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CNN’s Tapper to UMass grads: Seek out differing opinions, lead nation out of ‘darkness’

  • Jessica Potts, a University of Massachusetts nursing major, celebrates during commencement, Friday, May 11, 2018 at McGuirk Stadium. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • A University of Massachusetts graduate waves to the audience during commencement, Friday, May 11, 2018 at McGuirk Stadium. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • University of Massachusetts graduates walk toward the entrance to McGurik Stadium for commencement, Friday, May 11, 2018. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • A group of University of Massachusetts students celebrate during commencement, Friday, May 11, 2018 at McGuirk Stadium. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Willie McDonald, a University of Massachusetts communications major, celebrates during commencement, Friday, May 11, 2018 at McGuirk Stadium. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • University of Massachusetts graduates walk to their seats as others celebrate during commencement Friday at McGuirk Stadium. GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • A group of University of Massachusetts students wave to others during commencement, Friday, May 11, 2018 at McGuirk Stadium. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • A group of University of Massachusetts students wave to others during commencement, Friday, May 11, 2018 at McGuirk Stadium. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • A bachelor of science degree is noted on a mortar board during the University of Massachusetts commencement, Friday, May 11, 2018 at McGuirk Stadium. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • A group of University of Massachusetts students make calls while waiting for the start of commencement, Friday, May 11, 2018 at McGuirk Stadium. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • A group of University of Massachusetts students wave to others during commencement, Friday, May 11, 2018 at McGuirk Stadium. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • A group of University of Massachusetts students cheer for MaryAnn Hogan, a professor in the College of Nursing, as she passes them during commencement, Friday, at McGuirk Stadium. GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • University of Massachusetts graduates carry flags in the Parade of International Flags during commencement, Friday, May 11, 2018 at McGuirk Stadium. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • University of Massachusetts graduates applaud at the start of commencement, Friday, May 11, 2018 at McGuirk Stadium. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • The University of Massachusetts Colonial Honor Guard walk to the stage at the start of commencement, Friday, May 11, 2018 at McGuirk Stadium. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • University of Massachusetts graduates carry flags in the Parade of International Flags during commencement, Friday, May 11, 2018 at McGuirk Stadium. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • University of Massachusetts graduates carry flags in the Parade of International Flags during commencement, Friday, May 11, 2018 at McGuirk Stadium. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • University of Massachusetts graduate Tenzin Dawa Thargay speaks during commencement, Friday, May 11, 2018 at McGuirk Stadium. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • University of Massachusetts President Martin T. Meehan applauds during remarks by Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy during commencement, Friday, May 11, 2018 at McGuirk Stadium. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • University of Massachusetts graduate Tenzin Dawa Thargay, who was chosen as student speaker, smiles at Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy as he takes the podium during commencement, Friday, May 11, 2018 at McGuirk Stadium. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • University of Massachusetts graduates carry flags in the Parade of International Flags during commencement, Friday, at McGuirk Stadium. GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Jake Tapper, a CNN anchor and their chief Washington correspondent, delivers the keynote address during commencement, Friday, May 11, 2018 at McGuirk Stadium. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • University of Massachusetts graduates Lina Wu, left, and Enda Moriarty O'Shea, who are this year's Jack Welch Scholars, smile as they are introduced during commencement, Friday, May 11, 2018 at McGuirk Stadium. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Katherine Coyner, who is a 2001 graduate of the University of Massachusetts, receives the Distinguished Achievement Award from Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy during commencement, Friday, May 11, 2018 at McGuirk Stadium. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • University of Massachusetts graduate Antonio D. Vitale shakes hands with Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy as he accepts the Chancellor's Award for Exceptional Service during commencement, Friday, May 11, 2018 at McGuirk Stadium. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Leonard Gardner, center, who is a 1949 graduate of the University of Massachusetts, receives an honorary degree of doctor of public service from President Martin T. Meehan, left, and Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy during commencement, Friday, May 11, 2018 at McGuirk Stadium. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS



Staff Writer
Saturday, May 12, 2018

AMHERST — CNN’s chief Washington correspondent Jake Tapper told students at the 148th University of Massachusetts Amherst undergraduate commencement ceremony Friday that their generation will be the one that “leads this nation out of the darkness.”

Discussing the degradation of civil discourse, social media and the constant barrage of mindless, vitriolic content that guides politics today, Tapper’s commencement address encouraged students to be independent thinkers.

