Tufts University

Bloomberg Shares Blueprint For Success With Graduates

Mayor BloombergNew York City Mayor and Medford native tells Class of 2007 that "the world, more than ever, needs your talent, your ideas, your energy, your great enthusiasm."

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Medford/Somerville, Mass. [05.20.07] "Tomorrow, the real work begins," New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg counseled Tufts' Class of 2007, speaking at the all-university commencement exercises on May 20.

But for a few hours on an overcast Sunday morning, the work could wait, as the joyous graduates gathered with their families, friends, teachers and others on the Medford/Somerville campus to celebrate this moment, and to thank those who made it possible.

"Today is a beautiful day," said Tufts President Lawrence S. Bacow. "The weather is not great, but it's a beautiful day—commencement always is."

The university awarded 2,437 degrees—1,144 undergraduate degrees and 1,293 graduate degrees—during its 151st commencement. President Bacow presented honorary degrees to Bloomberg; composer and professor emeritus Thomas Jefferson (T.J.) Anderson; engineer Lord Alec Broers; astronaut and alumnus Frederick H. (Rick) Hauck, A62; dancer and educator Denise Jefferson; and economist and Nobel recipient Thomas C. Schelling.

President Bacow asked the Tufts community to honor the memory of two "distinguished and beloved" former university presidents: Burton Crosby Hallowell, who died this past November, and Nils Yngve Wessell, who died this past March. "They were instrumental in making Tufts the university it is today," Bacow said.

The commencement was a homecoming of sorts for Bloomberg, who grew up in Medford, and he began his talk with comments that elicited a few chuckles from the audience. "My mother still lives in the house I grew up in," he said. "She also said that while she was here if the people that live on Latin Way would kindly keep the noise down, she'd really appreciate it."

In thanking the university trustees for his honorary doctorate of public service, he quipped: "My mother always wanted me to become a doctor."

But the mayor—who built an enormously successful career on Wall Street and in publishing—also had plenty of serious advice for the new graduates.

"It's going to be challenging at times—but the world, more than ever, needs your talent, your ideas, your energy, your great enthusiasm," he said.

"I have no doubt that the amazing experiences you've had at Tufts are really going to help you achieve great things," he said. "My advice to you: don't worry about your salary or your title right away. As President Bacow will tell you, 'It's a marathon, not a sprint.'

"The first job you get should be something that will teach and humble and exhilarate," the mayor said. "And don't despair if your career path doesn't follow a straight line. There are plenty of successful people who are doing things that are radically different from where they started."

Bloomberg framed most of his comments in the form of a list, loosely based on the self-help classic "All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten." Calling his version "All You Really Need to Know You Learned by Commencement," Bloomberg advised those beginning their careers that:

  • You 'gotta' take risks: "It's a competitive world out there," he said. "Everyone thinks they have the next great idea—but you'll find that the ones who actually succeed are those who put their ideas into action."
  • You can't do it alone: "Teamwork is a major part of any group project," he said, noting that everyone at City Hall, himself included, works in cubicles rather than private offices. "It's a complex world, and no single person has all the skills to solve all the problems, or really any problems. Working collectively and collaboratively is the difference between mediocrity by yourself, or success as a team."
  • Give it to them straight: "Even those who disagree with your conclusions will respect you for being honest and having the guts to tell it like it is," Bloomberg said. He used the example of the New York City ban on smoking in bars and restaurants, an initiative that at first encountered stiff resistance. "But by sticking to our guns, and sticking to the facts, we've won a lot of people over," he said. "What you've got to do is be honest. Say what you believe. Give it to them straight."
  • Be respectful in times of conflict: "To me, encountering an opposing view is a chance to gain a deeper understanding of the issues at stake, and develop your own point of view," he said. "But first you've got to listen."

  • The more you give, the more you get: "Tufts has an incredibly strong tradition of public service and volunteering," he said. "Don't lose that passion when you get out of here and go into the real world. The thrills that stay with you forever are the thrills of doing something and giving something back… It's perhaps the most important thing you can do with your lives."

Story written by Helene Ragovin, Staff Writer

Homepage photo and top photo by Joanie Tobin, Tufts University Photo.

This story originally ran on May 20, 2007.