6 Things John Kerry Told Yale Graduates, Including A Dig At Donald Sterling

Secretary of State and former Massachusetts Senator John Kerry gave Yale's commencement address Sunday, and had a pretty clear message — don't lose faith in government, however rocky and halting progress may seem. Kerry, a 1966 graduate of the prestigious university, spoke at length on a variety of topics, touching on his time as a student; his trepidation at standing on the stage to speak all those years ago; and the challenges that the class might face. He even managed to include a barb directed at disgraced NBA owner Donald Sterling.

But not everything needs to be so political, right? In spite of Kerry's advocacy for government as a problem-solving mechanism, it wasn't exactly a partisan affair, nor would you expect it to be. This was something of a homecoming for Kerry, he was in good spirits. Six takeaway quotes from his address...

1. He Knows He's Not a Rock Star

Thank you, thank you, thank you. I think Winston Churchill said the only reason people give a standing ovation is they desperately seek an excuse to shift their underwear. So certainly before I’ve opened my mouth, that’s true.

2. Government Works For Those Who Work At It

None of our problems are without solutions, but neither will they solve themselves. It's a matter of willpower, not capacity. It requires keeping faith with the ability of institutions to do big things when demanded.

3. Donald Sterling Is Still Awful

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You are graduating, today, as the most diverse class in Yale's long history. Or as they call it in the NBA, Donald Sterling's worst nightmare.

4. We Need to "Attack" Poverty, Lest Extremism Take Hold

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If we can’t galvanize action to recognize their felt needs – if we don’t do more to coordinate an attack on extreme poverty, provide education, opportunity, and jobs, we invite instability. And I promise you, radical extremism is all too ready to fill the vacuum left behind.

5. Courage Will Persevere

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I am literally in awe of the courage that ordinary, anonymous people demonstrate in the most difficult circumstances imaginable – in a dank African jail, a North Korean gulag, a prison in Syria or Central Asia, facing the cruelest persecution and lonely isolation. Many of these people just quietly disappear. They lose their lives. They never become an international cause or a global hero. Courage is not a strong enough word for what they do every day, and all of us need to think about that.

6. You Can't Escape Your Debts When John Kerry's On The Beat

On the last day at the State Department, [interning Yale Student Josh Rubin] asked if I could come here today and deliver a message his classmates really needed to hear. So here it goes: Jared Phillips, you still owe Josh money from that roadtrip last fall.
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Kerry's been pretty busy guy on the college circuit the last few days — he's giving another commencement speech Monday at Boston College, and he's getting protested by the Catholic Action League for his trouble.

Image: Yale University/YouTube