May 18, 2015

A warm good morning to everyone and welcome to Bucknell University's 165th Commencement c eremony.

On behalf of the faculty, staff and Board of Trustees, it's my honor and privilege to join you in celebrating this milestone in the lives of the 860 members of the Class of 2015 and our 30 master's degree recipients.

We are pleased to welcome the many family members and friends who have traveled to Lewisburg from near and far to join us on our very most favorite day of the year.

Welcome as well to our distinguished speaker, Mr. Bob Woodruff, from whom you will hear in a few moments.

Most importantly, welcome and congratulations to our new graduates!

Graduates: This is your time to be recognized for your hard work in reaching this milestone, and to celebrate how much you have grown in a matter of years that probably right now seem to have just raced by.

You've accomplished so much, but you've not done it alone. So before we move on with our program, let's take just a moment to acknowledge those who have ensured your success. First, think of those who sit behind you now and who have been behind you all the way — the parents, grandparents, siblings and extended family who have supported you through good times and bad and who never lost faith in you. As a father myself, I know how proud they are today, and how much hope and faith they have in you and your future, and how much they love you.

So graduates, if you will, please rise, turn to your family and show them how much you love them.

Second, there are the people who pushed you to learn more than you thought possible, and who challenged you to become the best version of yourself, all the while supporting and guiding you through the trials and triumphs of your college years. They are the Bucknell faculty and staff, represented by my colleagues here on stage, who have engaged you in a broad, deep and rigorous living and learning environment that will benefit you throughout your life. So may I ask everyone in the audience who is able to please stand, everyone, and to take a moment to thank our faculty and staff for all they have done to help our graduates reach this day.

Thank you. Please be seated.

Commencement Weekend is a moment of great celebration. We're fortunate that we are able to bring to campus, as we do throughout the year, truly exceptional individuals to help in this endeavor. On Friday evening, for instance, we were pleased to host the two-time Grammy Award winner Angelique Kidjo. By all accounts her concert was, in a word, extraordinary.

And just the same it is now my privilege to introduce our Class of 2015 Commencement speaker, the award-winning journalist Bob Woodruff.

With a Bachelor of Arts degree in English Language & Literature from Colgate University, Bob Woodruff has a story that exemplifies the power of a broad-based, residential education steeped in the liberal arts.

Mr. Woodruff's career and achievements as a journalist covering major stories around the world exemplify the ideals and behaviors we value here at Bucknell — global awareness, flexibility of mind, intellectual rigor and a passionate commitment to learning and knowledge.

Mr. Woodruff began his career as an attorney. In 1989, while he was teaching law in Beijing, he worked as a translator for CBS News during the Tiananmen Square uprising, thus beginning a distinguished journalism career. He joined ABC News in 1996. After the September 11 attacks, he was one of the first Western journalists to report from Pakistan, and he reported on the fall of the Taliban from Afghanistan. His coverage of post-9/11 events was part of the work for which ABC News was recognized with the two highest awards in journalism — the Alfred I. duPont Award and the George Foster Peabody Award.

In January 2006, just weeks before being named co-anchor of ABC World News Tonight, Mr. Woodruff's life forever changed. While reporting from Iraq, he was riding in a vehicle struck by a roadside bomb, and as a result suffered traumatic brain injuries. But that setback did not stop him. Following an arduous recovery process, he returned 13 months later to ABC News with the documentary To Iraq and Back: Bob Woodruff Reports. The piece chronicles his injury and recovery, and brings attention to the thousands of service members with similar injuries. In 2007, Mr. Woodruff and his wife, Lee, co-wrote the best-selling memoir of his injury and recovery, In an Instant. In 2008, he received a Peabody Award for his continued reporting on the subject.

Mr. Woodruff continues to report from all over the world, including North Korea, Syria, Jordan, China and Indonesia. He and Lee have established the Bob Woodruff Foundation to raise funds to assist injured service members and veterans and their families.

It is my distinct privilege to welcome Bob Woodruff to the lectern.   

Bob, if life is what happens when you make plans, you've led a life extraordinarily well. Thank you for your time here today, safe travels to Boston and congratulations on graduation number two. Safe travels. Thank you.

It is now my pleasure to introduce Provost Mick Smyer, who will present Honors and Awards to our faculty.

