Nearly 14,000 graduates were honored Friday as USC marked its 129th annual commencement ceremony with a keynote address from award-winning journalist Christiane Amanpour.
Amanpour is the third female speaker since 1983.
In her speech, she urged the new alumni to face their future with courage.
“Times are tough; I know the economy and the job market [don’t] look fantastic, but you … are the best equipped to come into this environment right now,” Amanpour said. “[God] has given all of us — all of you — exceptional talents, and what counts is what you do with them.”
Amanpour encouraged students to find vocations that they could be passionate about.
“Find something that sets you on fire,” she said. “But I hope that you don’t feel the need to hurry too much on the road. Don’t be too impatient. Don’t feel entitled. Don’t feel that the world owes you or that you have to be at the top of your profession a week after leaving graduate school or a week after leaving your university.”
Chase Blood, who graduated with a master’s degree in building science, said Amanpour’s address was reassuring.
“Her speech was full of things that you can stamp on your heart for the rest of your life,” Blood said. “It was definitely encouraging to hear that you don’t always have to work for the big company; you don’t always have to do the same things our parents did to be successful in your career.”
But not all students were satisfied with Amanpour’s speech.
David Crary, who graduated with a bachelor’s degree in applied and computational mathematics, said he thought her message was underwhelming.
“Her speech was uninspired and disappointing, and she offered poor advice throughout,” Crary said. “She said you shouldn’t worry about being the best, which I feel conveys mediocrity.”
USC President C. L. Max Nikias conferred honorary degrees to USC’s Nisei alumni, first generation Japanese-American students who were forced to abandon their studies during the internment of Japanese nationals and American citizens of Japanese descent in the 1940s.
“The entire university community feels privileged to honor you [Nisei alumni] for your accomplishments,” Nikias said.
USC also recognized seven other honorary degree recipients for their accomplishments, including philanthropic leader Julie Mork; CEO of Energy Corp. of America and USC Trustee John Mork; entrepreneur Armas C. “Mike” Markkula; pharmaceuticals scientist Victoria Hale; international humanitarian Dana Dornsife; USC Trustee David Dornsife; and Canadian Sen. Lt. Gen. Roméo Dallaire.
The university acknowledged three students for their work: salutatorians Sonam Kapadia, who majored in biological sciences and health promotion and disease prevention studies, and Ryan Hill, who majored in biological sciences and kinesiology, and valedictorian Genevieve Hoffman, who majored in economics and international relations. Hoffman asked the graduates to use their knowledge as a means of bettering the world.
“Our education at USC has given us the skills to be important and positive contributors,” Hoffman said.
Austin Byron contributed to this report.