Soledad O’Brien speaks to graduates, offers advice
Published: Sunday, May 27, 2012
Updated: Sunday, May 27, 2012 15:05
Emmy-winning correspondent and commencement speaker Soledad O’Brien assured graduates, family and faculty members that she knew how the class of 2012 felt while donning the blue and gold graduation garb.
“I once sat where you all are sitting today so I know for a fact that there’s a bunch of people that just rolled in from last night,” O’Brien said. “I know that there are others who been preparing for this day since the moment they have walked onto this campus. And I know that for everybody, this is a culmination of years of hard work.”
O’Brien gave graduates advice by touching upon her personal and professional life while speaking at the University of Delaware’s 163rd Commencement on Saturday, May 26.
O’Brien, one of six children born to an interracial couple, is one of the most notable journalists on television today. O’Brien covered the earthquake in Haiti and the devastation brought by Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans. Soledad is also an acclaimed documentarian, who has produced work on the lives of African Americans, Latinos, and Muslims in America.
O’Brien told commencement attendees of her Afro-Cuban mother, “an immigrant to this country, a very tough nut mom,” and the advice bestowed upon her as a young lady.
“Most people are idiots,” O’Brien said. “When you leave here, you will be told, in many varied ways, over many years, of all the things you cannot do, you cannot achieve, and you will absolutely positively fail in. They’re wrong. That’s idiotic advice. And people will tell you, you cannot change the world. They’re wrong too.”
O’Brien said that her parents experienced adversity while dating as a couple in segregated Baltimore.
“My parents knew that they were on the right side of history, and they never listened to how other people told them how they should live their lives,” O’Brien said.
The reaction to O’Brien’s speech was a standing ovation. Senior Matt Borowski was one of the students standing in applause.
“It was very impressive, I liked the advice about not listening,” Borowski said. “The speech was funny and useful, real and relevant. Tongue-in-cheek too.”
This feeling was not unanimous. Some students and faculty members expressed disapproval.
Graduate E.J. Flaherty said hefelt as though he could not directly relate to O’Brien’s speech, while Sheldon Pollack, President of the Faculty Senate, said he thought the appropriate speaker was not selected.
Graduate Rafael Suarez said he loved the speech.
“It was the best part of commencement,” he said.
When O’Brien was not giving advice, she informed graduates of what lays ahead for them and what it takes to be successful. O’Brien told students that their days of learning were far from over.
“You think because you’re leaving here you’re done with learning, let me assure you that you are not,” O’Brien said. “You’ve succeeded in learning how to learn, and to make a life, not just a living, but a life, requires learning what it means to be responsible to other people.”
O’Brien told students that graduation did not signify a total departure from UD.
“This university will be part of your life, forever,” O’Brien said. “The alumni association will hunt you down, they will find you. Literally, you can join the Peace Corps and be working in the Congo, they will get a letter to you about how your membership in the association of the alumni has not gone through, and they’re sure the check is on the way.”