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Trojans urged to face the future with passion and courage

It was a joyous day for members of the Trojan Family. (Photo/Dietmar Quistorf)

At USC’s 129th Commencement ceremony on May 11, acclaimed journalist Christiane Amanpour told graduates that while times may be tough, their education has prepared them to face the challenge and thrive.

“My most fervent hope is that you will find a passion,” said Amanpour, global affairs anchor at ABC News and chief international correspondent for CNN International. “Unless you love what you do, you can’t really be good at what you do.”

Amanpour spoke of her love for journalism and her belief in its ability to make a difference, adding that she hoped graduates also would find and devote themselves to careers that they love.

“This is what your 20s and 30s are for,” she said. “Now is your moment, and the world is waiting for you.”

Amanpour also urged graduates to be bold risk-takers: “Whatever you do, one day you will be called to take a stand. Say yes and embrace what life puts in front of you.”

Recalling the Roman poet Virgil, USC president C. L. Max Nikias told the crowd that “to be a Trojan is to be an adventurer.”

He said: “The Trojans always seized destiny. That is the adventure, the great journey that now calls you by name. But here is the key: You do not go forward alone. You go forward as a member of a global Trojan Family.”

Months of planning and weeks of labor went into preparing the University Park campus for the main Commencement ceremony. Fountains were drained and repainted, while roughly 44,000 white folding chairs were set up in perfect rows for the main ceremony and individual schools’ satellite ceremonies around campus.

On the cool, overcast morning, the Trojan Family swelled its ranks at the ceremony by 13,734, more than half of whom were students earning master’s or doctorate degrees.

Specially honored among those joining the Trojan Family were USC’s Nisei students who were forced to abandon their studies during World War II. In 1942, when President Franklin D. Roosevelt ordered the internment of some 120,000 American citizens of Japanese descent and Japanese nationals living along the Pacific Coast, some of those who were interned were USC students working toward their degrees.

At Commencement, Nikias conferred honorary USC degrees on these students.

“Candidates, the entire university community feels privileged to honor you for your accomplishments, your fortitude and your determination,” Nikias said. “I warmly salute you.”

Eight global leaders, including Amanpour, also received honorary degrees for contributions to the civic, academic and arts worlds. The group included Lt. Gen. Roméo Dallaire, Canadian senator and former force commander of the United Nations peacekeeping force for Rwanda; Dana Dornsife, USC benefactor and international humanitarian; David Dornsife ’65, USC trustee whose family’s dedication to advancing the university’s work in neuroscience and medicine dates back several decades; Victoria Hale, pharmaceuticals scientist and social entrepreneur; Armas C. “Mike” Markkula ’64, MS ’66, entrepreneur, innovator and engineer, who played a key role in the founding and growth of Apple Inc.; Julie Mork, philanthropic leader and advocate of youth and visually impaired children; and John Mork ’70, USC trustee and CEO of Energy Corp. of America.

In addition, Nikias recognized valedictorian Genevieve Hoffman and salutatorians Sonam Kapadia and Ryan Hill. Hoffman, who will start law school at the University of Virginia in the fall, graduated summa cum laude with degrees in international relations and economics from the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences in just three-and-a-half years.

“We have been given a gift of higher education,” Hoffman said, noting that less than 7 percent of the world’s population is as educated as the newly minted graduates. That privilege comes with responsibilities, she noted. “We are not born, and we do not live for ourselves alone,” she said, quoting Cicero.

Graduates have an obligation to act with integrity, to empower others by sharing their knowledge and to voice their opinions, Hoffman added.

“As graduates of USC, we are prepared and empowered to face the challenges of the new century,” she said.

In closing her address, as the sun finally began to break through the clouds, Amanpour urged graduates not to be in a hurry on their life’s journey and not to feel a need to be at the top of their professions a week after graduating.

“It takes time, and it’s great,” she said. “In the end, I really believe it’s the journey that counts and the amount of love that we put into it.”

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Trojans urged to face the future with passion and courage

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