Graduating Ohio State students were given tips for “getting ahead” from television news anchor, political analyst and author Chris Matthews at OSU’s Spring Commencement Sunday at Ohio Stadium.
“Nobody’s coming to your door inquiring what you are like as a person, checking out what you’ve got to offer — what dreams you have when you lay your head on the pillow at night — nobody’s coming,” Matthews said. “If you want the girl or the guy or the job, you’ve got to go out there and make your move.”
Matthews, host of MSNBC’s “Hardball with Chris Matthews,” gave the Commencement address to more than 60,000 people on a partly cloudy yet breezy afternoon.
The first aspect of getting ahead in life is “showing up,” Matthews told the crowd.
“Practically everyday of your life, you have to make a decision: Do I go to this thing or don’t I?,” Matthews said. “Do I get dressed, go to the trouble — maybe risk getting out of my comfort zone — or do I go the other route of avoiding the hassle and skip the thing?”
Matthews said simply making the decision to “show up” has awarded him some of his biggest accomplishments and rewards.
“I went to dinner in Washington 36 years ago this spring — it was one of those annual black tie dinners the media have every year in Washington. The year was 1978. If I hadn’t gone, I would never had met my queen, Kathleen,” Matthews said. “I think more than occasionally how things would have gone for me had I decided to skip that event and miss Kathleen.”
Matthews married Kathleen Cunningham in 1980.
Matthews also talked about a time he had dinner in Beverly Hills with a man who afterwards invited him for drinks with another man, which eventually lead to his TV career.
“That other guy and I hit it off — it was the early ‘90s,” Matthews said. “A few years later, he was the one who got me started hosting a national TV show — I’ve been on every night since. Today, I’m at MSNBC, he’s Roger Ailes, the president of Fox News, and yes, we’re still friends.
Besides showing up, Matthews said he urges graduates to always “ask.”
“When you ask, you have to ask for the job, not the interview, the job,” Matthews said.
Matthews referenced President Barack Obama, who lost a 2000 Congressional race.
“You don’t hear much about that, why? Because of what the man who is now our president did after he took that beating,” Matthews said. “He got in his car with nothing but a map and drove out into the parts of Illinois where nobody ever voted for someone like him — certainly no one named ‘Barack Obama,’ and he got himself elected U.S. Senator. The lesson: Not everyone is going to say ‘yes’ to you, just don’t ever say ‘no’ to yourself, ever,” Matthews said.
Some students were not happy with the decision after it was announced that Chris Matthews would be speaking at commencement, The Lantern reported in a March story.
Chase Connors, a graduate who received her degree in health information management and systems who graduated Sunday, said shortly before the ceremony began she wasn’t happy that Matthews would be the commencement speaker.
“I’m conservative so I’m kind of hoping he’s not like super crazy liberal the whole time during his speech and I’d be annoyed, but I’m hoping it’s a good speech and I’ll enjoy it and I’ll have a good memory of it,” Connors said.
Other students, like graduate Brian Kuramoto who received a marketing degree Sunday, said afterwards he was indifferent about Matthews being the speaker and said afterwards he thought Matthew’s speech was apolitical and uplifting.
“He made it (the speech) relevant towards people,” Kuramoto said. “He wasn’t talking about politics, he related it toward like what commencement’s about, like graduating and moving on and getting a good job.”
Interim President Joseph Alutto offered some words of wisdom to the graduates as well.
“No matter where or when students begin their journey, they are now a part of the Ohio State family,” Alutto said. “The seasons pass and the years will roll — sometimes faster than we desire — but time and change will surely show how firm thy friendship OH-IO.”
Approximately 10,200 students received diplomas during OSU’s 406th commencement.
In addition, honorary degrees were awarded to Matthews and Dr. Barry Bloom, a scientist with expertise in infectious diseases, vaccines and health policy.
Bloom’s work includes improving vaccine approaches for tuberculosis as well as having served as an adviser to the White House on international health policy.
Distinguished Service Awards were awarded to John Gerlach Jr. and Mac Stewart.
John Gerlach Jr. is an OSU alumnus who has spent his life in philanthropy and public service, including supporting initiatives such as medical, polar and wetlands research in addition to making contributions to the OSU Wexner Medical Center and Fisher College of Business.
Stewart is also an OSU alumnus and a practicing psychologist who spent 27 years as the assistant dean of University College before becoming dean. He has served on more than 30 committees at OSU including two presidential search committees, University Senate and Council of Deans.
The total cost of Commencement was $475,000, said OSU spokeswoman Amy Murray.
Correction May 5, 2014
An earlier version of the photo captions incorrectly identified some students as receiving their master’s degrees when they in fact received doctorates.
Click below to hear Chris Matthews’ full speech: