Smith College

As commencement exercises are being conducted at institutions of higher education across the country, women’s voices are taking a prominent place in offering congratulations, advice and inspiration to the graduating classes of 2011. In a series of posts, Women’s Voices for Change is sharing excerpts from selected commencement addresses.






Robin Renee Sanders
U.S. ambassador to Nigeria 2007-2010 and Republic of Congo 2002-2005
Robert Morris University
May 6, 2011

There is no script on what to do, or on how to do it — but there are some parting suggestions that I want to share with you — call it a “cuff list” if you wish that you can keep in mind as you take the unity of purpose gained here and transform it into the next phase of your life.

Just remember a few things:

  • The importance and respect for diversity and differences, both in culture and in thought;
  • Do not forget to check that sure footing that you will be so fond of from time-to-time because as you change, things around you also change;
  • Be in touch with your communities, your families; and, certainly pay attention to what is happening in your state; in our country, and in the world. Be involved and not a bystander — moving ahead, and not standing still;
  • Set goals for yourself … but not in concrete. You will want the flexibility to grab on to new opportunities that arise, which may or may not, fit into the social compact you have designed for yourself. Be open to those opportunities;

And, last but certainly not least — and this is probably the most important thing I can leave with you this afternoon:

  • Do not forget to live life in the process.


St. John's University

Maria Bartiromo
CNBC anchor
St. John’s University, Staten Island Campus
New York
May 14, 2011

In just the last three years, so much has changed, the worst financial collapse since the great depression, unemployment persisting at high levels. In this dynamic, competitive and ever changing world you will need many things as you embark on this new chapter in your life.

You will need to work hard. There are no shortcuts in life. This is one of life’s most important lessons. You will need to find and cultivate your passions. Find out what is it you love to do and then pursue it. Loving what you do will enable you to work hard but do so with joy.

You will need your integrity. You must always do the right thing. We all know the answer, in our hearts, when we are faced with a dilemma. Don’t try to do the right thing. Do the right thing. Make up your mind today. What kind of person you want to be. If you want to be a person who always tries to do the right thing then you must commit to that ahead of time. Because when life’s moral question appear, they appear suddenly and out of nowhere and you need to be ready for those future choices. Sometimes doing the right thing is going to be an easy choice. But sometimes it will be a lonely, difficult, frightening choice and you need to be mentally prepared today to do the right thing tomorrow.

There are few things that will follow you everywhere you go on this journey. Integrity and reputation will follow you everywhere you go. Protect them.




Sylvia Earle
Smith College
Northampton, Mass.
May 15, 2011

You have managed, somehow, to come along at what may be the most important time in all of history — if what you have in mind is making a difference for the future of the world.

You are armed with unprecedented knowledge not possible to have when Smith College opened in 1871.

That was just a year before the first global ocean research expedition began, the four-year voyage of Her Majesty’s ship, Challenger, an expedition that marked the beginning of the science of oceanography.

I sometimes wonder what would impress scientists from Challenger the most if they could come visit us in the 21st century.

Would it be satellites gathering data about currents and tides, the ability to pinpoint where in the ocean you are temperature and salinity or astronauts walking on the moon? Would they be dazzled by cell phones, television, iPads, iPods, iPhones, Google Earth — the ability to hold the whole world in your hands and dive into Google Ocean and explore vicariously even the deepest sea, seven miles down.

Surely, these things would amaze them. But all things considered, after all, they’re all guys, they would probably be most startled to see women — scientists, ship captains, astronauts — driving submarines, ships and flying those amazing spacecraft!

Yes, not all the changes in the 20th century have been negative.



Other posts in the Collected Wisdom series:

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