Barbara Walters


Journalist and TV news Anchor Woman

Courtesy of the View

May 20, 2012, Yale University

You look absolutely marvelous. What a sight. Good afternoon. Congratulations to this wonderful class of 2012. Exuberant graduates, relieved parents, loving friends, and exhausted professors. I am really so honored that you’ve given me the privilege to address me on what is so special a day for you and special to me as well. My hats off to you. I want to tell you first about this hat. When I arrived, I was greeted by a most wonderful and welcoming lady master Pamela Laurens and who said to me, “Would you like to go upstairs and wash up?” I said, “I don’t think I need to.” She said, looking at me, “Yes, you’re right. You already are washed up.” Where is Pamela? Anyway, she made up for it. This is her hat. As you heard a few years ago I wrote my memoir. It was called an audition. To me, life has been a continuous audition.

While writing the book I had to do some research on my family including my paternal grandmother Lilly whom I had never met. She was evidently a very elegant and fastidious woman. On her deathbed, she turned to her seven children and told them that she was a virgin. They said, “Well, how is that possible. We are here three sons and four daughters. You must have done something with grandpa.” She said, “Yes, I did but I never participated.” When I was asked if I would come here today if I would talk with you I said to myself, “These kids are smarter than I am. These kids are younger than I am. They are better educated, but by God, I am going to participate.” It’s a daunting task because I’m used to talking every day on television, usually with four other women who interrupt me all the time. Today it’s a great joy to be able to speak uninterrupted. I was trying to think of what I could tell you that’s going to make the least bit of difference in your lives, even 10 minutes from now.

When I went to college, I went to a very small college called Sarah Lawrence, back in the middle ages. I had a professor who became very well-known. His name was Joseph Campbell and he exhorted us all to follow our bliss. Do what you love, follow your bliss and you will truly be successful. It was great advice, except when I graduated from college I hadn’t a clue what I really loved. I had no bliss to follow. When I look at all of you today I think many of you do know what your bliss is. Graduate school, or medicine or law or biology, ecology, sociology. How about none of the above? How many of you in this graduating class truly know what your bliss is? Raise your hands. Isn’t that interesting. Not that great a number. How many of you do not know what your bliss is? Raise your hands. Don’t be afraid. Most of us don’t. I didn’t find my bliss until I was in my 30s and then by luck. That’s another story.

When you walk out of here and everybody, every friend, every family member says, “What are you going to do? What are you going to do?” Just tell them you haven’t yet found your bliss. I did finally find my bliss and I have had a professionally blessed life. As you learned I’ve interviewed every US president and first lady since Abraham Lincoln. The terrible thing is, is that there are some of you out there who really believe that. It’s really been since Richard Nixon. I have interviewed world leaders from Fidel Castro to Vladimir Putin and this past December Syria’s Bashar Assad. I should know something about leadership and some message that I could give you. I decided that what I could offer you most today is the wisdom and the stories of some of the most thoughtful people that I have been fortunate enough to talk with over the years. I think their words, rather than just mine, may help to answer your own questions and your own quest for bliss.

Much of what I will talk to you about has to do with choices and much of what you will be facing tomorrow and, in the years, ahead are choices. Let’s start at the top with President Barack Obama, as it happens, as you heard, I interviewed him on the view just this past Tuesday. I asked privately if he had followed his bliss. He said yes. He became a community organizer. Then I asked what jobs he thinks are available during these tough economic times. He said the best jobs right now are in science and engineering. If that is your bliss you are fortunate. You will be among the few with a job open for you. In the newer interview I asked the president what, as a young man, he thought he would be doing.

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