By Mandi Bierly
Updated June 02, 2009 at 08:01 PM EDT

If you’ve ever wondered what a commencement speaker says in this economic climate, you can read Katie Couric’s full speech to Princeton’s Class of 2009 on The Huffington Post. She was the first female Class Day speaker in the university’s history — a fact she poked fun at by pointing out that they’d asked The West Wing star Bradley Whitford, “a fake political advisor to afake president,” before a woman. Having heard Couric speak at the Friars Club roast of Matt Lauer last fall, I knew she could do saucy, and she brought it: Talking about the job market, she said, “There may be some opportunities in the Republican Party. They’re stilllooking for an effective spokesman, and the only person they can findso far is Rush Limbaugh…and he won’t take the job because he doesn’twant to give up his prescription plan.” Listing some of Princeton’s famous alumni, she referred to David Duchovny as being into “the Triple X-Files” these days and noted how apropos it is that former New York Governor EliotSpitzer is a graduate of “Woody Woo.”

Of course, Couric hit the popular topics of service (in all its many meanings), hard work (she admitted that when she first did reporting for CNN in 1980, thepresident of the network told her that he never wanted to see heron-air again) and priorities (“What really matters in the end is how you’ve played the game oflife…that you’ve lived it with honor, integrity and character… oldfashioned qualities that never go out of style…whether you’re a fanof Ella Fitzgerald or Lady Gaga”). But the part I found most interesting is when she addressed the young women in particular: I’m sure you are all graduating with big career goals. You may alsohave a dream of being married and having a family, and at some pointthe career may take a backseat. There is no more challenging, rewardingor important job than being a mom. I just want to say this — sometimesdreams of domestic bliss are interrupted by reality. People getdivorced. People die. You need to protect yourself. I was very happilymarried to a wonderful man. He was diagnosed with colon cancer and ninemonths later, he was gone. I was a single mom with two very youngchildren. This was not part of the plan. Luckily, I had a career andtherefore the financial independence to support my children. Many womenin my situation are not nearly as fortunate. And while I don’t mean tobe a Debbie Downer, I want you all to be prepared for the unexpectedand approach some of the big life decisions you’ll be making with youreyes wide open.

Have you ever heard that sentiment expressed at a graduation before? It’s sobering, yes. But something that women, and not just those with Ivy League diplomas, need to hear.

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