ITHACA, NY—The reporter credited with bringing the story of Pakistani schoolgirl Malala Yousafzai to the world told graduates of Ithaca College that journalism has given him some guiding principles — including “follow your curiosity” — that are useful no matter what their chosen field.
Adam B. Ellick, senior video correspondent for the New York Times, delivered the main address at the college’s 121st Commencement ceremony on Sunday, May 22.
“Curiosity means going beyond what’s familiar to you. Beyond what you already know,” said Ellick. “My big break at the Times came when an editor proposed that I move to Pakistan. I’d never studied it. I had no family there. It was not my problem. But few things excite me more than showing up in a new place and trying to figure it out.”
A 1999 Ithaca College alumnus, Ellick listed some of his other guiding principles for the 1,332 graduates and their guests, including “embrace the fear,” “cultivate a critical viewpoint,” and “show compassion, even for people you dislike.”
“There is real journalistic and personal benefit to listening to people who you abhor,” he said. “I obviously don’t condone the Taliban, their violence and their reckless murder, but I do regret not including more about their views in my film…You may be thinking, ‘Who cares what the Taliban think? They shoot schoolgirls. They’re evil.’ But opposing views don’t just go away over time. We can’t just zap entire ideologies from Earth, even though we try with drones.”
Ellick said that when he travels, he often gets asked questions about his flight.
“The flight! I get to witness revolutions and interview leaders, and they’re worried about how many stopovers, or what airline I took, or what’s the time difference. These are absolutely the least interesting parts of my trips… Please, don’t ask people about their flights. Ask them what happens once they landed. Or better yet, be on that flight yourself.”
Ellick was awarded an honorary Doctor of Letters degree. Also recognized at the ceremony were philanthropist and businessman Kenneth Fisher ’80, chairman and chief executive officer of the Fisher House Foundation, who received an honorary Doctor of Commercial Science degree; and music educator Francisco J. Núñez, founder and artistic director of the Young People’s Chorus of New York City, who received an honorary Doctor of Music degree.
Also making remarks at the ceremony were Ithaca College President Tom Rochon, Senior Class President Marlowe Padilla and Board of Trustees Chairman Tom Grape ’80.
“Your journey while at Ithaca College, as important as it is in its own right, is just prologue to the journey ahead,” Rochon told the graduates. “You will always draw upon what you have learned here at IC — about yourself, about others and about the world in general. You will always build upon the knowledge you gained here. You will test it against experience, and revise it as needed.”
Each year, graduating seniors are given a medallion inscribed with a quotation intended to say something meaningful about their time at the college and be of value in their journey ahead. This year’s medallion contains an African proverb: “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to for far, go together.”
“Sometimes in life, you will want to travel fast and you will need to travel alone,” said Rochon. “At other times you will want to travel far and you will choose to travel with others. I am sure that in your own lives there will be situations when you travel fast and times when you travel far. I wish you wisdom and happiness in both.”