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Summer Edition
Volume 97, Number 1

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Juan Williams

Keep your eyes on the prize
Commencement speaker Juan Williams encourages graduates to recognize their roles in the history being made all around them

"We live today in a moment where history is all around us. In all of your lifetimes, you've started a new century; we've seen America attacked on 9/11; we've seen America go to wars; you've lived through two very controversial elections in just the last five years. The history of America is all around us in terms of a tremendous rate of change, demographic change in our nation's racial makeup, in a rapidly aging population, in economic changes. We've gone from a farm economy, to an industrial economy, to a service economy, an information economy, now a high-tech, biotech economy. All of these changes require your critical thinking, your ability to be leaders in the midst of tremendous change that challenges our social fabric. . . .

The challenge for each and every one of you is to take off the blinders, to avoid the sleeping pills of modern life that would say to you, 'You can't make a difference.' You have graduated now from college. You're on your way, and if you keep on the blinders, you can make this simply about the credentials that will lead to a good job, to a good house, to a car, to marriage, and eventually to a nice gravestone. But what it's really about is having been given the opportunity to make a difference in the world. You are now armed, prepared, and ready to offer this world your talent and energy, and a sense of vision for what is right.

You are ready to speak truth to power. In so many ways, you are the best of America, our educated elite. Millions will look for you to offer an example as you become leaders in the world of medicine, the business world, the art world. In so many ways, you are America's future.

People sometimes say to me, Juan, why would you call a book about the Civil Rights movement Eyes on the Prize, and I tell them it comes from an old gospel song that goes:

Keep your eyes on the prize.
Hold on; hold on.
I know the one thing I did right
Was the day I started to fight.
Hold on.

And on this glorious day of Commencement, I ask each and every one of you to live up to the promise of your Messiah education, by keeping your eyes on the prize.

— excerpted from the 96th Commencement address given by Juan Williams, senior correspondent for National Public Radio and author of Eyes on the Prize, a book chronicling the American Civil Rights movement.

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