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Chris Matthews urges graduates ‘to go out there and make your move’ at Ohio State Spring Commencement

Graduating Ohio State students were given tips for “getting ahead” from television news anchor, political analyst and author Chris Matthews at OSU’s Spring Commencement Sunday at Ohio Stadium.

“Nobody’s coming to your door inquiring what you are like as a person, checking out what you’ve got to offer — what dreams you have when you lay your head on the pillow at night — nobody’s coming,” Matthews said. “If you want the girl or the guy or the job, you’ve got to go out there and make your move.”

Matthews, host of MSNBC’s “Hardball with Chris Matthews,” gave the Commencement address to more than 60,000 people on a partly cloudy yet breezy afternoon.

The first aspect of getting ahead in life is “showing up,” Matthews told the crowd.

“Practically everyday of your life, you have to make a decision: Do I go to this thing or don’t I?,” Matthews said. “Do I get dressed, go to the trouble — maybe risk getting out of my comfort zone — or do I go the other route of avoiding the hassle and skip the thing?”

Matthews said simply making the decision to “show up” has awarded him some of his biggest accomplishments and rewards.

“I went to dinner in Washington 36 years ago this spring — it was one of those annual black tie dinners the media have every year in Washington. The year was 1978. If I hadn’t gone, I would never had met my queen, Kathleen,” Matthews said. “I think more than occasionally how things would have gone for me had I decided to skip that event and miss Kathleen.”

Matthews married Kathleen Cunningham in 1980.

Matthews also talked about a time he had dinner in Beverly Hills with a man who afterwards invited him for drinks with another man, which eventually lead to his TV career.

“That other guy and I hit it off — it was the early ‘90s,” Matthews said. “A few years later, he was the one who got me started hosting a national TV show — I’ve been on every night since. Today, I’m at MSNBC, he’s Roger Ailes, the president of Fox News, and yes, we’re still friends.

Besides showing up, Matthews said he urges graduates to always “ask.”

“When you ask, you have to ask for the job, not the interview, the job,” Matthews said.

Matthews referenced President Barack Obama, who lost a 2000 Congressional race.

“You don’t hear much about that, why? Because of what the man who is now our president did after he took that beating,” Matthews said. “He got in his car with nothing but a map and drove out into the parts of Illinois where nobody ever voted for someone like him — certainly no one named ‘Barack Obama,’ and he got himself elected U.S. Senator. The lesson: Not everyone is going to say ‘yes’ to you, just don’t ever say ‘no’ to yourself, ever,” Matthews said.

Some students were not happy with the decision after it was announced that Chris Matthews would be speaking at commencement, The Lantern reported in a March story.

Chase Connors, a graduate who received her degree in health information management and systems who graduated Sunday, said shortly before the ceremony began she wasn’t happy that Matthews would be the commencement speaker.

“I’m conservative so I’m kind of hoping he’s not like super crazy liberal the whole time during his speech and I’d be annoyed, but I’m hoping it’s a good speech and I’ll enjoy it and I’ll have a good memory of it,” Connors said.

Other students, like graduate Brian Kuramoto who received a marketing degree Sunday, said afterwards he was indifferent about Matthews being the speaker and said afterwards he thought Matthew’s speech was apolitical and uplifting.

“He made it (the speech) relevant towards people,” Kuramoto said. “He wasn’t talking about politics, he related it toward like what commencement’s about, like graduating and moving on and getting a good job.”

Interim President Joseph Alutto offered some words of wisdom to the graduates as well.

“No matter where or when students begin their journey, they are now a part of the Ohio State family,” Alutto said. “The seasons pass and the years will roll — sometimes faster than we desire — but time and change will surely show how firm thy friendship OH-IO.”

Approximately 10,200 students received diplomas during OSU’s 406th commencement.

In addition, honorary degrees were awarded to Matthews and Dr. Barry Bloom, a scientist with expertise in infectious diseases, vaccines and health policy.

Bloom’s work includes improving vaccine approaches for tuberculosis as well as having served as an adviser to the White House on international health policy.

Distinguished Service Awards were awarded to John Gerlach Jr. and Mac Stewart.

John Gerlach Jr. is an OSU alumnus who has spent his life in philanthropy and public service, including supporting initiatives such as medical, polar and wetlands research in addition to making contributions to the OSU Wexner Medical Center and Fisher College of Business.

Stewart is also an OSU alumnus and a practicing psychologist who spent 27 years as the assistant dean of University College before becoming dean. He has served on more than 30 committees at OSU including two presidential search committees, University Senate and Council of Deans.

The total cost of Commencement was $475,000, said OSU spokeswoman Amy Murray.

Correction May 5, 2014

An earlier version of the photo captions incorrectly identified some students as receiving their master’s degrees when they in fact received doctorates. 

Click below to hear Chris Matthews’ full speech:


  1. I am embarrassed for my Alma mater in their choosing of hyper-partisan and Uber-Liberal Chris Matthews. I can not imagine a worse person to speak to young men and women on such a momentous occasion. Whoever approved of this choice should resign immediately.

  2. Mr. Burkey, though you may not have approved of the speaker, life goes on. The world will not end just because Chris Matthews was the Spring 2014 Commencement speaker. Let it go!

