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PBS’ Gwen Ifill: Washington Is ‘Worst Possible Example’ For Grads

When PBS’s Gwen Ifill spoke at the Wake Forest University commencement last week, she shared the typical message of continuing to learn and making change in the world. But told graduates not to look to the nation’s capital as a good example.

“Here’s a hint: don’t take your guidance from what you see in Washington,” Ifill said. “I hate to say it, it’s often the worst possible example of how to make change.”

Instead of being cynical about politics, the “Washington Week” moderator said she was “skeptical.”

Cynics, she argued, have given up on an idea while skeptics continue to ask questions and are willing to change their outlook.

On the topic of making change, Ifill said, “Real change comes from people who make up their minds that if they see something they will do something.” Really? Did Ifill just offer graduates a version the security warning, “If you see something, say something”?

Politics, she said, doesn’t always lend itself to that.

She spoke of acquiring a mission, even one as simple as “thinking about how and why you speak, not just speaking.” She then referenced Twitter, where she said a lot people “speak without thinking.” Taking a break from speaking herself, Ifill pulled out her iPhone.

“That reminds me,” she said, “I’ve got to take a picture of you guys cause this is the best possible moment ever. I’ll be Tweeting that later.”

She kept her promise and showed her followers her view from the stage later that day.

She closed her speech by talking about the importance of having a mentor and keeping promises. Ifill said that her mentor, the late NBC “MTP” newsman, Tim Russert, was the reason she moved from print journalism to TV. She credited much of her success to him.

In her final words, Ifill said laughter “holds everything together, it’s the glue.”

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