CNN Chief Medical Correspondent Sanjay Gupta Delivers University of Michigan Spring 2012 Commencement Address – Transcript. This event took place on April 28, 2012.
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Sanjay Gupta – CNN Chief Medical Correspondent
Thank you! And congratulations champions! I am really, really thrilled to be here.
Thank you President Coleman. Thank you Regents for this extraordinary honor. I am just thrilled to be in this place at this time.
And I want to start off by telling you that simply being here is incredibly personal for me. You see, not only was the foundation for most of my life conceived in this town, I myself was likely conceived in this town. Best bet is the 17th floor of the University Towers, though no one is talking for sure, it has been 43 years.
It’s the most amazing story though. My mom was driving through this town of Ann Arbor; it was the mid-1960s. She was a newcomer to this town and to this country. It was a test for her in many ways and a test for the people of Ann Arbor as well. One young man in particular. My mom was just a passerby with no idea how much her life was about to change. Ann Arbor wasn’t a city that she even knew, and almost by sheer cosmic will her car breaks down.
Now, let me paint you a picture. She is an immigrant from the other side of the world, undaunted, but also a little overwhelmed. There are no cell phones, no Internet, no friends, and really no obvious options, very little money and just a broken down car.
She went to the closest phone booth, and decided to randomly call someone, an Indian person whose name began in the As. Smart woman. I am not certain how far through the phonebook she would have actually gone, but turns out that was a moot point, because someone answered the phone after the first ring.
Now, as it turns out the person she was trying to call wasn’t home, but his roommate, her future husband, my father, was. I can only imagine how that conversation went. If there was ever a damsel in distress story, this was it.
My dad, who graduated from the University of Michigan Engineering School in 1967, was perhaps the perfect person to help her. You see, he loved cars and he loved the car that my mom was driving, a 63 Nova, but as we learned, he loved the woman driving it even more.
It is personal for me to be here, because my own parents met in this town, just a year or two older than you are now, wild-eyed with ambition and promise and impetuous and youth, dreamers they were, as so many of you are now, in search of something they never believed they could have, but they still wanted it.
Even today in too many places around the world, there is too much persecution and prosecution. People don’t dare dream of a free society, let alone a free education, free of rules and stipulations. People don’t dare dream of the opportunity to learn simply for the sake of being a more engaged global citizen. In many places, people don’t dare dream of living, instead of just existing.
My parents came here in search of a dream and have asked me to honor their dreams by simply doing my very best. Never letting a day of my life go wasted and waking up every morning with a sense of purpose.
They taught me something else that I would like to share with all of you. Lesson number 1, always respect your elders. There is no doubt that our parents seem to go smarter as we grow older, but truth is they also sacrifice an incredible amount to allow our lives to be what they are, and it is on their shoulders that we realize our greatest triumphs. My parents are here today. I want to thank my parents and I want to ask all of you to do the same.
Thank your parents, your loved ones, your friends, your family, all the people that were here with you in many ways, worrying about you, worrying about your safety, worrying about to exams, maybe worrying about those tuition bills, worrying perhaps that you were homesick, and that you missed them, while all the time they were missing you. Worrying as my parents did that I would be just another face in the crowd unwilling or unable to realize my legacy. Maybe worrying one day they would get a call they didn’t want, perhaps from President Coleman, or maybe even the Ann Arbor police. Sorry about that mom and dad.
Michigan graduates, I come here with the full knowledge that I am but a formality in an otherwise very busy, important, monumental day, so I want to do something for you that you may otherwise forget to do; something I wished I had started doing earlier in my own life.
I want you to right now, just take a moment; just stop, reflect, and take it all in. Take all of this in. We do not think of our lives in a linear way. If I ask you to tell me about your days as a University student, it’s unlikely you would start at the beginning and describe every moment all the way to the end. We remember series of moments, memorable moments; and together these moments make up the meshwork of our lives.
So lesson number 2 graduates, make each moment count. Don’t deprive yourself. Don’t impose too many rules. Every now and then eat a real omelet or a Raisin French Toast at Angelo’s, and when you do, enjoy every last bite. Have real ice cream at Stucchi’s, and know that you are indulging and savor it. And graduates, if beer is your thing, drink a real beer at Ashley’s, and if I see you out tonight, I will even buy you one.
Recognize the moments, graduates, as they are happening and make them memorable, make moments like this count. They make up the meshwork of your lives.
I had a moment just a couple of weeks ago. I was driving around in my car with one of my daughters on a nice spring day. She was in the backseat in her booster chair, and I was watching her in the rearview mirror, imagining and wondering what life had in store for her.
Suddenly she picked up my stethoscope and she started playing with it. She is just five-years old. I watched her closely, just very excited as I thought this was the moment that she decided she wanted to be a doctor. I was going to describe this moment for years to come. She put the stethoscope in her ears and she started playing with it, and slowly brought the little piece up to her mouth, and finally she said, welcome to McDonald’s! Can I take your order?
The moments aren’t always what you expect, but it means so much to me to be invited back into your house, your very, very, very big house. I love this place so much. I have literally traveled all over the world, to every continent, more than 100 countries, and I love this place most of all. I love walking around this campus. I love the architecture of the buildings. I love the old growth trees. I love the restaurants and bars. I love the conversations taking place on campus corners every time you visit. I love the relationship between the University of Michigan and the City of Ann Arbor, and I love all of you.
Now, admittedly, since I left Michigan, you have had three Presidents, the First Lady, and the Head of the United Nations as your commencement speakers, not bad, but I had something none of them did. I am a true Blue Wolverine. I am one of you, and I am at home today in front of you.
My understanding is there is about 50,000 of you out there, which is a bigger audience than we sometimes get on CNN, seriously. This really is my home though, and it was here that I started to learn what other people have spoken about, the Michigan tradition.
It was here that I learned what it means when we sing Hail to the Champions, when we sing Hail to Leaders and Best, and what it means to be a Wolverine. It’s a Michigan tradition, not just of excellence and scholastic achievement, but excellence in life.
It’s a Michigan tradition to take risks and in the process blaze new trails. It’s a Michigan tradition to always read the directions, but not always to follow them. It’s to always prepare, but to sometimes throw that preparation in the trash and allow yourself to be surprised, honest, and genuine.