Connecticut Post (Sunday)
SCSU grads urged to ‘care about the world’
NEW HAVEN — At Southern Connecticut State University commencement Friday, ABC News “Nightline” host Juju Chang told graduating seniors to use curiosity as a guide in life, at their own pace, while living with gratitude.
The Emmy Award-winning Korean-American journalist offered five keys to navigate a life: gratitude, curiosity, kindness to oneself and others, act of service and relationships with loved ones.
“I’m sure you are supremely confident and at the same time full of abject terror,” Chang said. “This is that pivotal moment for most of you, between adulthood and childhood, that liminal state between being your parents dependent and being independent; you’re on the launchpad.”
About 1,200 undergraduate students gathered Friday at Total Mortgage Arena in Bridgeport, with about 8,000 families in attendance.
Chang said she understood the graduates well, as a daughter of immigrants from South Korea who was “incredibly insecure” about her identity, thought her family’s food smelled funny and her face looked funny and believed she was meant to be “the other.”
Despite taking decades to overcome her insecurities, that experience set her out to a career in journalism with a focus on social justice, said Chang, who landed a job at ABC 10 days after graduation, by following curiosity.
“Not generic curiosity, but like a deep-seated, open-ended, uncynical and, hopefully, evidencebased curiosity,” she said. “Notice I didn’t say passion.”
That’s because Chang said most people at 22, including her, don’t know what their passion is, but curiosity is what will lead them to a journey they didn’t think of.
For her, it was a journey of traveling through the country and the world to examine gender-based violence, extremism, terrorism, antisemitisim, migrant policies, opioid addiction and racial equity among other topics, as a journalist.
“You can use that kind of curiosity to guide your own lives,” she said. “What I would ask of you today is don’t turn away. I’m asking you to care, to give a crap . ... I want you to care about the world in a way that helps make it better.”
The ABC journalist also touched on thinking critically before trusting everything on the internet because “facts matter,” being engaged citizens and providing acts of service to others.
But the bottom line, perhaps the most important thing as several speakers emphasized during the commencement is to maintain the personal ties and relationships with friends, families and networks.
“Those relationships are what keep you mentally healthy and sound will actually help you live longer,” Chang said. “They are the key to happiness.”
The ceremony Friday also marked university President Joe Bertolino’s last after
his seven years in New Haven. He’s stepping down next month to lead Stockton University in New Jersey.
“Somebody just said, ‘Jersey?’ You’re not getting your degree,” he joked.
“As a Southern alum, you are prepared and we ask you to do one thing: go out and do good for yourself and for others,” said Bertolino, “That is your job.”
In attendance was U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., who said this graduating class was unique because they have lived through the entirety
of the pandemic as a student on top of what he called “epidemics” of gun violence, loneliness and opioid addiction.
The university awarded an honorary doctorate degree of humane letters to former state senator and former New Haven Mayor Toni Harp, the city’s first female mayor who was a key player in creating the BioPath program.
Bertolino said the university saw a new business school, a science building and a major renovation of Buley Library during Harp’s tenure as a state senator between 1993-2013.