Elliott School graduates urged to find and fight for a cause

Media Credit: Sarah Urtz | Assistant Photo Editor

Cindy McCain, the widow of former U.S. Senator John McCain, R-Ariz., urged graduates to make the world a safer, more generous place.

Graduates at the Elliott School of International Affairs’ commencement celebration Friday were told to dedicate themselves to public service.

Before a packed Smith Center, Reuben Brigety, the Elliott School’s dean, and Cindy McCain, a businesswoman and the widow of former U.S. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., charged graduates to be leaders in today’s world and to fight for causes larger than themselves.

Here are some takeaways from the celebration:

‘Do it from your heart’
McCain, a philanthropist, shared her experiences at refugee camps with graduates, noting one moment she shared with Mother Teresa.

“She took my hand in hers and looked me into the eyes and offered me a single instruction: ‘Do it from your heart,’” she said.

McCain encouraged graduates to join others in making the world a “safer, more just and generous place,” adding that the benefits for doing so exceed the pain wrought by the challenges one may face in life.

“Love will be part of that reward, as will the kind of satisfaction that, as my husband once put it, ‘outlasts that gain from personal success and the sting of life’s disappointments.’”

Fighting for a cause
Brigety told members of the Class of 2019, the first class for which he served as dean for all four years for undergraduates, that they will “always have a special place in my heart.” He said the faculty and staff at the Elliott School prepare students for a journey that does not stop at graduation.

“The Elliott School is exceptional because of who we are, a community of individuals who are dedicated to tackling the world’s most pressing global issues, and making the world a better place for all,” he said.

Brigety challenged the graduates to fight for a cause larger than themselves “in pursuit of excellence and without arrogance.”

“Find a cause you care enough about to fight for, and do so with passion, commitment and with empathy, and I promise you will have an impact,” he said.

Learning resilience and confidence
Student speaker Cecilia Franco Segura, an international student from Peru who graduated with a master’s degree in international development studies, relayed the challenges she faced while in college to graduates at the celebration.

Segura said her home in Peru was devastated by a magnitude 8.0 earthquake that killed many of her friends and family. She said those losses and her move to the United States taught her to be adaptable and strong.

“It wasn’t until I lost my mom, both of my grandfathers and my grandmother who raised me, and in the same year, moved to the United States alone to start my master’s, that I learned the true meaning of resilience,” she said.

Segura said at times she felt lonely, sad and anxious and questioned whether she was in the right place. She said she gained self-confidence at the Elliott School, which led her to success.

“I met friends that became my family, and I learned from professors that became mentors and, more importantly, I grew in confidence, learning how to thrive in the United States,” Segura said.

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