WEB EXCLUSIVE: Providence College holds 87th Commencement Exercises
Graduates honored, addressed by Tom Brokaw
Published: Sunday, May 15, 2005
Updated: Sunday, January 31, 2010 12:01
Drawing an end to their four years at Providence College, the 899 graduates of the Class of 2005 shed smiles and tears as they received their diplomas at the 87th Commencement held Sunday, May 15, at the Dunkin' Donuts Center in Providence. A total of 1,262 individuals from the undergraduate day school, Graduate Studies Program, and School of Continuing Education received their diplomas, and five individuals were awarded Honorary Degrees.
Striving for the greatest generation
Delivering this year's Commencement speech was broadcast journalist Tom Brokaw, the anchor and managing editor of NBC Nightly News for more than 20 years. Brokaw's speech was preceded by remarks from Rev. Philip A. Smith, O.P., President of the College; the Most Rev. Bishop Robert E. Mulvee, D.D., J.C.D.; Governor of Rhode Island, Donald L. Carcieri; and Mayor of Providence, David N. Cicilline. Remarks were also given by David J. Syner, CPA '71, President of the College's Alumni Association, and George L. Catrambone '05, President of the Senior Class.
Brokaw began his address by joking about a past commencement speech he delivered at Boston College, sometimes referred to as one of PC's rival schools. "It is a relief to be at Providence College," said Brokaw. "At Boston College I had to speak more slowly and use shorter words."
He continued by suggesting that the graduates compare the "real world" not to college or high school, but to junior high, a world filled with the implications associated with being a teenager.
"Forty years from now, I guarantee it, you'll still make silly mistakes, have temper tantrums, have your feelings hurt for some trivial slight, say something dumb. . . . and wonder at least once a week, will I ever grow up?" said Brokaw.
He encouraged the graduates to better their lives in the real world, and to be mature in their pursuit of relationships, while staying young in their pursuit of passions. Along with graduation also comes the challenge of handling money and not viewing life as an ATM, Brokaw said.
"Now you have to earn [money]. Think about how you can hang on to some of it and, if you're fortunate, use the money that you have beyond what you need to save a life, save a neighborhood or save the world," he said.
As the author of the best-selling novel, The Greatest Generation, Brokaw spoke about the importance of graduates improving their own generation, an age tainted by the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Deeming the Class of 2005 the "class of 9/11," Brokaw reminded graduates of the continuous struggles between Americans and Islamic people. These struggles cannot be wished away, he said, but they can be lessened by an attempt to understand the Islamic peoples and their traditions.
"So as you leave here in pursuit of your dreams try to imagine their dreams. Stand tall. Don't apologize for what you have or what you believe in, but get to know what they don't have and why," said Brokaw. "Take the lead in establishing a common ground between generations, a common ground of appreciation and understanding, a shared destiny of self determination and economic opportunity."
Americans have certain obligations which will help them to attain this common ground, Brokaw said. Patriotism should be characterized by a love for one's country and a belief that it can be improved, not from an exclusive left or right ideology, but from the center, he said.
Furthermore, Brokaw expressed the importance of being mindful of one's use of basic resources and of paying respect to Mother Earth. "It will do us little good to export democracy and economic opportunity, to use our military power wisely and efficiently, to nurture tolerance and cross-cultural appreciation if we end up on a dead planet," he said. ". . . In my generation we have been witness to the power of awareness, of an environmental consciousness and the modest triumphs of renewal but we continue to lose ground clean water, creatures large and small, at an alarming rate."
Brokaw ended his speech by describing his generation, which had its beginnings with the Great Depression, Nazi Germany, and World War II. The same generation of men who risked their lives to save their country, and of women and children who went months without seeing their husbands and fathers, later rebounded from the war, attending college in record numbers and establishing new communities, sciences, and industries. The citizens, and the sacrifices and contributions they made, altogether comprise the greatest generation, Brokaw said.
"Remember them as you leave here. Nurture their legacy," said Brokaw. "Remember how they rose as one to meet far greater challenges than we face today. Remember them as you put the mark of greatness on your generation."
Honorary degree/ award recipients
The College bestowed five honorary degrees to distinguished individuals, some of whom are alumni of the College. Brokaw received a Doctor of Public Service for his achievements and reputation for excellence as a broadcast journalist. Doris Ann Burke '87 & '92G, basketball analyst and game reporter, earned a Doctor of Humanities in recognition of her athletic achievements the College and for her work as a sports broadcaster.
The Very Rev. D. Dominic Izzo, O.P., '88 President of the College's Corporation and Prior Provincial of the Province of St. Joseph, received a Doctor of Divinity for his dedication to the Catholic Church and its ministry.
Earning a Doctor of Humane Letters for her impressive work as an educator was Dr. Ruth J. Simmons, President of Brown University. Ambassador and President of the Center for International Policy, Robert E. White, received a Doctor of Political Science for promoting peace through his U.S. foreign policy.