The Catholic University of America

May 16, 2009

NYC Police Commissioner Kelly Promotes Idealism at Commencement 

Raymond W. Kelly receives an honorary degree from Father O'Connell

Raymond W. Kelly, police commissioner of New York City, urged graduates at Catholic University's 120th commencement on May 16 to be America's new idealists.

"Americans are, by nature, generous and optimistic, and we need to reclaim our heritage. You need to reclaim it," Kelly said.

With the worldwide economic crisis as the backdrop, Kelly told graduates that they could not be starting their careers at a more critical time. "The economic crisis has led to a national re-examination of what constitutes meaning in our lives and in our work," he said. "For too long, the allure of money alone led many of our brightest down the narrow path of material enrichment. …The result, for many, is despair over the loss of even this shallow sense of purpose."

If properly nurtured, Kelly said, the values of a Catholic education can lead to "genuine reward, and sustain you no matter what challenges life brings." (To view a transcript of Kelly's address, click here.)

A 31-year veteran of the New York police department, Kelly has served in 25 different commands. "I have never made a career decision based on money, and I have never regretted it," said Kelly, who also has been undersecretary for enforcement at the U.S. Department of Treasury, commissioner of the U.S. Customs Service and senior managing director for Global Corporate Security at Bear, Stearns & Co. Inc. "Simply put, money is overrated."

Looking out at the crowd gathered at the east entrance of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, Kelly said, "I can see all of you with loan payments and your parents cringing. I understand just how difficult the job market is right now." He added, "Even now, America has plenty of money and plenty of moneymakers. What it needs are idealists. I urge the class of 2009 to be America's new idealists."

The university conferred 1,375 degrees during the ceremony.

Kelly, who has created one of the largest municipal anti-terrorism programs in the country, encouraged graduates to be engaged in the world. "We need to practice charity at home, and not be afraid to remain engaged aboard."

The police commissioner received an honorary doctor of humane letters degree from Very Rev. David M. O'Connell, C.M., university president.

The university conferred 1,375 bachelor's, master's and doctoral degrees before a crowd of family and friends. (To view video of the ceremony, click here.)

Also receiving an honorary doctor of humane letters degree was Professor Karol Musiol, rector of the Jagiellonian University in Cracow, Poland, which has had an academic partnership with CUA's Columbus School of Law for almost two decades.

Ronan Tynan, world-renowned tenor and inspirational speaker, was awarded the James Cardinal Gibbons Medal, the Alumni Association's highest honor recognizing service to the Church, the country or the university. 

Ronan Tynan received the James Cardinal Gibbons Medal, the alumni association's highest honor.

Amanda J. Cooper, a history major from Hampton Bays, N.Y., was presented the President's Award, the highest award given a graduating senior in recognition of service, leadership and outstanding scholarship. Cooper completed her Bachelor of Arts degree with a grade point average over 3.8. She will teach summer school in the Atlanta Public Schools system before beginning a two-year role as a special-education teacher in Denver as part of Teach for America.

Commencement was held during two days of graduation events that include an Honors Convocation at the Edward J. Pryzbyla University Center, a Baccalaureate Mass at the basilica and a ceremony that inducted 56 students into the honor society Phi Beta Kappa. (To view a video of the Mass, click here. To read a transcript of Father O'Connell's Homily, click here.)

On May 22, the Columbus School of Law will confer 245 degrees at its commencement, which will feature political columnist Mark Shields as speaker.