More than 1,000 degrees were conferred at Emerson’s 132nd Commencement exercises, held May 14 at the Citi Performing Arts Center in Boston.
Renowned journalist and moderator of Meet the Press David Gregory delivered the 2012 undergraduate Commencement address during the morning ceremony, at which more than 750 bachelor’s degrees were awarded.
Gregory started off his speech on a humorous note, “You want my advice today?” he asked “Stay exactly where you are. This is no time to be leaving the safety and the fun of Emerson College …Here is my simple prescription, tell whoever is responsible for funding your education that you are not leaving this campus until and unless Congress passes the Simpson Bowles debt reduction deal,” (a nod to the partisan gridlock in Washington).
On a more serious note, he told graduates “it’s important to go out into the world and learn how to be resilient.” He discovered that lesson early on, he said. Through growing up with a mother who was an alcoholic, he learned how to be self-reliant and resilient, out of necessity. “In the dark places I found my drive to be a journalist and the will to guide myself even when it was tough,” he said. “You’re going to have tough days ahead too. You’re going to struggle and you will fail… And the problem is not failing, but the test is how do you respond when that happens?” His mother, too, showed him the power of resilience: she has now been sober for decades.
Gregory also told Emersonians to “remember the importance of working as part of a team, and remember to value other points of view even if you don’t agree.” Appreciating different viewpoints is a problem in our media, and a problem in our politics, he said, and he charged Emerson students to change that in the future.
Receiving honorary degrees at the ceremony today were Gregory; Pulitzer Prize–winning playwright Tony Kushner, entrepreneur and makeup artist Bobbi Brown ’79, and three–time U.S. poet laureate Robert Pinsky. Additionally, retiring Visual and Media Arts faculty member Stephen Shipps was honored with professor emeritus status.
At the afternoon ceremony, for graduate students, Kushner, who is most famous for his play Angels in America, delivered the keynote address to 250 degree recipients. He spoke about the difficult times that today’s graduates will face upon entering the work world, and asked them to, especially in an election year, take their “jobs” as citizens seriously. “The market for our jobs as citizens is red hot,” he said. “Your citizen job will take you to extraordinary places. It will change the way you do any other job you do. Be a citizen. Be a passionate, engaged citizen,” he implored.
Writing for Film and Television major James “Jamie” Spetner ’12 was the student selected to speak at the undergraduate ceremony. Journalist Nadia Zaffar, MA ’12, was the graduate student speaker.
Receptions for students, families, and faculty were held after both ceremonies on the Boston Common.