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 Carolina Commencement 2003

Actor Bill Cosby, donning a Carolina sweatshirt and hat, brought his special brand of humor to Chapel Hill while speaking passionately about education during his May 18 Commencement remarks. Cosby went back to college after achieving much of his professional success to earn M.A. and Ph.D. degrees in education. Carolina awarded honorary degrees to Cosby, Drew S. Days III, former Solicitor General of the United States; Reynolds Price, award-winning author and Duke professor; and C.D. (Dick) Spangler Jr., a Carolina alumnus and president emeritus of the 16-campus University of North Carolina. About 30,000 graduates, family members and friends attended the annual Kenan Stadium ceremony. New to Commencement weekend was the first Graduate School doctoral hooding ceremony in Polk Place.

Selected Excerpts -- Bill Cosbyís Commencement Speech

"Ö I want to tell you how much I love you. I want to tell you how much we all love you. And I want to tell you right now, Class of 2003, whatever is outside I want you to go inside, inside and discover something that you may have been running away from up until today. And that is your own integrity. It takes a lot of work to go in and get it. It takes a lot of honesty to go in and get it, touch it, feel it, smell it, and be it."

"Be a person who believes in oneís self. Be a person who believes that you should, through hard work, have an earned position to move in and up. And not to just look at others passing you by and living through them Ė to live through yourself. Stop thinking of yourself as small because we, your friends, your relatives, your loved ones, your parents, weíve told you over and over what we see."

"So many times, Class of 2003, you never wanted to hear it because it might mean that you have to look inside and find something that youíve made frightening. You didnít give yourself a chance to see whether or not you were going to crash and burn. You made it so before you even tried. And Iím saying to all of you now as a friend, and as someone who loves you, that your integrity, your honesty, your responsibility, you need to check it and bring it out. And the way to start it is to trust all of these people that youíve come in contact with since they of not even knowing you were alive and you canít remember it. Because these are the people who have told you over and over the truth."

"Ö Some of them havenít even gone to college and they are here today for you with hope. I donít want you to fool them anymore. Ö I want you to tell them the truth. I want you to hug them when you see them today and give them your heart and your love. Iím serious about that because some of these people, they didnít finish high school, for whatever reason. Those people are not dumb because they can recognize gold. They can recognize a worthful person. And they saw more in you than you saw in yourself. That makes them beautiful people because they love you."

"Today is a day for you to cheer and throw the beach ball back and forth, but youíve got to come outside of this stadium. This is not a protection area anymore. Youíre out. You belong to us now. And some of us are not going to tell you how wonderful you are when you arenít. Ö And youíre going to find out that some tricks are being played outside. Youíre going to feel that youíre not wanted in a lot of places. So youíre going to want to come back home, disgusted. Stay out there."


Actor and education advocate Bill Cosby offers advice to Carolina graduates during a May 18 Commencement ceremony in Kenan Stadium.

Bill Cosby acknowledges a standing ovation following  his Commencement speech.

New Carolina alumni turn their tassels to make graduation official.

A new graduate holds up a sign thanking her parents.


Robert Berry receives his hood during the inaugural Graduate School doctoral hooding ceremony May 17 in Polk Place. The event honors a long-standing tradition in graduate education that symbolizes the completion of doctoral training.

Ph.D. candidate Fiona Mills, left, and her faculty adviser Dr. Trudier Harris-Lopez watch during Carolina's first doctoral hooding ceremony.

Photos by University Photographer Dan Sears
For more information about Commencement, www.unc.edu/commencement/