Albright to Graduates: Live Boldly; Smith Given Standing Ovation

Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and former UNC men’s basketball coach Dean Smith were among the honorary degree recipients during the Commencement ceremony at Carolina on Sunday.

Albright, who was secretary of state in the Clinton administration, later published her memoir, Madam Secretary (2003) and The Mighty and Almighty: Reflections on America, God and World Affairs (2006). She is a professor at Georgetown University and a principal in the Albright Group LLC, a global strategy firm she founded in Washington, D.C.

Smith, head men’s basketball coach at UNC from 1961 to 1997, is one of the most successful coaches in college basketball history, with 879 wins, two NCAA championships and an Olympic gold medal. His teams had a 96.6 percent graduation rate.

The beloved coach received a standing ovation lasting several moments from the entire crowd.

Others receiving honorary degrees were:

  • H. Jack Geiger, a two-time winner of the Nobel Peace Prize and senior member in the National Academy of Science’s Institute of Medicine;
  • William Ivey Long ’69, a Tony Award-winning Broadway costume designer who did graduate work at UNC; and
  • Richard Wilson Riley, a former U.S. secretary of education and South Carolina governor and current university professor.

More than 28,000 people attended the Commencement ceremony in UNC’s Kenan Stadium.

The University Registrar has estimated 5,481 expected graduates: 3,039 bachelor’s, 1,314 master’s, 397 doctoral and 731 professional degrees and certificates.

Albright’s address and the full Commencement program can be heard online. Albright’s comments included:

“Today is a day of joy and for anticipating the future with optimism, yet in our high spirits we cannot help but be conscious of shadows. Closest to home is the knowledge that tragedy is inseparable from life. This past March, you lost an irreplaceable member of your class. We all feel the absence of Jason Ray.  More broadly, around our country and around our world, we mourn the loss of innocent lives to hurricanes, tsunamis, disease and – as the horror at Virginia Tech reminds us – the demons that sometimes infect the human mind.”

“What divides us is the use we make of the time and opportunities we have. Another way of thinking about the same question is to consider the recent discovery of similarities between the genetic code of a human being and that of a mouse. We are 95 percent the same. Perhaps each night, we should ask ourselves what we have done to prove there is a difference. After all, mice eat and drink, groom themselves, chase each other’s tails, and try to avoid risk. How does our idea of ‘have a nice day’ differ from that?”

“Not every leader marches at the head of a band and yet leadership is also sometimes confused with certainty. All too often, we follow people simply because they have commanded us to follow; they prompt us to put aside our doubts because they are decisive and because they are so sure they are right. We fall in line because we admire their certainty and perhaps envy it. But certainty is no guarantee of wisdom – as Hitler and Osama bin Laden prove.”

“It is not my intention this morning to place the weight of the world upon your shoulders – for that will always be your parents’ job. But I do hope that when you accept your diplomas, you will do so determined to live life boldly, with largeness of spirit and generosity of heart.”

“It is said that all work that is worth doing is done in faith. This morning, I hope you will each embrace the faith that every challenge surmounted by your energy; every problem solved by your wisdom; every soul awakened by your passion; and every barrier to justice brought down by your determination will ennoble your own lives, inspire others, and explode outward the boundaries of what is achievable on this earth.”

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