'Fearless' Class of 2017 challenged to be advocates for the power of education
Maity Interiano '07, a producer and on-air talent for Univision Network, delivered the 2017 Commencement address.
Members of the Class of 2017, clad in caps and gowns that created a sea of maroon in the heart of Elon’s campus, were encouraged to relish their triumphs and to plow through their failures without fear at the university's 127th Commencement on Saturday.
“If there is one piece of advice I have for you, it is to not be afraid,” said Maity Interiano ’07, producer and on-air talent for “Despierta America,” the top-rated morning show on the Univision Network. “Trust yourself, your instinct and your capacity to do great things. No task is too big or too small for you. Be humble but ambitious in the pathway to success.”
Elon’s newest graduates, numbering close to 1,400, had filed in under the bright morning sun for the May 20 ceremony, to join more than 10,000 friends, family members and Elon faculty and staff members who have helped support them during the past four years. Elon’s largest graduating class and newest alumni have achieved much academically and professionally en route to receiving their bachelor’s degrees.
In her address, Interiano recounted her arrival on campus to begin her Elon career in 2003, and the sadness she felt when her family left to return to her native Honduras. But that sadness faded as she was welcomed into the Elon family, a family that continues to support her to this day.
Interiano hosts a daily entertainment segment on "Despierta America," as well "Maity on the Go," a behind-the-scenes look at her experiences on her assignments on Univision.com. She has covered the Latin Grammy Awards, Premios Juventud youth awards, Premios Lo Nuestro, Nuestra Belleza Latina, the Rose Parade, the Golden Globe Awards and the Oscars. In 2016 she received an Emmy award for her coverage of the Rose Parade and in 2014 she was named best host in the Favoritos del Publico portion of the TVyNovelas Awards, which are presented annually by Televisa and the magazine TVyNovelas.
“It was here where I had my first opportunity to be in a television studio, do my first reporting for Phoenix 14, and experiment with live television, as I gave the weather forecast in both English and Spanish,” Interiano said of Elon. “Class of 2017, you are about to begin a new chapter in your life in which you will continue to learn, maybe not from your professors but from colleagues and bosses.”
Interiano encouraged them to continue to re-evaluate and reinvent themselves throughout their lives, reminding them that their first job might not turn into a career, and that failures are opportunities to learn.
“You will probably fall, fail and have to re-evaluate your purpose and professional goals, but that is fine because it will only make you stronger,” Interiano said. “You will continue to make sacrifices, or as I like to think about them, ‘investments into your future.’”
The Class of 2017 heard about what an Elon education can mean in the story of Kerrii Brown Anderson ’79, an Alamance County native who would take what she learned at Elon to become head of Wendy’s International and now chair of the Elon Board of Trustees. Thinking back to her childhood, Anderson said she never would have believed it could be possible for her to be standing in front of the Class of 2017 as she was on Saturday, having accomplished what she has.
“Throughout my journey, Elon has been in my heart,” Anderson said. “Elon laid the foundation for a lifetime of learning, allowing me to take on greater and greater challenges in my career,” Anderson said. “As you begin your journey, I ask you to think about how you can keep Elon close to your heart.”
Kelsea Johnson, president of the Class of 2017, challenged her classmates to give back to their communities and be "local change-makers," no matter where they choose to live following graduation.
"We have been fortunate enough to enhance ourselves, discover the world and become more well-rounded individuals while at Elon," Johnson said. "I believe that now is the time to use this growth to enhance, not just ourselves, but to strengthen our community. To not just find out what we're good at, but to discover how our skillsets can better our communities and increase opportunity for our underserved neighbors.
“I challenge us to continue thinking critically, to continue expanding our comfort zones and most importantly, to apply these four years of experiences to something bigger than just experiences,” Johnson said. “Graduation is time for reflection. Post-graduation is a time of application.”
President Leo M. Lambert repeated that theme with a special call to the class to be advocates for the education of children.
"I want you to understand that your future, and the future of our country, are bound up with the future of all children," Lambert said. "I want you to understand on this day when we celebrate your education, that it is access to education that separates those who will experience comfort and prosperity from those who will slip into poverty or hold no hope for emerging from poverty."
"When you look back at your careers in 40 years, it will matter more to you what you did for others than what you did for yourself," Lambert said. "And if you invest in education and in children, I promise their success will give you more satisfaction and fulfillment than you can imagine."
(Watch the video of President Lambert's charge to the Class of 2017 and read the full text below)
Full text of President Leo M. Lambert's charge to the Class of 2017:
One thousand three hundred and twenty five days ago you started your journey together, and in a few minutes you will scatter to every corner of the earth to accomplish great things.
When I first spoke to you Under the Oaks, each of you shining with promise and possibilities, I tried to impress upon you that you were about to embark upon a university education that few others in the world, comparatively, could experience—a rare privilege indeed.
I know many of you feel immense gratitude to others today - parents, grandparents, benefactors, faculty and staff - for helping to make your extraordinary educations possible. You know what it means to have a fire lighted inside you and to be passionate about ideas and to achieve meaning in your life. And I am quite confident that nearly all of you are going to want your children to have a similar privilege someday.
But today, I have an extraordinary request to make of you as citizens and future leaders in your communities. I want you to care about the education that all children receive, not just your future kids, but kids you will never meet. I want you to understand that your future, and the future of our country, are bound up with the future of all children.
It will come as no surprise that, as a university president, I believe with every ounce of conviction in my body in the immense power of education to transform not only the lives of individuals but of entire families, communities, and nations. And with the perspective of time, and as a father and grandfather and a person of faith, I have come to believe this is the most important thing to care about.
Our faith traditions teach us about extending mercy and justice. It is merciful to shelter the homeless and feed the hungry and visit those in prison. But it is just for us to ensure that every four-year-old is ready for kindergarten and that every third grader is an independent reader. And it is wise to understand that our homeless shelters and soup kitchens and prisons would be less full in the future if more children would have a solid start in life. To have enough to eat. To be read to. To be loved and safe.
I want you to understand on this day when we celebrate your education, that it is access to education that separates those who will experience comfort and prosperity from those who will slip into poverty or hold no hope for emerging from poverty.
I want you to understand that in this 21st century knowledge economy, some form of education beyond high school will be essential to compete in the world for almost everyone. You should be champions for others in this regard and help remove barriers, large and small, in order to keep children in school.
I look out at you today and see people who are heading to work as scientists, accountants, as future physicians and lawyers, as financiers on Wall Street, as public policy strategists, as teachers, journalists, broadcasters, and much more. I ask you to think deeply about how you can use your expertise and your time and your resources to make a difference in the lives of children.
Become a tutor. Become a mentor or a coach. Become the significant adult who offers the encouraging word that makes all the difference to a young person. Vote to fund schools and support teachers. Support youth programs in your community. Run for school board someday.
When you look back on your careers in 40 years, it will matter more to you what you did for others than what you did for yourself. And if you invest in education and in children, I promise their success will give you more satisfaction and fulfillment than you can imagine.
As you accept Elon’s traditional gift of an oak tree sapling today, I hope you will plant it and watch it grow over the years. May its growth remind you of how far you have come since receiving your Elon acorn, and how much potential you have, as among the most well educated people on the earth, to be a champion for a child’s brighter future.
May God bless you always.
Long Live Elon!