  3. Sounds like the graduates heard a great speech.

  4. I agree with Mr. Burkey. It’s a sad day for Ohio State.

  5. Everything Is Not Political

    I can imagine a worse person to speak to them…Mr. Scott Burkey.

  6. Ghost of Walt Seifert

    Scott Burkey has a right to express his dissatisfaction. Don’t shout him down please. Thank you. As to whom made the decision to select today’s speaker, it was Provost Joe Steinmetz. And he did so unilaterally, which is unacceptable and reprehensible.

  7. Next time I get the request from the school of business at OSU asking for $, I will answer with a laugh. No way would they have Bill Oreily or Hannity. Having a hatred filled liberal that spews hate every night at half the US population because they are conservative speak shows me my Alma Mater and I disagree heavily. Sadly the academic types in America are 99% liberal and kids don’t see the other side of the story until they start paying for bills and run a company.

  8. Whiners Gonna Whine

    Wow. Hyper-partisan? Hello pot, meet kettle. What about this speech exactly was über liberal??!! Perhaps making all future commencement speakers pass your political litmus test would be more to your liking? Sadly this is so typical…

  9. On December 1, 2009, preceding Obama’s speech announcing a troop increase in Afghanistan, Matthews criticized the president for choosing the United States Military Academy as his venue, referring to it as “the enemy camp.”

  10. No, they can have anyone they want speak. It’s their right. Just like we get our opinion here. I just don’t have to support it with my money. He is uber partisan and just got a giant check. He isn’t a public servant. He is a media agenda maker that splits the nation everyday. Every night he puts out an us vs them mentality.

  11. I was one of the first to take offense at the selection of Mr. Matthews as commencement speaker, but if the excerpts quoted here are a fair representation of the overall tone and message, then he proved to be a surprisingly appropriate choice.

  12. Matthews gave an excellent speech that was not political in nature at all. His key points were “showing up” and “asking.” It was very appropriate for the occasion. I have never cared for Chris Matthews but I was impressed by him today. He showed that he understood what the moment was about and spoke to it appropriately.

  13. In that first picture: those are PhD candidates, not masters recipients.

  14. I am a moderate Republican and my son graduated yesterday from OSU. The speech Chris Matthews gave was heartfelt and full of the kind of advice all successful professionals, regardless of their political leanings, should be sharing with today’s graduates. At dinner, I could hear my son processing some of Chris’s advice as he prepared for an job interview today. It was a well-organized, meaningful ceremony and a great day. Thanks, OSU!

  15. In all of the pictures with the graduates in the red gowns, those are doctoral graduates — not masters.

  16. I was a graduate yesterday, and really did not care one way or the other pertaining to Chris Matthews. His speech, however, was very inspiring. He brought up several examples of politicians who did not “throw the towel in” as he put it. He mentioned Regan and Clinton both. His speech was good, and he left his poloitical ties out of it. Great speaker for the situation.

  17. What poor taste to invite the very nasty race-baiting Chris Matthews to speak. Did that inspire anyone?

  18. Wow. After at least 4 years of college education, apparently many missed the life course on getting a thick skin. You know, whiners, every person that you will be forced to hear in the workplace and throughout your life are not always going to be people you agree with. In fact, you will find it to be just the opposite. For those of us that had to sit through Spiro Agnew (yes, THAT Spiro Agnew), somehow we survived without throwing a hissy or needing therapy. It’s you graduation! Who cares what hack the university makes you sit quietly and listen too. You are not being required to sign up for MSNC. Jeesh!

  19. With either the willfully blind approval or the willful ignorance of the judiciary the right has killed & stolen several of my pets and routinely shoot energy weaponry at me and my pets. Recent harm to animals include: two kittens from a pregnant stray i took in were killed a few days ago. The remaining two, just 3 weeks old, shake their head as government operatives shoot them with energy weaponry.

  20. They shot the eye out or removed the eye of a large really good natured stray at the port, hobbled another cat at the port, shooting it with energy weaponry, and routinely kill and leave dead animals in my path. A few years ago one of them threatened, prophetic, ‘we’ll just kill a cat every so often’, in so many words. This has continued despite my calls to the police, the FBI, Congress, and my petitions in court. In the usual case, it appears that the right goes to a judicial crony for a ruling permitting them to harm animals to retaliate against me for my free speech. There’s no serious argument but that they interfered with my personal life and economic options for 3 decades, so their solution to my noting it is to kill animals. Makes perfect sense right? It does if you’re a sociopathic criminal, criminally stupid, and hawkish. Invariably their lies are exposed and the wrongfulness of the harm is clear to everyone, though not until the animals have been maimed or killed. There is really only one solution, and that’s to disempower them politically.

  21. This comes on the heels of Condeleeza Rice feeling the need to bow out of her planned commencement speech at Rutgers because of the left-wing thug brigade possibly disrupting the event. What a disgrace. It’s good to read that Matthews actually kept his hate-spewing MSNBC persona away from the event, but I still think choosing him to give the commencement address was idiotic.

  22. I wasn’t a fan of the choice either, but he gave a good, non-partisan speech. Calm down people, look in the mirror to see who is enabling partisanship to divide this nation.

  23. What a sad state of affairs we are in. The best he could come up with is ” show up” not do something great,not overachieve but just show up. That is very sad. The expectation of the liberal side of our country is ” show up and if that doesn’t work we will take care of you.
    It makes me sick

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