GW alumni and prominent outside leaders addressed graduating seniors at five individual school graduations Friday and Saturday, offering words of both encouragement and celebration.
On Friday afternoon, former secretary general of the International Chamber of Commerce addressed Elliott School graduates at Smith Center.
Maria Livanos Cattaui, who also teaches an advanced skills course in the Elliott School, said the international scene is incredibly complex and graduates must think of creative ways to solve the world’s problems.
“In this world, as we know it, the power of cooperative action has been influential,” Cattaui said. She added that students must understand and confront the fact that the world is “unfairly complicated.”
She said that graduates should be creative, rather than thinking in “autopilot” when creating policy in the future.
“The challenge to you who are graduating today is to make your own list of how the world … could change, and how you would respond,” Cattaui said.
Gen. John W. Vessey, Jr. told undergraduates of the School of Business to maintain a strong moral fiber to help maintain ethics in the corporate world at the school’s ceremony Friday.
Vessey, a former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff under Ronald Reagan, told about 1,500 people at Smith Center that graduates should continue to broaden their horizons past the business world.
“Work to make yourselves as useful as you can be,” said Vessey, who received a master’s degree in administration from GW in 1966.
Vessey urged graduates to “grow with humility” and donate to GW and other causes during adulthood.
“Our nation is far from perfect,” Vessey said. “It’s led by fallible and sinful people like you and me.”
The School of Business ceremony for graduate students took place later Friday evening and featured Gerardo Lopez, senior vice president and president for global consumer products for Starbucks. Lopez encouraged graduates to follow their dreams and passions.
“Believe in your dreams,” he said. “It is dreams that give birth to greatness.”
Lopez, who received a bachelor’s degree from GW in 1980, also spoke of the need to take a proactive approach to one’s career and future.
“In the sport of life, there are spectators and athletes,” he said. “But only those athletes – on the playing field – can change the course of events.”
On Saturday, National Public Radio Correspondent and health policy expert Julie Rovner spoke to graduates of the School of Public Health and Health Sciences in a ceremony at Lisner Auditorium. Rovner spoke about the myriad problems related to health care, including rising costs and the large number of baby boomers set to retire in the next ten years.
“It’s up to you guys to figure it out, or you are going to have to take care of us,” she said to laughter and applause.
Rovner told the students not to be afraid of going against the status quo within their career choices.
“My plea to you is to go out and do good, but also try to shake things up a bit,” she said. “Use this education to make a difference in the world of health care.”
Dr. Maria Klawe, president of Harvey Mudd College – a small, private institution of science and engineering located in Claremont, Calif. – gave the keynote address for the School of Engineering and Applied Science.
Klawe said there is a need for people with a background in engineering to take on influential roles in society.
“One of the things the world needs right now are leaders who understand engineering and applied science,” Klawe said.
She spoke about the importance of self-confidence. She told graduates to reduce their fear of failure by deliberately aiming high. By failing, you give yourself the courage to take risks, she said.
Klawe said, “Confidence acts like an exponential function on competence in terms of the results you achieve.”