Bob Schieffer Implores RIT Graduates: ‘Do What You Want to Do’

Longtime CBS journalist provides keynote address at university’s 125th commencement

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A. Sue Weisler

CBS News veteran Bob Schieffer charmed a packed house during his keynote address at RIT’s commencement. He encouraged graduates to “do your best and set your expectations high.”

Veteran broadcaster Bob Schieffer is well aware that today’s college graduates will have access to career paths that do not yet exist due to the rapid advance of technology.

“When my children were young they used to ask me, ‘Dad, when you were a little boy, did you want to be a TV reporter?’ and I would have to explain, they didn’t have TV when I was a little boy.”

Schieffer, moderator of Face the Nation and chief Washington correspondent for CBS News, relayed that exchange to Rochester Institute of Technology graduates today during the university’s 125th commencement. RIT is conferring degrees on more than 3,500 undergraduate and graduates students during the weekend celebration.

During his address inside RIT’s Gordon Field House and Activities Center, Schieffer urged graduates to select a vocation that will provide them personal fulfillment. Happiness, he stated, is the true measure of success.

“The important thing is do what you want to do. Don’t let someone else make that decision for you. It’s your life. Don’t be afraid to reach. If you make a mistake, there is plenty of time to change your mind.” He added, “Take a chance. If you work hard enough, you’ll be surprised what you can do.”

Schieffer took the opportunity to draw attention to the RIT parents in attendance. He mentioned being the first person in his family to earn a college degree and how important it became to his mother that her children receive the education she had been denied. He recalled his graduation as the “proudest moment” of his mother’s life.

“When I come to a graduation, I cannot help but think of her, and that is why graduations mean so much to me. And so, if your parents are here, I hope you will pause to say thank you to them.”

Prior to his address, Schieffer was presented an honorary doctorate of humane letters by RIT President Bill Destler. Schieffer has a half-century of reporting experience, including more than 40 years with CBS News, and Destler acknowledged that the veteran journalist has received an array of honors for his work. In 2008, the Library of Congress presented Schieffer with its Living Legend Award—one of the highest civilian honors bestowed by the U.S. government.

“I suspect for a modest man, like Mr. Schieffer, recognition that includes superlatives like ‘legend’ seems wildly overstated,” observed Destler. “But, I think you’ll agree, his credentials clearly convey this lofty status.”

Schieffer reminded graduates they will encounter a “complicated” world that may force them to defend values passed on to them by generation of Americans.

“Our greatest security comes when people understand who we are and that our system works,” he explained. “When we mistakenly take short cuts and in haste or panic adopt the methods of others, we do not enhance our security, we weaken it. We must always practice what we preach.

“America is and always has been about fairness, family and taking care of one another even when it wasn’t easy.”

As he concluded his remarks, Schieffer reminded the graduates that America has long been a place where optimism overcomes fear, and he urged his audience to carry on that tradition.

“Do your best and set your expectations high, and remember always, true greatness comes not from the battles we win but the battles we choose to fight.”

NOTE: Rochester Institute of Technology is internationally recognized for academic leadership in computing, engineering, imaging technology, and fine and applied arts, in addition to unparalleled support services for students with hearing loss. Nearly 16,800 full- and part-time students are enrolled in more than 200 career-oriented and professional programs at RIT, and its cooperative education program is one of the oldest and largest in the nation.

For two decades, U.S. News & World Report has ranked RIT among the nation’s leading comprehensive universities. RIT is featured in The Princeton Review’s 2010 edition of The Best 371 Colleges and in Barron’s Best Buys in Education. The Chronicle of Higher Education recognizes RIT as a “Great College to Work For.”

Note: Audio available for this story