Woodruff & Hunt Address

Judy Woodruff

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Woodruff has covered politics and other news for more than three decades at CNN, NBC, and PBS. For 12 years, she was an anchor and senior correspondent for CNN, anchoring the weekday program Inside Politics. From 1983 to 1993, she was the chief Washington correspondent for PBS' The MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour. From 1984 to 1990, she anchored PBS' award-winning weekly documentary series, Frontline with Judy Woodruff. In 2007, Woodruff completed an extensive project on the views of young Americans called Generation Next: Speak Up. Be Heard.

In 2006, Woodruff was a visiting professor at Duke University's Terry Sanford Institute of Public Policy, teaching a seminar on media and politics. In 2005, she was a visiting fellow at Harvard University's Joan Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy, where she led a study group for students on contemporary issues in journalism. Woodruff is a founding co-chair of the International Women's Media Foundation, which promotes and encourages women in communication industries worldwide. She serves on the boards of the Freedom Forum, National Museum of American History, the Newseum in Washington, D.C., and Global Rights: Partners for Justice. She is also a member of The Knight Foundation Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics. Woodruff is a graduate of Duke University, of which she is a trustee emerita.

Al Hunt

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Hunt is the Washington, D.C., executive editor of Bloomberg News. Previously, he was a congressional and national political reporter, bureau chief, and executive editor for The Wall Street Journal for 35 years. Hunt wrote the weekly column Politics & People and directed the paper's political polls. For 17 years, Hunt was a regular panelist on CNN's weekly public affairs program The Capital Gang and a member of CNN's Novak, Hunt & Shields, which featured in-depth interviews with top newsmakers. He has also served as a panelist on NBC's Meet the Press and PBS' Washington Week in Review, and as a political analyst for CBS Morning News.

In 1999, Hunt received the William Allen White Foundation's national citation, one of the highest honors in journalism and in 1995, he and Woodruff received the Allen H. Neuharth Award for Excellence in Journalism form the University of South Dakota. Hunt received a Raymond Clapper Award for Washington reporting in 1976. Hunt earned a bachelor's degree in political science from Wake Forest University, where he is on the Board of Trustees. He is also on the boards of the Children's Charities in Washington and Joan Shorenstein Center on Press, Politics, and Public Policy at Harvard University.

Judy Woodruff's remarks

President Riggs, trustees, faculty, friends, parents and above all, Graduates of the Gettysburg class of 2009, thank you for honoring us today.

It is a privilege to be included with Carol Bellamy, who has served this country and the world with such distinction, and historian Simon Schama, acclaimed for his writing and criticism.

Your class of 2009 has students from more than half our states and seven foreign nations. That reflects the shining reputation of this special institution with your historic

campus and renowned faculty. It also reflects the dedication and talents of your leadership over the years, including your distinguished new President, Dr. Riggs, a recognized scholar and teacher.

Today is one that always will be cherished by you graduates. Whether you were at the Blue Parrot until late last night or not -- it is after all a time to celebrate -- you deserve all the accolades for this achievement.  Most of you have had nourishing support to reach this stage, most importantly from your family. I work in public television, known for its lengthy treatment of serious topics. If that makes you nervous about how long I'll speak, I'm able to reassure you:   one of the first Harvard commencement speeches was given half in Greek, and half in Latin - each half, three hours long.   I will make a deal with you: *my* half - in English - will be shorter than many of our PBS reports if you will show your appreciation for the support you've received -- and the moment today's celebration is finished, walk over and give your Mom and Dad or anyone who was like family for you, a big hug.

I have a special fondness for this class. Our nephew, Alec Davis is a graduate of Gettysburg today. Alec, we are so proud of the hard work and determination that brought you here today.

I told President Riggs that I was particularly excited to be with you today because I love commencements. Yet I also know that young though you are, already you have been tempered by trauma and tragedy.   You were barely teenagers when America was struck by terrorists on 9/11.  A battle that may last most of your of your lifetimes was fully joined. Tight security at airports and other public places is a way of life for you that was not for your parents.   This spring, tragedy struck this tranquil campus affecting all of you. Words, I know, are of little comfort; keep those you've lost in your thoughts and prayers.

And you are entering that vast exciting world after college in the worst economic and financial crisis since the Great Depression. Most of you would have to reach back to great grandparents for a parallel.   I want to talk today about you, your generation, which faces these challenges.

I've been very fortunate to be able to spend a large chunk of time over the past several years, learning about your generation.  It was originally part of a project I embarked on, which turned into two television documentaries on PBS, a series of reports on the NewsHour with Jim Lehrer, another series of profiles of young people on National Public Radio and periodic reports in *USA Today*.

