Alfred Uhry, prize-winning
playwright and graduate of Druid Hills High School.
This is not the first time I have graduated on the Emory
campus. Forty-eight years ago, I graduated from high school right
over there in Glenn Memorial Church. It was a fairly bizarre ceremony.
I was 17 years old. All the guys wore tuxedos, and all the girls
wore long white dresses and carried flowers. We walked together
down the aisle in lockstep. Serious music. I thought I was getting
married; I was scared to death.
What can I say thats real to me and not sound pompous? Well,
I have lived a good chunk of my life and learned things along the
way. So what would the me now tell the me back then? What could
I really say that I learned?
Actions have consequences. Everything you do is going to show up
somewhere down the line. Good things, bad things, everything. In
life you get away with very little.
Another thing I didnt do very well is listen to myself; trust
my own instincts. Your parents, your girlfriend, your boyfriend,
your roommate, they all tell you, I know you, and this is
what you should do. No. Wrong. You know you, and you know
what you ought to do.
If it feels good, if it feels right, do it. If it feels wrong,
dont do it. And dont let anybody try to talk you into
it, and dont let anybody try and talk you out of it.
Stick with the truth. In the first place, if you tell the truth
you wont have to worry about remembering what you said. I
dont think you can tell the truth all the time. I mean, if
a woman asks you how she looks, you always say great,
right? All actions have consequences, remember? But these are white
liesIm talking about big honesty.
If you are unhappy in your job, look for another one. If you are
unhappy in your relationship, dont go look for another one,
but think, how much of this is my fault? In my experience,
thats usually 40-to-60 percent. And you work on working it
Whats that James Taylor song? Shower the people you
love with love? I think thats a good idea. Ive
just hit you with 70s folk rock. Im sorry.
Trying. Giving it the effort all along the line, even when its
hard to try, youve got to keep trying. And I have to tell
you, even though I was reluctant to do this. Its like the
old prostitute said, Its not the work that gets you,
its the stairs. So be careful. Youve got to keep
working. Youve got to keep climbing.
mathematician, physicist, internationally renowned scholar.
In a certain sense, an honorary doctorate is supposed
to provide a model for young people to follow, and Im not
sure whether Im a real model because, well, Im a gambler.
Im a compulsive gambler. And besides, the riches I gain in
my gambling are a very strange kindit is not money [that]
I can contribute to the endowment of Emory University. I dont
contribute endowments; I live from old endowments.
Besides, one tells young people, You must not hurry to make
up your mind about which field you are in. Take your time, do what
you like. But Im almost 78, and I still have not decided.
Thats too late. Dont rush, but dont do it so slowly
as I did. Its too risky.
There is a very strong statement, which is actually in the Bible,
which says that in the beginning there was The Word. Well, I believe
that in the beginning was The Image, so Im a horrible heretic.
And heretics in churchesthey are not welcome. And they are
So it is with both passion and precision that I would like to proclaim
my belief that ... well, what? Let me be conciliatory: In the beginning
was the joining of The Word and The Image. And all my work was devoted
to showing that by believing very strongly in the power of The Wordand
mathematics is part of The Wordbut also believing very strongly
in The Image, by combining them, enormous riches can come forth.
doctor, anthropologist, administrator, World Bank director.
It is a great honor to be with you today and to humbly
receive this extraordinary award from your esteemed institution.
I feel very much like you, who also got your well-deserved degrees.
I feel not only excited but I feel decidedly much younger. But like
you, I also feel a heavy responsibility for having been given this
What does it mean when someone who comes from so far away, from
South Africa, gets a degree from a university in another hemisphere?
It means gone are the days of isolation. Gone are the days when
countries could go it alone in pursuing their national interests.
National interests have to engage international interests.
Today, we live in a world where knowledge and freedom have replaced
cotton and slavery. Today, weliving in the United States and
elsewhereare as much affected by what happens in Afghanistan
as by what is happening to our next-door neighbor.
Whoever argues that universities just prepare young people for
jobs is wrong, though its true that universities impart skills,
which can be used for economic development.
Whoever argues that universities are places for student activism
are wrong, though its true that students, from the times of the
French Revolution to South African Apartheid, have been at the forefront
of social change.
For me, universities today are there to prepare global citizens.
And I feel the responsibility of being a global citizen as the heaviest
of all. It is the responsibility of making history every day of
I stand before you representing the citizen without boundaries,
the citizen of the future. That is you.
Lawrence Colburn, U.S.
Army veteran, one of three American heroes at My Lai massacre.
Most of all, Im a witness. That seems to be my
lot. Merely a witness to the actions of an extraordinary man, Mr.
Hugh C. Thompson Jr., who taught me that to stand up for those who
cannot defend themselves, those who are innocent, those who are
weak, is the proper, moral thing to do.
These are hard speeches to follow in that Im not a speechwriterthis
is off the cuffbut if the opportunity presents itself to you
[graduates], travel, take risks, try new things. It will help all
of us possibly break down cultural barriers that divide us, and
it will enrich and enlighten you all.
Hugh Thompson, U.S.
Army veteran, one of three American heroes at My Lai massacre.
Id like to thank my mother and father for trying
to instill in me the difference between right and wrong. We were
country people, born and raised in Stone Mountain. [Its] just
a little thing called the Golden Rule; you try to live by it, and
youll be OK.
I want to caution each one of you students to stay away from the
following: Stay away from negative peer pressure. Once you step
over that line and start going along with the flow or the crowd,
its very hard to recover. Prejudice had a big part to play
that day [in 1968]. Stay away from it. Revenge was another [emotion]
that played a part. If you put negative peer pressure, revenge and
prejudice together, youre not going to have a good outcome.
Its just impossible.
For 30 years, I was a very confused person because what we did
that day was, we thought, the right thing to do. But its taken
30 years to get the truth out. This was an old subject. It was dead
and buried; [I] had nothing to do with bringing it back forward.
[But] if our future is based on our history, our past should be
accurate and truthful, or our future is not very bright.
Its hard to put certain things into words. Youre going
to have to make many decisions in your life; think about today.
Think about your upbringing. Please make the right decisions because
were depending on youbecause you are our future leaders.
God bless you all.