May 7, 2013

Grambling State Graduation Speaker Advances Speech

New York Times Columnist is Concerned for Graduates, Yet Has Hope

By Grambling State University Media Bureau

Charles M. Blow, New York Times columnistGRAMBLING, LA – Perhaps giving Grambling State University graduates a preview of his scheduled Friday commencement talk, Charles M. Blow said “finding hopeful, encouraging things to say has been exceedingly difficult, in part because the landscape at the moment — particularly for young adults — is so bleak.”

In a Saturday op-ed column in The New York Times, titled “Dear College Graduates,” Blow, a 1992 graduate of Grambling State University, noted that he will speak at his alma mater – and he’s been giving a lot of thought about what he wants to share. Grambling State University’s commencement will be held at 10 a.m. on May 10 in the Frederick C. Hobdy Assembly Center. Visitors are asked to arrive early and to park in designated locations. No banners are allowed.

Blow, who graduated magna cum laude, provided several key points he considers disturbing and frustrating:

  • “Being a college graduate is becoming less exceptional. …‘Record shares of young adults are completing high school, going to college and finishing college,’” as noted by the Pew Foundation, yet “college graduation rates are growing even more in other countries.”
  •  “Graduates are emerging with staggering amounts of debt and entering a still-sluggish job market. This is causing them to delay major life decisions, like marriage or buying a home or even moving out of their parents’ home.”
  • “Emerging markets, like China and India, have become major competitors for exportable jobs.”
  • “Income inequality between top earners and the rest of America has risen.”
  • “(T)he cost of basic goods has soared. For example, when I graduated from college the average price of a gallon of gas was about $1 (adjusted for inflation, that would still be less than $2), and it’s currently nearing $4. Some people now have to make desperate choices: a tank of gas, a bag of groceries or a bottle of medicine.”
  • “Our politics have become polarized to the point of paralysis.”

Blow said despite these serious issues, he has hope. “What gives me hope is that despite this dire environment, young people remain more optimistic than anyone else. Some of that may simply be the intrinsic glow of youth, but I believe that with this generation, something more is afoot.”

“I plan to tap into that optimism on Friday, and I hope to reflect some of it back at those beaming faces under square hats,” he wrote. The complete column can be read at

Blow, 42, is excited about visiting his alma mater. "I’m thrilled, and humbled, to have been asked to deliver the commencement address,” said Blow. “This is undoubtedly the most meaningful speech — on a personal level — that I’ve ever been asked to give.”

New York Times readers and television viewers may recognize the opinionated journalist. He makes frequent appearances on CNN and MSNBC, commenting on a variety of issues. He regularly uses social media, especially Twitter. Thousands of readers and viewers follow him at @charleshblow.

“Grambling is the place that nurtured me and allowed me to grow and blossom,” he added. “At Grambling I learned that potential is without limits when it is bound up with a thirst for excellence and a fierce determination.”

With his newspaper job and two television commentary jobs, Blow still finds time to write. He has an upcoming book in production with Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, scheduled to be published in 2014. Blow has been a member of the Society of News Design (SND) and the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ). The Louisiana native joined The Times in 1994.

Sandra Lee, Blow’s mass communication mentor, helped nurture him and helped him find his visual voice. “He was a great student,” she said in an interview. “He was always eager to learn…he was always on top and went above and beyond.”

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Media Contact:
Will Sutton



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