Intelligence chief speaks to CCAS graduates

John Michael McConnell, U.S. director of national intelligence, called on the graduates of the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences to help protect national security in their future endeavors.

The intelligence czar, who received an honorary degree, regaled the more than 5,200 graduates and guests with lessons from his career in code breaking, intelligence analysis and espionage at the school’s graduation in the Smith Center Saturday. He said his speech was intended to spark an interest in pursuing an intelligence career.

“Our focus is to protect the country and we need your help,” McConnell said. He added that George Washington was nation’s first “spymaster.”

McConnell addressed the earlier of the two Columbian College celebrations on Saturday afternoon, since the school’s large size prohibits a unified ceremony.

Student speaker Audra Clark, who received a master’s in public administration, presented another challenge to the graduates. Although she did not advocate a job in national security, she charged students to “do three squishy things a day.”

“Squishy things are those that stretch you,” said Clark, who is also the development director for City Year D.C., a non-profit organization that mentors youth in the District. “They push you out of your comfort zone and they make you grow.”

She said these things can range from looking a homeless person in the eyes and saying ‘hello’ to holding the elevator for someone even though it may make you late. She added, however, that students who shop at Trader Joe’s instead of the Watergate Safeway are not being “squishy.”

In her charge to the graduates, CCAS Dean Peg Barrett told the graduates that their GW background will give them a “strong advantage.”

“I look to you for innovations, creativity, discovery, service and leadership,” she said. “Remember to grow upon your experiences and relationships at GW to help you through your challenges, and please stay in touch.”

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