Susan Rice’s 2010 Commencement Address

Susan Rice’s 2010 Commencement Address

(music)>>: ANNOUNCER: Stanford
University (applause) :01>>AMBASSADOR SUSAN RICE:
Good morning, Stanford. (cheers) Thank you very much,
President Hennessy, for that very warm introduction. It is wonderful to
be back at Stanford. Having gotten around a bit
over the last few years, I am more convinced than ever
that this is the best university on the face of the planet. (applause) (cheers and applause) It’s particularly gratifying
to be back in this stadium, which is a rather
special place for me. It happens to be the
spot where my husband and I had our first
romantic moment. (laughter) (cheers and applause)>>AMBASSADOR SUSAN RICE: It was just as the band was
playing “All Right Now.” But my kids are in the
audience so I am not going to give you any more detail. (laughter) (cheers and applause)>>AMBASSADOR SUSAN RICE: Stanford has had an
enormous impact on my life. Not only is it where
I met my husband; but it’s where I met the
people, took the courses, and championed the causes that
ultimately led me to a career in international affairs. Stanford also taught me
focus and discipline. Once you have learned to study
in a bathing suit on the grass with muscled men throwing
Frisbees over your head, you can accomplish
almost anything. (applause)>>AMBASSADOR SUSAN RICE: Let
me join President Hennessy in recognizing the
parents here today. For many families, you kids have
been living far away from home. I grew up in Washington,
D.C., as you heard, and it is not a lie to say
that I think my mother just got over my decision to come to
Stanford about three weeks ago. I still understand the
pride that you have in your children
must know no bounds. You have made enormous
sacrifices to enable your kids to get a such a tremendous
education so this is your day, too. Parents, grandparents,
family and friends, thank you for all you have done. (applause)>>AMBASSADOR SUSAN
RICE: Now, Class of 2010, first and foremost
congratulations. I suspect you are feeling
pretty good about yourselves. I remember feeling pretty
good about myself too when I was sitting
in your seats. In fact, I might have been
feeling a little bit too good, judging how much of I remember
from my commencement speech. (laughter)>>AMBASSADOR SUSAN RICE: Hold
on to this jubilant moment and cherish your memories
of this extraordinary place. Nurture the friendships
you have made here. The warmth and security of
Stanford can sustain you, as you face an economy still
climbing out of a deep hole and as you enter a world
changing at a furious pace. Imagine the world and what
it will be like when one of you comes back a
quarter century from now to deliver the commencement
address. In 1986, when I graduated,
the Soviet Union was bristling with 45,000 nuclear weapons, and the Berlin Wall
was impenetrable. Nelson Mandela was clocking
his 23rd year in prison in Apartheid South Africa. Osama bin Laden was fighting
the Soviets in Afghanistan and al Qaeda didn’t exist. Almost nobody had heard
of global warming. Japan was the daunting economic
powerhouse, and China’s share of global gross national
product was 2%. There were some 30 fewer
countries in the world and 2 billion fewer
people on the planet. We have seen amazing
technological advances. In 1986, only 0.2% of the U.S.
population had a cell phone, which were bricks
about 10 inches long. IBM announced its first
laptop, which weighed 12 pounds. 24 hour cable news
was in its infancy. The face of America
has changed, too. In 1986, 8% of the U.S.
population was Hispanic. Today it’s about 15%. The number of African Americans
serving in Congress has doubled, and the number of women
and Latinos has tripled. (applause)>>AMBASSADOR SUSAN RICE:
And if on my graduation day, someone had told me
that I would live to see the first African
American President, much less serve in his cabinet, I would have asked them
what they were smoking. (laughter) (applause)>>AMBASSADOR SUSAN RICE: So
much change has transpired just in my lifetime, and you will
see so much more in yours. But it doesn’t just happen. Progress is the product
of human agency. Things get better because
we make them better. And things go wrong when we get
too comfortable; when we fail to take risks or
seize opportunities. Never trust that
the abstract forces of history will end a war, or
that luck will cure a disease, or that prayers alone
will save a child. If you want change,
you have to make it. If we want progress,
we have to drive it. Technology and trade help
transform a bipolar world into the deeply interconnected
global community of the 21st Century. Yet the planet is still divided
by fundamental inequalities. Some of us live in peace,
freedom, and comfort, while billions are
condemned to conflict, poverty and repression. These massive disparities
erode our common security and corrode our common humanity. We cannot afford
to live in contempt of each other’s welfare. It’s not just wrong;
it’s dangerous. When a country is racked
by war or weakened by want, its people suffer first. But poor and fragile
states can incubate threats that spread far beyond borders:
Terrorism, pandemic disease, nuclear proliferation,
criminal networks, climate change, genocide
and more. In our interconnected age, a threat to development
anywhere is a threat to security everywhere. That makes the fight against
global poverty not only one of the great moral challenges
of all time, but also one of the great national security
challenges of our time. So here’s my challenge to
you: Become agents of change. Be driven by a passion to
lift up the most vulnerable and to serve those
with the least. Both at home and
around the world. For me, for so many reasons,
this is a personal as well as a professional imperative. One of those reasons is
a little boy who I met in war ravaged Angola in 1985. I don’t even know his name. He was one face in a friendly
mob of destitute little kids who greeted our delegation
at a dusty camp for internally displaced persons
in the middle of nowhere. He was perhaps 3 or 4 years
old with pencil thin legs, and a distended belly and
only a torn T shirt to wear. But he stood out, because
he had the most amazingly infectious smile. I walked up to him
before realizing that the only thing I had to give him was the worn
baseball cap that I was wearing. I took it off and put
