeing them, or listening and hearing them, you'll miss them.
So much is happening in front of you and in your world. Keep your eyes open. Keep your ears open. The world is full of possibilities.
And finally, remember, if you are terrified that you'll never get a job and still be living at home when you are 35, remember- your parents are even more terrified by that possibility.
You are facing so many choices as you prepare to take your places in the adult world ... But I believe you're well prepared to face those challenges because of the education you've received here at Stonehill. Now that you have the basics, I want to encourage you to take chances, to take risks in your professional life and have a passion for your work. Find something that you love doing and do it well. And do not settle for anything less.
Don't be afraid to dream and don't be afraid to strive for excellence in what you do, even if those around you do not share your standards. As the poet Langston Hughes said 'hold fast to dreams ... Because without dreams life is an empty field full of snow:
Look around you and you will see quite a lot of so-called successful people, but how many happy people do you see? How many people do you know who are genuinely satisfied? Who finds joy in their everyday lives? Resolve to be one of those people. Never get so busy that you're not having fun or that you're not able to have a good belly laugh.
One of the things I love most about my job is how often we laugh together, both with my colleagues at Steward Health Care who are bright and funny and in my former job, at WCVB, Channel 5, when you are in television there are plenty of moments to laugh.
I remember when one of my colleagues who was in training to become an anchorperson was suddenly thrust onto the set to do the morning newscast because someone had called in sick. The only problem was no one had bothered to teach him the hand signals usually given by the floor. Well he did a very credible job considering held he had never done it before.
They told him he might have to adlib for a few seconds at the end of the newscast, so they could get to network programming on time, which he did. ... Every second counts. But then they gave him a wind, meaning wind it up and get off the air. He thought it meant keep on talking. So he talked and he talked, but, the faster they gave him the wind, the faster he talked. Finally, the director just had to go to black, as we say, because there was no way to get him off the air.
In your lives you're going to be given plenty of mixed signals. And no where will it be more confusing than in the area of being a professional and a parent, and balancing the two. Once that was just a woman's problem...but I watch how carefully my son and daughter in law work to share family responsibilities --the daily balancing act and the juggling of career and family.
Surprisingly, I have often found that in the rough and tumble world of business, small courtesies -- offering to bring a tired fellow employee a cup of coffee when you're headed to the cafeteria or giving a colleague a lift to the train on a snowy day when they're headed home -- can go a long way.
I have always tried to answer each piece of mail I get after one truly remarkable incident in my reporting career. There was an armed hostage-taking at a local bank. The FBI had been brought in and the bank was surrounded by police. It was a potentially deadly scene.
I was given the nearly impossible assignment of trying to get the gunman's family to do an interview, to tell us who the hostage taker was and what his possible motive might be.
We drove up to his house -- there was a crush of reporters, cameramen with lights and live news trucks waited in front. Thinking I didn't have a prayer of getting an interview, I walked up to the front door cameraman in tow and sure that I was going to be thrown off the property.
When the mother of the hostage taker opened the door, she seemed genuinely surprised and pleased to see me. "Why, Mary she said, I just got the letter you sent me last week in response to that fan letter I had sent you."
And then she and her husband sat down and proceeded to give me a lengthy and exclusive interview about how their son had a lengthy history of mental illness and how they were praying the incident could end peacefully, which it did. When I left the house none of the other reporters could ever figure out how I got into that house. That taught me the value of answering my mail.
You do not have to get ahead by crawling over the bodies of your competitors!
Life is genuinely full of surprises and there is no way you can know exactly where you are going. If I can offer you two words to carry with you through your life, they are -- be nimble. I, for instance, have had three distinctly different careers (1) as a high school English teacher. (2) as a television reporter and anchor and (3) now I am the liaison in the community for Steward Health Care, formerly Caritas, a family of eight hospitals here in Massachusetts, including Good Samaritan in nearby Brockton.
At each stage, I would never have guessed at what would follow, but I can honestly tell you that being nimble is what allowed me the freedom to move in new directions. One of the worst pressures some young people place on themselves is to think that if they choose the wrong graduate school now, if they take the wrong first job, they can ruin their entire career maybe even their lives.
You don't know where your first job is going to lead you and you don't know what connections will be made along the way. Every single experience you have will add to who you are.
How much better to see life as Anne Morrow Lindbergh did. As the mother of five and the wife of the famed pilot Charles Lindbergh, she struggled to find time in her life for her writing. In her essay "gift from the sea," she writes:
"The sea does not reward those who are too anxious, too greedy or too impatient. One should lie empty, open, choice less as a beach waiting for a gift from the sea."
What she's getting at I think is the ability to enjoy the unpredictability of life and to revel in it.
I close now with many good wishes and thoughts of one of my personal heroes. Robert Coles, author and professor. Coles believes that all young people are moral pilgrims ... Searching for a better way. He teaches the most popular class at Harvard and on the last day he tells them:
"Let us try to be good to one another. Be good friends. Work well with one another on behalf of others. And let us try to make our county better every day, each one of us in the way we live our lives."
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