“At this time when this country has groups of people, tribes of people, siloing themselves off and only listening to the politicians or the news media and in some cases members of their families or their friends with whom they agree, I urge you to resist the temptation to subject yourself only to that which reaffirms what you already know,” Tapper said.

Some 5,500 undergraduate students turned their tassles on Friday afternoon during a sunny graduation attended by about 20,000 guests, according to UMass spokesman Edward Blaguszewski.

“This afternoon, we celebrate the successful conclusion of a significant part of your lifelong intellectual exploration,” Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy said in his opening statements. “As we celebrate your academic achievement, I ask that you always remember the diversity of ideas, people and perspectives that surrounded you at UMass.”

Students waiting outside the Warren McGuirk Alumni Stadium were feeling sentimental about the end of their college careers. After filing into the football stadium, dozens of empty nip bottles littered the ground where they had stood.

“We’re sad,” said Tiffany Griffith, 21, a nursing major waiting outside the stadium with her friends. “I haven’t heard good things. You don’t hear from anyone saying ‘yes I graduated it’s amazing.’”

“My mom, she also went here and she said it was the best four years of her life,” said Callie Tannian, 22, who built her own major in digital design.

“This graduation means more than an education for me,” said Juhi Dasrath, a 22-year-old journalism major. “It’s where I built myself as an adult and as a human and it’s not because of what I learned in classrooms but the connections I made with my classmates, my professors and my bosses.”

Graduating UMass journalism majors did not have strong feelings about Tapper being chosen as a speaker. In fact, many admitted do not watch cable television. “I didn’t know who Jake Tapper was,” said Lucy Martirosyan, 21, a journalism major now working for WGBH Boston. “I’m busy looking at other publications.”

“I don’t really follow his work,” Dasrath said. “But I think it’s great that in this climate where we are right now that they are using a journalist to portray the message of the importance of education and social media in general and how we can break the cycle.”

Dasrath was glad to see the university choose a journalist instead of a politician.

“As a journalism major it is important for me that people really trust journalism because where else are they going to get their information?” Dasrath said. “For UMass to choose a journalist to be the keynote commencement speaker that speaks volumes about us as a graduating class, and our role in the world.” Other students poked fun at the university’s choice of speaker.

“Jake Tapper, more like fake Tapper,” said a sarcastic Cameron Smith-Freedman, a 21-year-old biology major.

Some students booed UMass President Marty Meehan after he joked during his remarks they all write checks to UMass to help fund future scholarships for other students.

Others students were eager to get the ceremony over with.

“My feet are killing me,” Martirosyan said.

Student speaker Tenzin Dawa Thargay opened his speech by recognizing the land, once home to the Pocumtuck and Nonotuck Native Americans, and expressing gratitude for the opportunity to share it. The Tibetan flag did not fly at this year’s commencement ceremony, despite Thargay being the son of Tibetan refugees, and sharing their plight in his speech. “The U.S. is and has always been a land of immigrants,” Thargay said. “My family story and those of our community represent the mosaic of cultures threading out nation and UMass.”

He poked fun at quintessential UMass memories — trouble connecting to wireless internet, this year’s meningitis outbreak, endless construction and Antonio’s Pizza — while also celebrating UMass students’ grit.

“We are problem solvers, we are fighters, and we find innovative ways to succeed,” Thargay said. “In an era of national and international divide, we must extend more compassion to one another and recognize the interdependence and commonality to heal, collaborate and advance.”

Awards, honorary degrees

Tapper was presented with an honorary degree in humane letters during the ceremony for his work as a journalist and media personality. In his speech, Tapper told students that it is OK to fail, to take risks and discover your passion, because life goes by faster than you think.

“I urge you to resist joining these mindless hoards. Use the critical thinking skills you just spend four years developing,” Tapper said.

Along with Tapper, Pearl Harbor veteran and UMass alumnus Leonard Gardner also received an honorary degree as a Doctor of Public Service. Gardner was aboard the destroyer USS Reid during the Japanese attack on the American fleet, and later returned to his hometown of Amherst to pursue a degree in history.

 Dr. Katherine Coyner, an orthopedic surgeon with a subspecialty in sports medicine, received the Distinguished Achievement Award at the ceremony.

Graduating senior Antonio Vitale received the university’s first Chancellor’s Exceptional Service Award; Enda O’Shea and Lina Wu received the Jack Welch Scholar awards, and 11 other undergraduates were recognized as 21st Century Leaders for their academic achievements.

Sarah Robertson can be reached at srobertson@gazettenet.com.