It is now my pleasure to introduce our student speaker, Ruby Fako. Ms. Fako was born and raised in Botswana. When she was in high school, an adviser asked her what kind of college she wanted to attend. Though she didn't know it at the time, she has since realized her answer perfectly described Bucknell. In her first year here, Ms. Fako was one of the winners of the essay contest that ran in conjunction with the first-year student reading of This I Believe, a collection of essays of personal philosophies based on the NPR series of the same name. An economics major and a French minor, Ruby embraced many facets of both academic and campus life, participating in The Gathering campus ministry, the Latino Dance Corner, Bucknell Africa Student Association and the Discovery Residential College. She also studied abroad through Bucknell en France.

Please join me in welcoming Ruby Fako to the podium.

Thank you, Ruby, for that wonderful tribute to your amazing class. I am glad to have gotten to know many of you and to see you grow throughout your time here on this campus. We, your teachers and friends and families, are looking forward to see what you do in the years and decades ahead.

To the graduates: As much as today honors your achievements leading up to this moment, it's also a celebration of the future as you begin to turn your hopes and dreams into a reality, the reality that will be your life. Today is a happy day, and you have much happiness ahead assuredly.

But as Bob Woodruff told us, we all know that life can be complicated. Life is unpredictable. And life will not always go your way. Some of those trying circumstances will seem big — bigger than you, bigger than your family, maybe bigger than your community. Some may at times seem truly unsurmountable.

But the good news is this: It is these daunting times when your Bucknell education has, I believe, even more value to you than it does when things are going well.

The work of our graduates who have preceded you is proof that this is so.

Now I could choose from a multitude of alumni whom I could offer as models who are addressing issues that others have ignored or deemed too hard or too complicated or just not worth it. But I know you can't wait to meet up with your families, so I will leave you with just one examplar: Guy Williams, Class of 1976.

Mr. Williams' story appeared in the winter 2014 issue of Bucknell Magazine that highlighted two decades of work to improve the city of Detroit.

In 1994, he arrived a stranger to a city polluted and in steep decline. He could have left for a place with a stronger infrastructure, cleaner waters or a better economy, but instead, being a Bucknellian, he began advocating for environmental justice. And he hasn't stopped working on behalf of a place he had not seen before he arrived.

Mr. Williams explained in simple elegance, "When you care about something, you want to make it better."

It's such a concise statement, and yet it says so much, and that's why I want to end this ceremony with this sentiment.

"When you care about something, you want to make it better."

I'm calling on all of you to care and to make things better, in whatever you choose to do.

You can start always by listening for your inner voice, that twinge that tells you when something is unjust, or broken, or has the potential just to be made better. That voice surely is informed by your Bucknell education. Because of your experiences here, you have the capacity to grow in your understanding of people and places, cultures and contexts. You have acquired the skills to make sound judgments about what is happening and why it is important. That is part of what caring means.

Care, and then make it better.

Guy Williams cares about the people of Detroit and making its environment better.

Bob Woodruff cares about global affairs, so he has dedicated himself to journalism and to advocacy to help make the lives of others better.

Your professors care about child development, chemistry, French, physics, film and more, and they care about teaching those subjects so that students like you will be prepared to make the world a better place.

Your families care about you, and they supported you throughout your time here because they knew your education would make you better.

Last month, many of you and your fellow students showed you care — showed you care about your fellow Bucknellians and about equality and you acted to make this campus community better. More than 2,000 people stood right here on this Academic Quad, united in solidarity against hateful discrimination. It was an example of Bucknell at its best.

We, the Bucknell community, your friends and your families are relying on you to keep caring, and keep making things better wherever you go.

If you are a good writer, tell stories to persuade others to take action. If you are skilled in business, improve an organization so that it can better meet its mission. If you are an engineer, invent something that solves a human need. If you are an artist, create something that sheds light on our common humanity.

Whether it is a community, a process, a place or a design, do all you can to improve it — just like you've made yourselves and Bucknell better through your presence and participation in the life of this great University.

Graduates, we are proud of you. We will miss you. And we will always be here for you. This will always be your home. Warmest congratulations to you. The Bucknell community wishes you all the best. Thank you for coming to this University — and 'ray Bucknell!

Would everyone now please stand for the singing of the Alma Mater?