Fox News Anchor Shepard Smith Challenges Graduates to Be Ready for ’10 Seconds Later’

Watch video of Shepard Smith’s commencement speech.

OXFORD, Miss. – Dramatic change often comes swiftly – in as
little as 10 seconds – and how people react to such
situations determines their success and legacy, Fox News
Channel anchor Shepard Smith told University of Mississippi
graduates Saturday morning in the Grove.

“There will be moments for which you cannot prepare, but
moments for which you must be ready,” said Smith, speaking
at the university’s 155th commencement. “When they come,
you’ll have a choice: you can be beaten back, you can be
frightened or you can rise to meet those moments.”

This year’s graduating class included 2,148 candidates for
degrees. Several thousand graduates and family members
observed the speeches and academic pageantry on a breezy,
overcast morning.

Following the general ceremony, the College of Liberal Arts
and seven schools held separate ceremonies across campus to
present baccalaureate, master’s, doctor of pharmacy and law
diplomas. Activities originally planned for the afternoon
were moved closer to noon because thunderstorms were
forecast for later in the day. Recipients of doctor of
philosophy degrees were honored at a hooding ceremony
Friday evening in the Ford Center for the Performing Arts.

Smith, a native of Holly Springs, is the country’s
top-rated cable news anchor. The Ole Miss alumnus anchors
the network’s signature “The Fox Report” evening newscast
and afternoon news-interview program “Studio B.” He has won
acclaim for his reporting, particularly his live coverage
of Hurricane Katrina’s aftermath in south Mississippi and
New Orleans.


Shepard Smith speaks to the class of ’08 in the Grove. UM photo by Robert Jordan

In March, he broadcast live from the Oxford Square for two
days as part of the network’s coverage of the Mississippi
primaries. He plans to return in September to cover the
first presidential debate of 2008, to be broadcast live
from the Ford Center for the Performing Arts.

In a speech punctuated with rah-rah enthusiasm for Ole Miss
and his home state, Smith acknowledged that he left the
university a few credit hours short of graduation, but
credited the “push this amazing place gave me” for his

“I’ve watched the sun rise over the deck of an aircraft
carrier in the Persian Gulf,” he said. “I’ve spoken with
presidents and interviewed kings. I’ve gotten up in
Santorini and Split, and bedded down in Dubai and Dubrovnik
and Amman and Amsterdam. But when I have a moment to
breathe, when I have time to rest and relax and reflect, I
want to be here.”

Although he has often been asked to give commencement
speeches, Smith said he had always declined because he
wanted to deliver his first at his alma mater.

Quoting Mississippi authors William Faulkner and Eudora
Welty, he urged graduates to strive for success even when
failure seems likely. He also warned of unforeseen

“On a normal day, 10 seconds later, a loved one can drop to
a knee and say those words you so wanted to hear, but now
you can’t believe it’s happening,” he said. “On a normal
day, 10 seconds later, the phone can ring and that job is
there halfway across the country. Ten seconds later, Tyree
can can catch a pass between his hand and his helmet – the
great escape can happen, and our guy can be the Super Bowl

“On a normal day, with a perfect blue sky on a beautiful
September morning, 10 seconds later, you look up and the
biggest building you’ve ever been in is on fire. And
there’s about to be a new normal.”

Smith cited two examples of national stories in which
ordinary people performed acts of heroism: Hurricane
Katrina and its aftermath, and last year’s collapse of the
Interstate 35 bridge over the Mississippi River in
Minneapolis. He painted a vivid picture of the latter

“In the midst of it all, a yellow school bus sat perched on
a section of that broken bridge,” he recalled. “Inside were
52 little boys and girls. They were just coming back from a
day at the water park and ‘all of a sudden.’ They were all
5 or 6 years old. As flames burned on that span still
shifting, and as twisted metal and shattered concrete
groaned in protest, heroes emerged.

“Ordinary men and women came out of the smoke and ran into
the fire because there were little boys and girls on that
bus. On that day, 13 people died on that bridge But every
single child on that bus went home.”

Charging graduates to be the “guardians of good,” Smith
wished them luck.

“Ten seconds later has just arrived,” he said. “And you are

During the ceremony, Gregory Schirmer, professor of
English, was honored as recipient of the 2008 Elsie M. Hood
Outstanding Teacher Award, presented annually to the
campuswide outstanding teacher.

Sam Shu-Wi Wang, professor of mechanical engineering and
director of the National Center for Computational
Hydroscience and Engineering, received the university’s
inaugural Distinguished Research and Creative Achievement

The university also recognized the winners of this year’s
Frist Student Service Awards: Aileen Ajootian, chair and
associate professor of classics and art, and Marc
Showalter, director of the University Counseling Center and
assistant professor of education.