it gently on his head. The joy on his face remains
etched in my mind to this day. But I had to leave that
camp, and when I did, I left that little boy in hell. I like to think, and I sure
hope, that kid is okay. But he could well have become
one of the 9 million children under the age of 5 who die each
year, mostly from preventable and treatable afflictions. Yet he has every right to live
with the same dignity, hope, and security that
my own son enjoys. They are both children
of God, of equal worth, equal consequence,
and equal rights. That little boy’s
future is tied to ours. Our security is ultimately
linked to his well being. So we must shape the
world that he deserves. That child deserves a
world without the poverty that crushes the dreams
of hundreds of millions. Half of humanity lives
on less than $2.50 a day. That child deserves a world
without extreme hunger and dependence that it fosters. So we are investing in
building poor country’s capacity to feed themselves. Agricultural research has
produced stronger crops that yield more, adapt faster, and better resist
drought, disease, and pest. Yet Africa’s crop production
remains the lowest in the world. With your generation’s
leadership and ingenuity, you can make it the highest. That child deserves a world where everyone can get
a quality education. More than 70 million
kids are not enrolled in primary school today
and 60% of them are girls. You can help close this gap by
joining Teach for America here at home or the Peace Corps
abroad, by providing lunches for rural girl’s schools, by
working to end child labor, forced marriage, and
human trafficking, and by creating educational
systems that reach all of our children. That child deserves a world in which we find new
cures for old plagues. You can be the generation
to develop new vaccines for tuberculosis and
HIV/AIDS, to use nanotechnology to create smart therapies
that kill cancer cells and leave their healthy
neighbors untouched. To provide needle
free immunizations to stop pandemics
in their tracks. That child deserves a world
whose climate is not collapsing, whose air isn’t choked by soot and whose waters are not
polluted with spewing oil. Imagine, imagine deploying
clean energy technologies to poor countries
to power development without fossil fuels. Much as China and Africa
largely skipped landlines and leapfrogged to cell phones,
you can be the generation that makes a green economy
reality; that turns the fight against climate change
into a boon for the developing
world, not just a burden. You can be the generation that actually reverses
global warming. That child and every
child deserves a world of greater opportunity,
democracy, and hope, and that is the world
you can help forge. Sometimes, we innovate
in great strides. Sometimes, we progress by slow and steady advances,
but progress we must. The fight against poverty
is a challenge worthy of your generation that grew
up in this interlinked age. The goal of a world free
of famine and mass misery, may seem distant, but once so
were the moon and the microchip. The aim is ambitious,
but so are you. As you go about changing
the world, continuously challenge
yourselves. Get out of your comfort zone. Go travel the world we share. Learn more languages, get
grit in your eyes and sand in your hair, and
service in your soul. Graduating from Stanford
is great, but it’s just the beginning. So don’t settle on a
single path too soon. The last time I really was
sure I knew what I wanted to do with my life was my
senior year at Stanford. I was sure I wanted to be
a United States Senator. I left for Oxford, certain
I would go on to law school. To round myself out I decided
to study international affairs. After Oxford I decided
to skip law school, but to sample the business
world at McKinsey and Company, and I did so precisely because
I was never any good at math and I had literally
never met a spreadsheet. I have not followed a
preordained path; rather, I tried to push myself, stretch
myself, and learn new skills that would serve me
whichever path I took. I have changed course and I
have taken unexpected turns when my gut dictated. That’s led me to
places I never expected, but I am grateful I have been. So focus on what
stirs your soul. Because it’s hard to excel at
anything that you don’t love. Be fearless. It’s hard to make progress without breaking a little
crockery, and don’t be afraid to go down fighting if you are
fighting a righteous battle. Stick to your guns and
to your principles. Remember, you should never
want something so badly that you do something you
don’t believe in to get it. And at the same time, don’t sweat too much what
other folks may think of you. As Dr. Seuss said, “Be who
you are and say what you feel, because those who
mind don’t matter, and those who matter,
don’t mind.” (cheers and applause)>>AMBASSADOR SUSAN RICE:
Be about more than money. Comfort and economic
security are good. But they are not enough. You should be about creating
change, not just counting it. And finally, as you’re changing
the world, never neglect family. They are not just your
foundation; they are the source of life’s greatest fulfillment, as all the parents
here can testify. Both my parents were recently
struck by serious illnesses. My colleagues were tremendous
about stepping in for me at the halls of the
United Nations. But nobody could step in for me
or my brother at the hospital. There’s usually someone
else who can do your job, but there’s nobody else
who can be a loving child or a devoted parent. Like those before you, your
generation will contribute. It will innovate and it
will serve in unique ways. But today, change is
coming faster than ever. And you must shape that change. You can be that change, not for
an election, but for a lifetime. If you remember nothing
else, of what I said, try to remember that little boy. Remember that he is
somebody’s beloved son. Remember that he counts
as much as any of us. Remember that we cannot afford
to sleep easy while he suffers. Remember that you can
make his life better. Above all, remember
that each of us, each of us has a profound
responsibility to try, with all of our skill, all of
our smarts, and all of our soul. So make him safe, make
progress, and make us proud. Congratulations again,
and Godspeed. (cheers and applause)>>ANNOUNCER: For more, please
visit us at

