Carl Bernstein keynotes Marietta College graduation
MARIETTA – The Dyson-Baudo Recreation Complex at Marietta College was packed Sunday as friends and family witnessed the conferring of degrees on 340 members of the institution’s Class of 2013.
Keynote speaker for the 176th commencement was author and investigative reporter Carl Bernstein who, along with fellow journalist Bob Woodward, won a Pulitzer Prize for their coverage of the Watergate scandal when they worked for the Washington Post in the 1970s.
Marietta College President Joseph Bruno said Bernstein’s appearance at the commencement was in keeping with this year’s theme of leadership and social justice.
Bernstein started off his remarks by admitting he was a college dropout.
“I made the decision in the early 1960s to drop out of the University of Maryland,” he said. “And that decision set me on the professional path I’ve been on for many years.”
Bernstein noted he had to work his way up in the news business, receiving a hands-on journalistic education in the newsroom of the former Washington Star.
“I grew up in that newsroom where most of the other journalists were much older than I,” he said, adding that he learned much from those veteran writers.
But not finishing his college education was a hindrance to getting his career off the ground, Bernstein said, adding that he’s somewhat envious of students like those graduating from Marietta College who have completed their degrees.
“You’ve learned the right lessons here, and not just in the classroom,” he said. “And this is a great opportunity to take a look back at what your parents and teachers have done to bring you here today.”
Speaking of his chosen profession, Bernstein said the national press exists for the public good, not just to create controversy, and to give readers the best obtainable version of the truth.
“It’s clear something’s not working right in journalism today,” he said. “In my lifetime the notion of ‘the public good’ has been undermined.”
But Bernstein added that he has seen a desire in the current generation to see that change.
“The ‘best obtainable version of the truth’ seems to be the challenge for your generation, because that’s where my generation has failed,” he said. “Politics are out of touch. It’s a cacophony of name-calling and ideological warfare.
“But with your values and your smarts and concern for social justice, I’m convinced your generation won’t fall for untruths,” Bernstein said. “The great challenge is to make this again a country in which everybody has a chance to succeed.”
Bruno urged the graduates to be as successful as they can be, but also not to forget to be generous to those who are less fortunate. He also encouraged the Class of 2013 to continue learning throughout their lives, and quoted Sir Winston Churchill who said, “Personally I’m always ready to learn, although I do not always like being taught.”
Sabrina Wittekind, 24, of Marietta, was among the 340 graduates who received diplomas Sunday.
“I’m receiving my master’s degree in corporate media,” she said as she waited for Sunday’s ceremonies to begin.
Wittekind said her class would be the last to graduate as the master’s in corporate media program is being discontinued at MC. She’s one of seven who obtained their master’s degrees in that discipline this year.
Conversely, Josh Askew, 22, of Melvin Village, N.H., was graduating with a degree in sports management as a member of the first class to receive a degree in that program.
“The program started when I was in my sophomore year,” he said. “And it’s kind of exciting to be one of the first to graduate in sports management, which has become one of the biggest majors in the school’s business department.”
Asked if the last four years were a challenge, Askew answered affirmatively.
“But I’ve loved every minute of it and wouldn’t change anything,” he said.
Stephen Brakey, 21, of Shaker Heights, near Cleveland, received his degree in theatre arts Sunday afternoon.
“I’m going to Pittsburgh this summer to work in the Pittsburgh Classical Theatre as an apprentice in stage management,” he said. “I had a minor in management and hope to run my own theatre some day.”
A message written on top of 22-year-old Emily Ciocca’s mortarboard said “Believe you can and you’re halfway there – thanks mom and dad.”
The Indiana, Pa., communication studies graduate said she’s also headed to Pittsburgh to look for a job this summer, but added that she’ll miss the college life.
“It’s been great here,” Ciocca said. “It’s really sad to be leaving.”