I also wanted to understand you better because I'm the mother of two in your age group, and one a bit older: Al and I have a 27 year old, a 22 year old and a just-turned 20  year old.

 I and my team at MacNeil/Lehrer Productions gave you the name "Generation Next" and with the help of the Pew Research Center, we proceeded to study the 42 million of you who now range in age from about 18 to 28. What we learned was fascinating.

Over the past few months, I've been taking an especially close look at your generation and the economy, at how you're dealing with the Great Recession. Almost everywhere one looks, someone's saying this is not a great year to be coming out of college.  A report out last week by the National Association of Colleges and Employers found that just 19.7 percent of graduates this year who have applied for a job, actually have one, by Commencement Day. Last year, that was 26 percent, the year before, 51 percent.

You're not alone.  I traveled to six different metropolitan areas to report on and talk with young people about what they're facing. At first blush, the news is pretty depressing. But my producers and I also found amazing signs of resilience:  In Richmond, Virginia, an organization called National Student Partnerships, which sends college students into poor neighborhoods, to help people who are struggling, find jobs, health care and other basic human services.  22 year old Brian Marroquin, one young man we met who couldn't find a job in state government, now a site coordinator for N-S-P, will do gratifying work for the next two years helping men and women twice his age put their lives back together.  What makes it remarkable is that the young man is an immigrant from Guatemala, whose family had almost nothing when they moved to the United States, and who has had to work and borrow his way through college.

In Detroit, we found two young women, single mothers,  finishing up a rigorous engineering technology program at Wayne State University, having worked full time for four years through internships at General Motors, at the same time they were full time students. But  - and you can guess what's coming - just as they graduate  the bottom has fallen out of the auto industry; there are no jobs waiting for them.

They're wrestling with whether to stay in school even longer, to study a form of "green energy" - more efficiently run motors; and sending out dozens of resumes, even as they take care of - in the case of one - four young children.   Both young women, Lakeesha Perry and Vanessa Sherrod , insist the skills they have learned will stand them in good stead. If they are not discouraged, none of you should be.

Whatever the uncertainties that more than a few of you graduates of Gettysburg College face today, do not be discouraged; you are too good.   Many of you are already making your mark. Students like Anukul Gurung, whose photographs - especially those of homeless children in his native Nepal -- have won him awards. He says he wants to document conditions in other parts of the developing world, perhaps on the way to a career in journalism or international aid.  He has already sold some of his photographs to raise money for those children of Nepal.

And Senior Aimee George - after volunteering in New Orleans, Mexico, South Africa and right here in Gettysburg - wants to make a career in international development, at the grassroots level. Already she has looked at women's status and political violence in developing nations.

Whether from the United States or on the other side of the planet, you graduates of Gettysburg are in a position to prove the naysayers wrong.  The sociologists who worry you may never find a job if you don't find one right out of college.  With this great education behind you, there's nothing to stop you from making a difference.

 What is certain, is that we in the older generation are counting on you to bring your energy, your intelligence, and your caring about your fellow human beings, to the nation that's given you so much -- and to the world that awaits your contribution.  Despite the slumping economy and the rest of the daunting challenges that lie beyond the borders of this campus -- the opportunities are plentiful - as they've been in other downturns -- and the times are exciting.

Now is the time to have hope, and confidence, as you go forward to pursue your dreams.

I wish each and every one of you good luck on your journey. Now, with more about you and what lies ahead, my husband, Al Hunt.

Al Hunt's remarks

President Riggs, trustees, faculty, friends, family and graduates. It is, as always, a pleasure to follow in Judy Woodruff's footsteps.    

I join in telling our nephew how proud we are and congratulations to all the other Gettysburg Bullets class of 2009. A special thanks to all those, like my sister and brother-in-law, who have picked up the tab.  

And I know Alec and every one of you have promised your parents that you're on your own now, off the dole. That may be as likely Arlen Specter switching back to the Republican Party.  

Judy laid out many of the daunting challenges you face. As she also noted, in every crisis there is an opportunity. Already many of you are involved in community service and civic engagement. Teach for America, CITI YEAR, the Peace Corps, AIDS projects, the homeless, soup kitchens; there are many needs that afford you many opportunities. If you want an exciting challenge and are still uncertain, go spend a year in New Orleans; one of the tests for America in the years ahead is whether we can erase that painful stain and revitalize this once great city.

But whether civic engagement, graduate school, a career in business or public service, I want to offer you the same promise made to Alec's older sister and her classmates a few years ago:  You will fail.  

