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Christiane Amanpour Urges Harvard's Class of 2010 to Be Informed, Proactive Citizens

May 31, 2010 8:18:05 AM- transcurrents.com

Journalist Christiane Amanpour urges the Harvard Class of 2010 to travel and to be well informed:

Christiane Amanpour—CNN’s former chief international correspondent and future host of ABC’s “This Week”—said that her “first act of courage” as the 2010 Class Day speaker would be to remove her suit jacket in this afternoon’s “incredibly hot” weather, a reported 88 degrees.

Amanpour urged students to find their passions, travel the world in an age of increasing global interconnectivity, and—above all else—be informed citizens.

Along the way, she alluded to a variety of historical figures ranging from Robert F. Kennedy ’48 to Elizabeth Taylor’s seventh husband, the Republican senator John W. Warner.

Most notably, however, her speech referenced former Secretary of State George C. Marshall’s commencement address, delivered on the same spot 63 years before and considered among the most famous in Harvard’s history.

In his June 1947 address, Marshall articulated the need for massive American support for the rebuilding of Europe, which had been devastated during World War II. According to Amanpour, Marshall’s words ring true in a world in which the United States still must determine its role in the future development of countries like Afghanistan and Haiti.

“America’s challenges today remain the same,” Amanpour said, echoing Marshall’s sentiment that “what seems far away will nevertheless affect you even here.”

Amanpour said that as a journalist, she has to come believe deeply in people’s responsibility to keep themselves informed, adding that she hopes members of the class of 2010 will consider becoming journalists after graduation.

“I am a true believer in the power of this profession to be a force for good,” she said. “Where would we be without a press that’s uncovered injustice, corruption, inhumanity—or a press that’s on the cutting edge of reform, civil rights, desegregation and of all the smaller but vital issues that affect us every single day?”

Amanpour noted, however, that she is often troubled by the lack of substantive discussion in public discourse.

“I believe so deeply in the promise of America and Americans that it does frustrate me to see the limited discussion of important issues in public spaces,” she said. “And yet as I travel all over the world, people know everything about you and everything about your country.”

At the end of her speech, Amanpour recounted her own career path, which began after she arrived at CNN in Atlanta after her own graduation with only $100 and a suitcase. She said she worked nights and weekends to achieve her goals and reminded the graduating seniors that “there’s no such thing as effortless success.”

But Amanpour, who said that she, too, will graduate from her “alma mater” of CNN this fall, sympathized with the graduates she addressed.

“I’m sure that all of us graduates here today share same sense of excitement, the same sense of promise of a brave new adventure, the shadow of fear, trepidation, and anxiety as we hurl ourselves out of our comfort zones,” she said. ~ courtesy: The Crimson/ Harvard ~

Full 2010 Commencement Day speech delivered on May 27, 2010