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MELISSA BLOCK, host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED and I'm Melissa Block.

MICHELE NORRIS, host:

And I'm Michele Norris.

It's commencement time for the Class of 2006 and this year we decided to do something a little different, skip the presidents, scholars and celebrities who will impart their wisdom to graduates. We wanted to hear what students are saying. Most of this year's graduates started college after 9/11 and witnessed from campus the beginnings of the war in Iraq, the 2004 presidential election and Hurricane Katrina.

BLOCK: We're going to hear from several students with differing perspectives. From Ithaca College in New York, Macalester College in Minnesota, the University of Miami, the Citadel in South Carolina, the University of California at Berkley and Tulane University in New Orleans. These student leaders have one thing in common. They've got plenty of advice of advice.

Mr. ERIC NAGY(ph) (2006 Graduate, Ithaca College): If college has taught us anything, it is that the pursuit of knowledge never ends, it just gets more exciting. This is where I'd like to take an issue with is the real world. What does that even mean. If we weren't in the real world for the past four years then where were we? I think college has a stigma attached to it that is supposed to be anything but real.

But I contend that this is just as real as what awaits you when you leave here today. If the pursuit of knowledge never ends then isn't this so called real world just an extension of college? If you have ever sat in one of those random 100 level classes in the basement of Gillingham and asked yourself, what am I doing here?

The answer is simple. Knowledge. You are there for knowledge and it is my sincere hope and I'm sure the hope of all of your professors, especially the ones that taught those 100 level classes, that you take what you have learned and apply it sincerely to the rest of your life.

Ms. NEELY ANNE CRANE-SMITH(ph) (2006 Graduate, Macalester College): Last but not least the only way to learn to fly is first to take a fall. We've fallen despite our fervent efforts. People won't or can't accept our ideas. When a project falls short of expectations, when we feel that we have made mistakes and let ourselves or others down. Falling is disappointing, embarrassing and painful, but Macalester students aren't timid about taking falls and they're not afraid of flying either.

Ms. PAMELA SCHIESS(ph) (2006 Graduate, University of Miami): We have heard the musings of Maya Angelo, the humor of Ben Stein, the howls of Katrina, Wilma and Rita and the musical stylings of Patio Jam Thursdays. We have enjoyed wintry south Florida afternoons at the pool, the sweet taste of victory over Virginia Tech. We have witnessed history during the presidential debate. The power of voter mobilization on Election Day 2004 and the promise of forward and upward movement at a university that for many of us has been home these past four years.

Tomorrow is a new day. Tomorrow we will be asked to forego our lives as students in favor of being adults. We will be asked to save the world, both figuratively and literally, and we will because we can. Our prospects as civil servants, career professionals and all around newsmakers are limitless. I urge each of you to find your passion and live it. Like Ecclesiastes says, there is a time for everything. This is your time to live your dream.

Mr. JOSH SKELLY(ph) (Cadet Captain, The Citadel): Here at The Citadel we have learned to be accountable for ourselves and others. The daily formations, mandatory events and inspections we always face with the task of being accountable, not only for our actions, but for the actions of others as well. We have been trained to have no excuses for our mistakes and promptly fix our errors. When it comes down to it, when a cadet messes up and gets punished, he knows he deserved it.

Accountability was one of the most important lessons in leadership The Citadel has taught us. Leadership is a daily part of life at The Citadel. We live and breathe leadership. We as a class have never been scared to take command. We're not intimated by the challenge of taking control of a difficult situation. We're excited by it and if a situation was ever too much for one of us to handle, we knew we could rely on each other to help us through it.

Our experiences in leadership have brought us closer and taught us how to work together as a team in pursuit of a common goal. While the leadership opportunities and lessons in accountability are some of the most important things we have learned here at The Citadel, the most important thing we have is our honor. Our honor is what binds us.

Ms. LANE RETTIG(ph) (2006 Graduate, Berkeley University): It's the duty of those of us who have been blessed with life to go on living, but not just to live quietly. It our duty to live loudly and fiercely. To graduate from a great university such as ours and fail to gain compassion for your fellow men would be a great failure indeed.

Getting an education is about gaining the tools we need to succeed in life. The greatest tool that I've gained from my time here is perspective, the desire to learn from people different from myself and to attempt to see the world through their eyes. The greatest lesson I've learned is that in this democracy apathy is not a choice. To remain silent in the face of the atrocities being committed in the name of this country, in all of our names, is to condone those acts. Indifference kills more people than bombs do. If you don't believe me ask the people of Rwanda.

Our time at Berkeley has given us the knowledge we need to change the world, not through violence but intelligently, peacefully. When confronted by adversity we have two options. We can chose to react out of ignorance, fear and hate or we can choose the path of understanding and compassion.

Ms. CASEY HAUGNER(ph) (2006 Graduate, Tulane University): At a café on our way out of town the night before Katrina hit, I had a waitress ask me very solemnly if I understood how significantly the storm could impact my education. At the time I laughed. I had been through, what, four storms in my five years at Tulane and none of them had ever impacted my education before.

But now that I'm here nine months after that café, five years after those recruiting brochures, I can honestly say it was not the effects of the storm that had the most significant impact on my education. It has been the culture, the spirit and the strength of the city and the institution that endured it that has had the most impact on the things I've learned.

And on our graduation day it is important to note that even though the past year has changed all of our lives, it has not changed them nearly as much as having made the decision to attend Tulane. I am proud to say that my education was earned, experienced and enriched only at Tulane, only in New Orleans.

(Soundbite of applause)

BLOCK: That was Casey Haugner speaking at Tulane University. We also heard from Lane Rettig at the University of California at Berkeley, Cadet Josh Skelly at The Citadel in South Carolina, Pamela Schiess at the University of Miami in Florida, Neely Anne Crane-Smith at Macalester College in Minnesota and Eric Nagy at Ithaca College in New York.

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