Top journalists offer graduation advice: Don't let ambition warp you

Commencement speeches can often be filled with worn-out cliches (which might be tiresome to listen to but can be fun if you're playing commencement speech BINGO). But every year, there's also some solid, good and even inspiring advice based on what the speakers, in this case journalists, have experienced.

Last week, we crowdsourced a commencement speech for the class of 2016. Now, let's listen in to the folks who were actually invited to speechify.

Dean Baquet, executive editor, The New York Times, Columbia College:

Baquet's advice to a group of very ambitious graduates at Columbia? Relax, reported The Columbia Spectator's Catie Edmondson.

Don’t have your eyes so focused on the goal that you fail to enjoy the journey. Don’t be so ambitious for one thing that you fail to see when something better comes along. Don’t let ambition warp your sense of self or your principles. Pay attention when everyone you encounter tells you their ambition is causing them pain, because they’re probably right.

Dean James J. Valentini and Class Day Speaker Dean Baquet are ready for Class Day! #ccstateofmind #roar2016 #columbiacommencement

A photo posted by Columbia College (@columbiacollege1754) on

Hoda Kotb, co-anchor, "Today" Tulane University:

Kotb taked about her misadventures in getting her first job and shared several lessons she learned along the way. After being rejected again and again, Kotb planned on one more try before heading home. But the man running a small station in Greenville, Mississippi didn't send her away. He watched her tape. And then he gave her a shot.

Lesson No. 1: "You don't need everybody to like you. You just need one."

Years later, "Today" featured people who changed their lives, and she brought that news director.

Lesson No. 2: "Do not forget the people who helped you. Never, ever, ever forget the people who helped you."

@hodakotb uses her custom #secondline umbrella during the rain of confetti at #tulane #graduation. #tulane16

A photo posted by Tulane University (@tulaneu) on

Sheryl WuDunn, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, co-founder, FullSky Capital, Rice University:

WuDunn, a former New York Times reporter, advised graduates to "make empathy one of your priorities," Mike Williams reported for Rice University.

Skeptics know that we may not be able to solve the problems of global poverty or climate change or injustice or space colonization. Fair enough. But we can help individuals. And that’s a legitimate way of changing the world. It’s also a way of changing you.

Still going strong! #OwlGrad16

A photo posted by Rice University (@riceuniversity) on

Jon Steinberg, founder and CEO, Cheddar, Columbia School of Engineering and Applied Science:

Writing again for the Columbia Spectator, Edmondson covered the commencement speech of the former president and COO of BuzzFeed. His advice: Figure your own path out.

I’ve been told I’m too ambitious, not ambitious enough...There are simply too many rules to follow. There are simply too many judgements. You graduate today as engineers. People who create things, people who invent things from the ether. That’s what we all love doing. What I found, for me, is that every moment spent trying to understand arbitrary rules and judgements is time taken away from the inventions.

Smile! Alum Chester Lee with Class Day keynote speaker Jon Steinberg, CEO Cheddar, former Pres/COO Buzzfeed #seastheworld2016

A photo posted by Columbia Engineering (@columbiaengineering) on

Martin Baron, executive editor, The Washington Post, School of Media and Communication at Temple University:

Baron spoke about both the new and old challenges the communications industry now faces. His speech included lots of advice, but also a call to action.

Media is in a state of upheaval. Communication — people to people — is in a state of breakdown. You are the ones to repair it, if you are willing.

#TUGrad16 Facts: This year's graduating class is the largest in University history!

A photo posted by Temple University (@templeuniv) on


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