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As the notoriously materialistic decade of the '80s draws to a close, America must renew concern for its future and the future of its children, newscaster Jane Pauley said in her Class Day speech yesterday afternoon.
Pauley, an anchor on NBC's "Today Show" and mother of three, spoke before approximately 5000 people, listening under a sea of umbrellas in Tercentenary Theater Striking a tone alternating between folksiness and cynicism, Pauley played off her celebrity status to highlight the importance of children and family.
"Poor kids," she said of her two sons and daughter, "They think mommy goes to work to have her hair done and daddy's always coloring on the floor," Pauley said. Pauley is married to Pulitzer-winning cartoonist Garry Trudeau.
While acknowledging that she had become a symbol of "having it all," Pauley said that juggling a career and children involves sacrifices of which few people are aware. She said that having children has made her more conscious of the world's problems.
"You have to ask if the world is a fit place to raise children, and if the answer is no, we have a responsibility as citizens and as parents to make the world better, Pauley said.
"Well, the answer is no," she said.
Pauley said that she has always been "a worrier," but that in the age dominated by AIDS, the drug crisis and renewed racial tension, she is even more concerned for the society she said her children will grow up in.
"[When I think about] AIDS, I wonder, will they find a cure for it by the time my children are sexually active?" Pauley said.
Yet Pauley, who has said "it seems the world is becoming less and less hospitable for humanity," declared she remained confident with the younger American generation. Young people, she said, have always had a certain power in their idealism.
"Harvard in 1969 must have felt like the center of the universe," Pauley said, referring to the student strike that year in which students stormed University Hall to protest University expansion into Cambridge, the presence of Reserve Officers Training Corps on campus and the Vietnam War.
Pauley also alluded to the recent crackdown in Beijing in which thousands of unarmed students protesting for greater democracy were shot.
"Today another generation is crying, 'Don't shoot us--we are your children.' Don't the old men know you can't kill your conscience?" Pauley asked the crowd.
Pauley said that when the graduating seniors became parents themselves, they would have the dual responsibility of improving society for themselves and their children while holding jobs. She asked them to be conscious of their children.
"If the juggling act is what you're contemplating, don't think of it as juggling tennis balls," Pauley told the students. "Think of it as juggling a basketball and some eggs."
"I'm worried that we're most concerned about dropping the ball," Pauley said.
Pauley said that many Americans fail to realize the extent that careers compromise their ability to raise children. Pauley noted that in some schools in New York, there are after-school programs to help children with their homework.
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