The Catholic University of America

May 13, 2006

Wolf Blitzer Encourages 2006 Graduates to Be Lifelong Learners

CNN Anchor Addresses CUA Commencement

CNN Anchor Wolf Blitzer counseled members of the class of 2006 to keep on learning after receiving their diplomas, during his address to more than 900 graduates, their families and guests at the 117th Annual Commencement exercises of The Catholic University of America.

Wolf Blitzer delivers the commencement address.

The ceremony was held Saturday, May 13, under clear blue skies on the east steps of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.

"Don't think that your education has come to a close. I can assure you, as someone who was in your shoes not all that long ago, that it is only just beginning," Blitzer said. "Whatever your career, whatever your next adventures, you will be engaged in lifelong learning, using the wonderful skills you honed here during your years at The Catholic University of America. And yes, you will continue to be getting grades every day - from your employers, from your colleagues and perhaps even from your students if teaching is in your cards."

Blitzer is the anchor of CNN's "The Situation Room" and also hosts "Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer." The Buffalo, N.Y., native joined the network in 1990 as its military affairs correspondent at the Pentagon and since 1992 has covered numerous key events that have shaped the landscape of international politics.

After offering a lighthearted "shout out" about Mother's Day tomorrow - earning the first of several rounds of laughter and applause - Blizter turned more serious as he addressed the topic of Iraq. He encouraged the audience to remember the sacrifices of military men and women serving in the Gulf region and the journalists who have been killed there. He shared his experiences covering the first and second Gulf wars, and praised the Pentagon's decision to allow embedded journalists to cover the war.

"The arrangement worked out rather well for all concerned - the news media, the troops, most important for the American public, which got to see a glimpse of this war up close," Blitzer said. "Can there be some improvements down the road? Indeed there can be. There already have been some setbacks. But I don't believe there's basically any turning back of the clock. The American public got used to this new arrangement and hopefully won't stand for anything less."

After offering graduates a view into what journalists saw in the Gulf, Blitzer went on to speak about how the public sees journalists, referencing a recent survey in which a majority of people thought news coverage is often biased and in some cases should be censored by the government. With the protection of the First Amendment comes responsibilities, Blitzer said, going on to describe the practices journalists must use to regain and maintain public trust. "If we stick to the most fundamental and basic rules of responsible journalism, in short, our image with the American public will improve - that, I can assure you, is what we strive to do every day at CNN," he said.

Despite the challenges facing those in journalism, it's still a field graduates would be fortunate to enter into, he added.

"As I've often said, I've been truly blessed. I get paid to have a front row seat to history," Blitzer said. [In my profession] "I wake up looking forward to work, knowing I will have learned something in the course of every single day."

The Very Rev. David M. O'Connell, C.M., university president, conferred an honorary doctorate of humane letters on Blitzer at the ceremony for his outstanding contributions to the field of journalism, as "a magnificent instructor on the people and events that shape our world."

The president also awarded the honorary degree of doctor of humane letters to Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick, archbishop of Washington and CUA chancellor, and to noted Catholic historian Rev. Cyprian Davis, O.S.B., who has written extensively on the history and spirituality of African-American Catholics in the United States.

During his many years of service to the Church, Cardinal McCarrick has traveled extensively as a Vatican and U.S. emissary on religious and social justice issues, serving as a tireless advocate for human rights and religious freedom.

Father O'Connell presents Frederick R. Favo with the Shahan Award.

The Thomas J. Shahan Award for Service was presented to Frederick R. Favo, a Board of Trustees member who earned a CUA bachelor's degree in architectural engineering in 1955 and has supported the university in various capacities over five decades.

The President's Award, given annually to one outstanding graduating senior, was awarded to John Paul Mitchell, a philosophy major with a 3.82 grade point average. Mitchell, who is from Milwaukee, is a member of the Phi Eta Sigma and Phi Beta Kappa honor societies. He served as president of Students for Life in 2005-2006 and participated in varsity tennis and cross-country at CUA.

Father O'Connell extended his thanks to the honorary degree and award recipients. "The five of you provide excellent examples of commitment and leadership and generosity of self which I hope every graduate will remember throughout his or her life," O'Connell said. "You honor us with your presence and we thank you for being here with us today. And now, the time has come to say farewell. You [graduates] have been an extraordinary and wonderful class and we will miss you. On behalf of the entire university community and on my own behalf as president, I extend my personal congratulations to each and to every one of you as you join now the legions of great graduates of this institution, the alumni of The Catholic University of America."

The video recording of commencement can be viewed at:

Outstanding students were lauded during the Honors Convocation on May 12 at Hartke Theatre. In a separate ceremony 41 students were inducted into Phi Beta Kappa that day. Monsignor Brian E. Ferme, dean of CUA's School of Canon Law, addressed the new inductees.

Commencement exercises for the more than 250 graduates of The Catholic University of America's Columbus School of Law will take place at 2 p.m. Saturday, May 27 in the Great Upper Church of the National Shrine. Rep. Rick Renzi (R-Ariz), a 2001 law school alumnus, will be the speaker at the law school's exercises.

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Media contact(s):
· Chris Harrison, CUA Office of Public Affairs, 202-319-5600,
· Katie Lee, CUA Office of Public Affairs, 202-319-5600,