The University Record, May 6, 2002

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Speakers offer graduates personal pearls of wisdom

Shalala giving her speech at the graduate ceremony at Hill Auditorium (Photo by Paul Jaronski, U-M Photo Services)
The messages of embracing differences and of hope in the midst of adversity characterized graduation exercises for the class of 2002. Some 6,000 undergraduate students were urged to see the opportunities that will be presented by the growing diversity of American society, by keynote speaker, William Gray, president and chief executive of the United Negro College Fund. Gray noted that by the middle of this century, Hispanics, African Americans, Asian Americans, Native Americans, Latin Americans and Central Americans will be the new majority. “The real test,” he said, “is whether we can take advantage” of the changes that will occur.

The key to the future, he noted, is that the door must be held open wide to educational opportunity, and new ways must be found to widen access to educational excellence. Second, he said, people must maintain sensitivity and tolerance, and embrace diversity. And finally, he urged students to live with audacity, risk adventure, do great things and not settle for the mediocre.

Gray speaks to undergraduates at Michigan Stadium (Photo by Martin Vloet, U-M Photo Services)
Interim President B. Joseph White focused on the 9-11 terrorist attacks and their impact on the campus. Saying students received a “refresher course on the power of love and hope” more difficult than any exam they’d ever taken, White declared that students had “passed with flying colors.”

Donna E. Shalala, president, University of Miami, and former Health and Human Services secretary, addressed the 2002 Spring Graduate Exercises at Hill Auditorium. Speaking on the topic of “A Call for Courage,” she reminded graduates of their heritage and what that would mean in relationship to their futures.

Referring to her Arab American background, Shalala said, “My uncles gave their lives in World War II so that their family would always live with freedom. They also gave their lives so that synagogues would not be defaced —and so that all races and religions would be respected. And so I remind you of your heritage and responsibilities. Strive to be a good person—as well as a great professional.

Because ultimately—you won’t be judged by your degrees—but by your character.”