19 thoughts on “Susan Rice’s 2010 Commencement Address

  1. stop kidding me…
    when you study at this sort of place, it is engrained in you to do whatever it takes to get to the top..That's all that matters…And that poor starving child from Angola?? just step on his head to get at the top of the pile.

  2. She was the absolute low point of the whold ceremony. I would have much rather listened to Jim Harbaugh. I can tell you that no one was listening to her in Sect. 108.

  3. Make the little child life better and the children here in American and all over the world that suffer from neurological genetic diseases that renders them physically disable with tubes from there throats in order to breath. After helping scientists decipher alzheimers from a cytopathology perspective by explaining the mechanism of neuronal regenerations, this focus on iradicating childrens from suffering is my next project.

    This is one of the best commencement speech that I have heard.

  4. She's does do some major bitchy politics internationally, and it's odd she's talking about inquality and injustice around the world. But it's good to see that she has some heart anyway… and she knows how to speak too.

  5. She is a bitch, but a very smart one. However, the good thing you can get out of this bitch, is the very fact the only thing that can move a person and humanity forward is to help people and to change things for the greater good. Although in reality, once she got the position she has – she does destroy and try to destroy countries that work hard for equality, justice and good education – basically the right to have a dignified life.

  6. These video clips are enjoyable. I'm here since my best friend all of the sudden became awesome with girls. He went from a no-one into being superb. He behaved like it was normal for a little bit. He ultimately admitted it two days ago. He mentioned he learned from the Jake Ayres Master Attraction Formula. Google it and you will find it… He's on a date right now with a sexy girl… Lucky bastard!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *