NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams spoke to GWU graduates on Sunday. He spoke to estimated crowd of 25,000 people on the National Mall. At the close of his speech he implored the graduates to improve the country. “You don’t actually have to build a rocket and take us into space but please, take us somewhere,” he said. “Please keep us moving, push us, lift us up, make us better.”
Willams never graduated from GWU. He attended community college, transferred to Catholic University and then moved on to GWU. He left to intern for President Jimmy Carter’s administration.
- Mr. Williams told the story of how he first arrived in Washington, D.C. – tagging along with a friend visiting his girlfriend for the weekend — and eventually to GW for a semester but not before first enrolling at Catholic University.
- “(Catholic) have run out of dorm space and I’m a little late in applying so they find room for me in the administrative building across the street in Trinity College. There are eight of us living on the top floor: eight men and 600 Catholic women. It was fantastic.” Watch here.
- However, Mr. Williams said with money for tuition dwindling and “the taxi meter was running,” he dropped out entirely and never went back to college.
- “I walked out of college for the last time,” he said. “I like to say to people I was in a big hurry and I needed to go make a living, and I never looked back. But the truth is, as the last college I attended, I look back every day. And I look in the mirror, and it’s one of my great regrets. Don’t forget that by being here today that you have now achieved something I was not able to achieve.”
- Mr. Williams acknowledged the heroics of people like Chuck Yeager and John Glenn and how there was no guarantee that their missions in the early days of the space program would be successful yet they did it anyway.
- “When our American astronauts needed a ride up to the International Space Station, we have to ask the Russians. We don’t have a way to get them up there ourselves. It’s a last insult to Chuck Yeager. He’s still around and with us and he can see this. And it’s an insult to John Glenn who’s still with us and living in the Washington area and he can see this. It breaks their hearts and mine.”
- Mr. Williams asked the U.S. veterans graduating to stand up for a round of applause for their service.
- “Our civilian life and our military life are going down two separate paths. Picture it as two train tracks that don’t intersect because of the small percentage of people we call upon to fight our wars, because we don’t have a draft. You can walk door to door in this country and have to go to 250 homes before you come to a home of a military family.”