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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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.