[CUA Office of Public Affairs]

Tim Russert: Help Those In Need

24 May 1997

View a copy of Tim Russert's Commencement Address on-line.

t.gif (986 bytes)imothy Russert, the host of NBC’s Meet the Press, today told the 1997 law graduates of The Catholic University of America to "reject the conventional wisdom that success is only for the privileged or the Ivy League-educated" reminding them "it is people, not degrees, who defend, protect and help those in need."

Russert addressed 318 students at Catholic University’s Columbus School of Law commencement ceremony held at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.

"You will be the foot soldiers, the front line of our legal system, day in and day out dealing with the problems and needs of the ordinary folks, the common citizens, the ones the courts call plaintiffs and defendants," Russert told the graduates.

He noted that since 1960 "violent crime in our country has risen 560 percent … children with single mothers is up 300 percent … teen suicide up 210 percent. Yes, they are numbing, but they are also all encompassing.

"Be it criminal law, family law, corporate law, poverty law, politics, litigation, academia, you cannot — you must not — ignore these problems. They threaten the very foundation of our system of jurisprudence — the very fabric of our society."

He added that "whatever your ideology, reach down and see if there isn’t someone you can’t pull up a rung or two. Someone old, someone sick, someone lonely, someone uneducated, someone defenseless. Give them a hand. Give them a chance. Give them a start. Give them protection. Give them their dignity."

Russert, an Irish-Catholic, was presented with the university’s Presidential Medal by Catholic University’s president, Brother Patrick Ellis, F.S.C. "If my Irish grandmother could see me now," Russert quipped. "On the steps of the altar of the National Shrine!"

Russert is a graduate of Canisius High School, John Carroll University, and Cleveland-Marshall College of Law. He has been host of Meet the Press since 1991. He was special counsel and later chief of staff for U.S. Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan from 1977-1982, and was counselor to New York Gov. Mario Cuomo from 1983-1984.

The law school also presented one honorary degree, a doctor of laws, to Helen Alvare, Director of Planning and Information Secretariat for Pro-Life Activities for the National Conference of Catholic Bishops. Alvare earned a Master of Arts degree from Catholic University in 1989.

Catholic University is the nation’s only university established by the U.S. Catholic bishops and is the national university of the Catholic Church. Founded in 1887 as a graduate and research institution, the university began offering undergraduate programs in 1904. About 6,200 graduate and undergraduate students are enrolled today.

Catholic University’s law school was founded in 1898 and merged with the Columbus University Law School in 1954. More than 600 full-time and 250 part-time students are enrolled.


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Revised: 27 October 1997

All contents copyright 1997.
The Catholic University of America,
Office of Public Affairs.