Katie Couric addresses Princeton grads, particularly the single ladies

Katie-Couric-princeton_l If you've ever wondered what a commencement speaker says in this economic climate, you can read Katie Couric's full speech to Princeton's Class of 2009 on The Huffington Post. She was the first female Class Day speaker in the university's history — a fact she poked fun at by pointing out that they'd asked The West Wing star Bradley Whitford, "a fake political advisor to afake president," before a woman. Having heard Couric speak at the Friars Club roast of Matt Lauer last fall, I knew she could do saucy, and she brought it: Talking about the job market, she said, "There may be some opportunities in the Republican Party. They're stilllooking for an effective spokesman, and the only person they can findso far is Rush Limbaugh…and he won't take the job because he doesn'twant to give up his prescription plan." Listing some of Princeton's famous alumni, she referred to David Duchovny as being into "the Triple X-Files" these days and noted how apropos it is that former New York Governor EliotSpitzer is a graduate of "Woody Woo."

Of course, Couric hit the popular topics of service (in all its many meanings), hard work (she admitted that when she first did reporting for CNN in 1980, thepresident of the network told her that he never wanted to see heron-air again) and priorities ("What really matters in the end is how you've played the game oflife…that you've lived it with honor, integrity and character… oldfashioned qualities that never go out of style…whether you're a fanof Ella Fitzgerald or Lady Gaga"). But the part I found most interesting is when she addressed the young women in particular:

I'm sure you are all graduating with big career goals. You may alsohave a dream of being married and having a family, and at some pointthe career may take a backseat. There is no more challenging, rewardingor important job than being a mom. I just want to say this — sometimesdreams of domestic bliss are interrupted by reality. People getdivorced. People die. You need to protect yourself. I was very happilymarried to a wonderful man. He was diagnosed with colon cancer and ninemonths later, he was gone. I was a single mom with two very youngchildren. This was not part of the plan. Luckily, I had a career andtherefore the financial independence to support my children. Many womenin my situation are not nearly as fortunate. And while I don't mean tobe a Debbie Downer, I want you all to be prepared for the unexpectedand approach some of the big life decisions you'll be making with youreyes wide open.

Have you ever heard that sentiment expressed at a graduation before? It's sobering, yes. But something that women, and not just those with Ivy League diplomas, need to hear.

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Comments (8 total) Add your comment
  • Jimmy

    I guess my question would be: why should only women think of this? There are many men who’ve lost spouses, through divorce or death, that are raising children on their own. Any graduate should be thinking og this, not just those with a uterus.

  • Jimmy

    I guess my question would be: why should only women think of this? There are many men who’ve lost spouses, through divorce or death, that are raising children on their own. Any graduate should be thinking og this, not just those with a uterus.

  • Jimmy

    I guess my question would be: why should only women think of this? There are many men who’ve lost spouses, through divorce or death, that are raising children on their own. Any graduate should be thinking og this, not just those with a uterus.

  • Jimmy

    I guess my question would be: why should only women think of this? There are many men who’ve lost spouses, through divorce or death, that are raising children on their own. Any graduate should be thinking og this, not just those with a uterus.

  • Jimmy

    I guess my question would be: why should only women think of this? There are many men who’ve lost spouses, through divorce or death, that are raising children on their own. Any graduate should be thinking og this, not just those with a uterus.

  • A.R.

    How many men, upon graduating from college, worry about the choices between work and family? How many men worry about sacrificing career goals versus sacrificing parenting goals? The answer is not many. Our society does not promote equal-parenting thinking. While there are some couples who sit down and discuss who – if either of them – will stay home and take care of the kids, many do not. Women, statistically speaking, are the prime childcare providers. Though stay-at-home parenting is quickly becoming unfeasible in our current economy, many women put their career on the back-burner in favor of family, and that usually means loss of income (whether through not working or part-time working or the simple reality that women are not paid equally with men). Therefore, one can surmise that should a husband die, the women would be harder hit financially than men. That, in my opinion, is Katie’s point.
    P.S. – EW, fix this comment issue.

  • MikeMurphy

    AR: Not many young women have thought out those choices at graduation either. Its not always top of mind. Katy’s advice is good, however, and any couple in this day and age should discuss equal parenting, who stays at home, if any, or do you do it in shifts if your work allows. My eldest daughter decided to stay home but I recommended she start back into the work force as soon as my granddaughter started JK even if only on a part time basis so she could eventually be confident of carrying on if some sort of disaster did strike. There is a 50% chance of divorce, greater if you just live together, and other unexpected occurrences including but not limited to death.

  • A.R.

    MikeMurphy, while I think the advice you gave your daughter is great, as a recent college graduate and a female (and a gender studies student who studied these trends), I feel confident in saying that most women – upon graduating from college – have considered the choices between work and family. Maybe my idea of “thought about” is different from yours of “thought out,” but it’s still an idea that occurs to women more than men.

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