May 15, 2010
NBC News anchor Lester Holt gives keynote speech at
MERCED — Award-winning broadcast journalist
Lester Holturged some 321 graduates of the University of
California, Merced to become free thinkers and critical consumers
of news during his keynote address at the university’s annual
In his first address at a university commencement, the weekend
anchor of “NBC Nightly News” and co-anchor of the weekend edition
of “TODAY” also reflected on dramatic, technology-driven changes
affecting the news business and traditional news sources.
“You leave here with open minds filled with fresh knowledge,”
Holt said. “My challenge to you is for you to challenge us and help
raise the level of our public discourse. Make us smarter. Force us
to open our minds and work through our issues. Teach us to be free
thinkers. And even hold those of us in the news media accountable.
I know you can make us better.”
Holt discussed how the news industry is changing and explained
his responsibility as a journalist and the graduates’
responsibility as citizens.
“Today we all are enjoying the fruits of the digital era,” he
said. “Millions of sources of information coming at us at
lightning-fast speed. That technology has also democratized the
gathering and dissemination of news, allowing for ‘citizen
journalists’ to make their mark, even usurping the role of
mainstream news organizations at times.”
Among those who participated in the ceremony, which marked the
end of UC Merced’s fifth academic year, were six students scheduled
to receive a master’s degree and 12 earning a doctoral degree.
Graduation candidates represented 39 California counties, along
with two other states (Maryland and Washington) and four countries
(Germany, France, Russia and Lebanon).
“I feel a special kinship with the Class of 2010,” UC Merced
Kangsaid. “Like many of you, I started at UC Merced during its
second year of operation. You demonstrated a pioneering spirit by
choosing to attend a new university, and you will always be a part
of the campus’ history.”
During the ceremony, Kang awarded UC Merced’s distinguished
Chancellor’s Medal to UC Regents Odessa Johnson and Frederick Ruiz
for their support to the university.
Jill Tsai, who is receiving a bachelor’s degree in biological
sciences, spoke on behalf of this year’s class.
“At other universities, students walk through sand in the
footprints of the students before them, merely riding on the
coattails of their predecessors,” Tsai said. “At UC Merced, we have
carved through wet concrete to create our own path, a path that
will forever be engrained into the foundation of this campus. The
college experience for future students will be based on what we
have created. No one can ever take away that accomplishment.”
Tsai went on to describe how the loss of classmate Hector
Barrera-Barraza, who died in an accident on campus in 2007, bonded
the Class of 2010 forever.
“Even if you didn’t personally know him, you still felt Hector’s
loss like a missing limb, and that is a true testament to our
camaraderie,” she said. “And though we will always grieve his loss,
we also know that he is looking on proudly at our accomplishments.
We go forward to honor his memory.”
To read remarks by speakers at UC Merced’s 2010 commencement:
UC Merced Chancellor Steve Kang:
Jill Tsai, Class of 2010:
For highlights from Commencement 2010, visit