Teach For America Chair Wendy Kopp Addresses BU Grads at University’s 140th Commencement Ceremony


CONTACT: Kira Jastive, 617-358-1240 or kjastive@bu.edu

(Boston) – Speaking to nearly 6,700 Boston University graduates and 20,000 guests at today’s 140th commencement at Nickerson Field, Wendy Kopp, CEO and Co-Founder of Teach For All and Founder and Chair of Teach For America, encouraged the class of 2013 to think about what they will do to help change the world.

“There’s no how-to guide for how to change the world. But, it’s easy to get hung up by misconceptions about what it takes to make an impact.  So, today I hope to make the way forward a little less daunting by debunking a few of the myths that I’ve encountered and heard so often.

“The first myth is one I’m intimately familiar with, since it’s what most people think my story is all about. It’s the misconception that changing the world is about coming up with a big idea.

“Larry Page and Sergey Brin didn’t set out to revolutionize the Web. They were just Stanford graduate students trying to figure out how to prioritize library searches online. Once they founded Google, they didn’t stop when they had a good search engine. Their drive to try new ideas, evaluate and try again has allowed them to reinvent industries from advertising to publishing.

“That brings me to myth number two: that having an impact is about being first.

“The people who have most changed the way we see the world and live our lives – from Einstein to Steve Jobs – all understood that innovation is not primarily about coming up with new ideas. It’s about connecting good ideas to human needs — whether that means borrowing and adapting solutions that already exist or devising new ones. Our world needs more copy cats.

“The final myth about changing the world is one I often hear from new graduates — that it’s better to wait until you have more experience. It may seem from where you sit that the impact you can have at this point in your lives is negligible. But, I’m a big believer in the power of INexperience. It was the greatest asset I had when I started Teach For America. If I had known at the outset how hard it was going to be, I might never have started.”

Kopp concluded her address by telling the BU class of 2013 “I wholeheartedly agree with Anne Lamott, author of the wonderful book on writing Bird by Bird: “What people somehow forgot to mention when we were children was that we need to make messes in order to find out who we are and why we are here. So go ahead and make big scrawls and mistakes. Use up lots of paper.

“If you don’t give yourself room to explore by starting early, immersing yourself in an issue you care about and embracing the iterative process, you’ll never end up with your best draft.”

Bishop Peter D. Weaver, Executive Secretary of the Council of Bishops, kicked-off today’s formal commencement events at New England’s largest graduation ceremony, by delivering the Commencement Day baccalaureate address at Marsh Chapel. Weaver later received an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree at the main service.

Also receiving honorary degrees at Commencement were: Oscar-winning actor Morgan Freeman (Doctor of Humane Letters), and renowned biomedical engineer and the David H. Koch Institute Professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Robert S. Langer (Doctor of Science).

Adolfo Gatti (CAS ‘13) delivered the student address.

High-resolution digital photography:

2013 BU Commencement participant photos can be downloaded at the following URL (password: bu2013): http://buphotos.photoshelter.com/gallery/2013-BU-Commencement-Speaker-and-Honorary-Degree-Recipients/G00001ybJOYubJLU

2013 BU Commencement ceremony photos can be downloaded at the following gallery: http://buphotos.photoshelter.com/gallery/2013-Boston-University-Commencement/G00003HVd5mTkf48

Complete info on BU’s 140th commencement weekend, including individual convocation ceremonies, can be found at: http://www.bu.edu/commencement/.  You can also follow us on Twitter or find us on Facebook for continuous updates.

Founded in 1839, Boston University is an internationally recognized institution of higher education and research.  With more than 33,000 students, it is the fourth-largest independent university in the United States.  BU consists of 16 schools and colleges, along with a number of multi-disciplinary centers and institutes integral to the University’s research and teaching mission.  In 2012, BU joined the Association of American Universities (AAU), a consortium of 62 leading research universities in the United States and Canada.