By Caitlin Schudalla
The Norman Transcript
NORMAN — University of Oklahoma President David Boren, along with keynote speaker Fareed Zakaria and university regents and faculty marked the departure of the class of 2013 with pride and optimism at the 121st Commencement Friday evening.
Thousands of family, friends and graduates filled the stands of the Gaylord Memorial Stadium in a flurry of robes, banners and excited waves.
“We’re proud of you because you care about others and have given so much time and energy for the benefit of others,” Boren said. “For me and the faculty, this is a sentimental day and in some ways we feel like your family members felt when you left home to come here.”
Though he emphasized immense pride in the unprecedented scholarly accomplishments of the class of 2013, Boren cited the class’ kindness and altruism as a great source of his optimism for the future, knowing they are the citizens of tomorrow.
“Your understanding of the way we treat each other will determine the future of our nation and society. We hope you’ll always feel a tie to this place and those who worked alongside you,” Boren said.
Keynote speaker Fareed Zakaria, a CNN host, Time Magazine editor-at-large and Washington Post columnist, was awarded an honorary doctorate by Boren and the regents prior to delivering his keynote address.
Centering on optimism for the future and particularly the United States, Zakaria used past decades and his unique perspective as an immigrant to describe how the U.S. is distinct among global nations and he believes it will thrive.
“The challenges facing America are real, but we have faced challenges before and we have overcome them and thrived, because at heart this country is strong. We remain the most dynamic economy in the world. We continue to lead the world in the most fundamental industry of all, higher education,” Zakaria said.
Calling state universities the “gateway for the middle class and the American dream,” Zakaria was applauded when he insisted they must be well-funded by local governments.
“As we worry about the future, keep in mind that for centuries, America has been reaching out, bringing in more people and changing the mainstream. This has strengthened the society in ways that are unimaginable to the rest of the world,” Zakaria said.
Though Zakaria emphasized optimism, he did not condemn worry or concern for issues, calling worry “the best way to divert disaster.” Pieces of advice he highlighted for 2013 graudates were to be optimistic, openminded, and especially appreciative of parents’ love.
“There is wisdom to be gained from living life that cannot compare to knowledge from books or media. You will never understand the love your parents have for you until you have children of your own, you’ll never understand their anxiety, their calls and emails until you start making them. Don’t wait that long,” Zakaria said.