kelly corrigan pointing at crowd for commencement

New York Times bestselling author and PBS host offers grads 67 reasons for optimism

May 10, 2022


Kelly Corrigan — author, PBS host, podcaster, and 1989 grad of the University of Richmond — started her commencement address by reminding the graduates that not too long ago, she was in their seats.

“I was you,” Corrigan said. “And let me tell you, Westhampton College was a lot of bad perms in the ‘80s.”

Laughter and applause rippled throughout the Robins Center as Corrigan, who received an honorary doctor of letters degree as part of commencement Sunday, also reminded the audience that despite the world around them, there are reasons for optimism. She listed 67 of them in her speech.

“Optimism we are told by researchers and social scientists is required for progress,” she said. “But the world has not exactly been teeming with good news since you entered consciousness. You deserve better. However, if you look again, there is better. But bad news sells, and we evolve to overweigh the negative, so better doesn’t get much airtime, until now.”

Then, she listed topics ranging from mRNA vaccines to Dolly Parton as reasons to be optimistic. She also included steps forward on the University of Richmond campus, including the Student Center for Equity and Inclusion, the renaming of campus buildings, and the introduction of President Kevin Hallock’s favorite cereal, Fruity Pebbles, in the dining hall.

“I’m not negating the news,” Corrigan said. “I’m just augmenting the story with other true things.”

Her final reason for optimism: the class of 2022.

“You. Clever, gritty, ready, open, flexible, you,” she said. “Armed with this education and this network, you will be enough. It’s an epic journey, which means tragedy and periods of hopelessness, peril, cruelty, stupidity, and missed chances. But also, astonishing achievement, love, and beauty. It’s there, I promise. Look for it. Study it. And make more of it.”