Maybe it'll be losing a job, or in the current vernacular, being downsized; maybe a promising start-up fails; or you lose in romance or suffer a physical loss.    When you fail you will feel terrible; everyone does.   Remember some other folks when you endure that pain:

-- Remember that Michael Jordan was cut from his high school basketball team.

-- Remember that Winston Churchill flunked the sixth grade.

-- Remember the principal owner of my company, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, created a global financial powerhouse only AFTER he was fired. 

-- Remember if we were here 150 years ago one of the country's great losers -- in business and politics -- was an Illinois lawyer named Abraham Lincoln.  

-- And remember over a century later another Illinois lawyer, after getting humiliated in a congressional race was written off by most politicians; today he's the president of the United States.

Indeed if you do not remember anything else I say today -- and you probably won't -- remember this challenge: try to think of anyone -- ANYONE -- who has achieved something important, something durable, that has not suffered a major failure.  

To make a difference, to do something big, requires a boldness of aspiration, a willingness to think and act big, to take real risks, which courts failure. Those of you who live conventionally, think small, avoid risks, may avoid the agony of failure, it will be an easier life. It also will not be a very exciting or fulfilling one. That would be the most fundamental failure; you have special gifts and have been given a special opportunity; seize it.

It was the poet Robert Browning who wrote, "A man's reach should exceed his grasp. Or what's a heaven for?"    The qualities that will define you are character, courage and perseverance.  

You have spent the last four years as neighbors to the most sacred ground in America. We are the greatest, most powerful, influential country on the face of the globe; it all traces back to those first three July days in 1863 in which America's destiny was settled.    

In Washington, surrounded by America's rich past, we sometimes take it for granted. If any of you today have not, after the First Year walk, spent quality time on those battlefields, that cemetery, do it before you leave.

It is as instructive as it is inspiring.  

When you think of perseverance and character and courage go to Little Round Top and relive the story of Colonel Joshua Chamberlain and the 20th Maine; when they ran out of ammunition, they attacked the charging confederate soldiers with bayonets -- and held that important flank for the next day. Chamberlain, who received the Congressional Medal of Honor for Gettysburg, was badly wounded but went on to be a four-time Governor of Maine and President of Bowdoin College. He personified character, courage and perseverance.

I teach at the University of Pennsylvania and of my colleagues and very close friends is David Eisenhower, the grandson of America's 34th president and the Supreme Allied Commander in World War II.  

David had many dinners with his grandfather, more than a few here in Gettysburg. I asked him to recall his conversations about World War II; Eisenhower never discussed that great war, he said, it was too painful; many nights, however, they talked about the Civil War, especially Gettysburg; David realized that his grandfather fought World War II in part through the prism of the Civil War.  

When we talk about courage and character it comes in all forms, not just the heroism of the Joshua Chamberlains or Dwight Eisenhowers.

It also is the courage to stick with principles, if not always popular; the courage to pursue the harder challenges rather than the simpler course; the character to help at-risk children or the chronically homeless or those with disabilities or caring for those in the twilight of their years. The courage to be tolerant, inclusive.    

Let me conclude by giving you a couple bipartisan role models from the field I cover: politics. Both started at Occidental College in California, a college slightly smaller than Gettysburg and similar in high quality.  

Jack Kemp, who died two weeks ago, was a physical education major, a professional football player, the stereotypical jock. Except that he decided to be more, and continued to educate himself and became over the past three and half decades one of the signature people in the American public square: the father of supply-side economics and of racial inclusion.    

Jack embodied that can-do American optimism and profoundly affected both the national dialogue and inspired millions of younger Americans, Democrat and Republican, black and white. He lost some races, never got to be president; he achieved more, he made a difference.  

The other is, of course, Barack Obama. I have not researched the statistics but we all know a child from biracial parents, father deserts him at age two, mother often absent on professional pursuits, is a prescription for a failed life.

There were so many times that Barack Obama could have accepted less; on each occasion he chose not to. Two years ago, we would have said an African-American cannot win the presidency, cannot defeat the most formidable Democratic front-runner in our times. He said those limits were unacceptable.

You do the same. There may be a future president or political leader; a future Nobel Prize-winner; or CEO. And I trust there will be good doctors and certainly good teachers; the pursuit of a life of excellence is not defined by the fame or the riches you achieve; it is defined by the contribution you make.

And if you do that, those inevitable failures as well as the economically challenging times of 2009 will seem a dim and distant past. The experiences of these last four years, however, will shine brightly as an early compass for those contributions.

So best of luck, you have had a marvelous experience and you have the promise of a marvelous life ahead.