Spring commencement services were held across North Carolina over the weekend, with the Class of 2015 hearing from scientists, journalists, leaders in education and philanthropists. Here are a few excerpts from the more notable speeches:

Brokaw at HPU

Tom Brokaw (Photo: High Point University)

“No other country in the world is graduating as many people in higher education as the United Stated in the history of mankind. You graduates are the best educated generation this country has ever produced, which makes you unique in global history. For that you should be proud, but you know you have obligations that come with that as well.”

“Don’t be afraid to be disruptive; find new ways to do the conventional and the useful; and don’t run from big and bold challenges. Be the generation that sees a friend or a stranger for who they are and not just for the color of their skin.”
— Veteran journalist Tom Brokaw speaking at High Point University

“The most vital attribute in the world you’re about to enter is not critical thinking or fluency in another language. It’s about whether you’re able to see the world through another’s eyes.”

“The key factor of success for any society going forward is what percentage of its people are change-makers. It’s the new literacy, and empathy is the foundation of that new way of being.”

–U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan speaking at NC Central University

ROSS“Will you and the life you lived matter? Will you live your life in a manner that embodies and reflects ECU’s motto, ‘To Serve?’ Will you do your part to improve the quality of life for others and help your community move forward to something better?”

“There is nothing wrong with making money; in fact, I encourage it so you can donate back to East Carolina, but the most significant opportunity that life presents us is the opportunity to matter in the lives of others.”
— UNC system president Tom Ross speaking at East Carolina University

“It’s important to reject the notion that we can’t really understand the views of others or their suffering or dismay. What problems are not soluble by coming together? None.”
–Paul Farmer, co-founder of the international nonprofit Partners in Health speaking at Duke University

“When we think of education, we often think of it as preparing us to do something, but an institution like UNC Asheville, which is steeped in the liberal arts, is geared toward allowing us to be something: to be enlightened, to be aware, to be involved, to be curious, to be interested, and hopefully, especially as you go into the job market, to be interesting. Today, I want you to think less about what you want to do after this morning’s commencement and more about what you want to be. … But the good news is this: That the thing you want to be, I’d be willing to bet you already are.”
— Best-selling novelist and distinguished alumnus Wiley Cash speaking at UNC-Asheville

“Doing what you love — pursuing your own path — is often the most unsettling option at the outset…The paths that others have traveled before you, those are the paths that have greater visibility. They appear lower risk. They play better in conversations with the aunts, uncles and neighbors. But don’t fall for it. You are better than that and have the strength to go your own way.”
Jason Kilar, the former founding CEO of Hulu speaking at UNC-Chapel Hill


Across North Carolina this weekend, thousands of college graduates will be collecting their diplomas and entering what they hope will be an improving job market.

NC State University Chancellor Randy Woodson is mindful of not only what the students have accomplished, but the hard work from his faculty and staff under tight state budget constraints to help the Class of 2015 reach this goal.

“I think the UNC system has lost over $120 million in the last few years, some of which has been made up by tuition, but not all of it,” explained Woodson. “So, as a result our funding per-student has gone down over the last five years as a system, which is a challenge.”

Gov. Pat McCrory’s latest budget proposal calls for the UNC system to trim another two percent from the bottom line, about $50 million. House leaders will present their budget blueprint for the state and the UNC system the week of May 18th.

Chancellor Woodson joins us this weekend on NC’s Policy Watch’s News & Views with Chris Fitzsimon to discuss the need to invest in higher education, the impact of rising tuition rates, and some recent good news regarding NCSU’s scholarship endowment.

Click below to hear a preview of our radio interview with NC State’s Chancellor.
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For more on this weekend’s graduation activities with their notable commencement speakers, check out our list below:

Saturday, May 9th:
North Carolina State University
Commencement Speaker: France A. Córdova, National Science Foundation Director
North Carolina Central University
Commencement Speaker:  Arne Duncan, U.S. Secretary of Education
Elizabeth City State University
Commencement Speaker:  Gov. Pat McCrory
UNC School of the Arts
Commencement Speaker:Cheryl Boone Isaacs, Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences President
University of North Carolina at Asheville
Commencement Speaker: Wiley Cash, Novelist
Shaw University 
Commencement Speaker: Congressman G.K. Butterfield

Sunday, May 10th:
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Commencement Speaker: Jason Kilar, former CEO of Hulu


The state Board of Education holds its monthly meeting in Greenville Wednesday where members are expected to discuss giving an additional 17 charter schools preliminary approval to open in 2016.

This latest expansion comes on the heels of a new study by scholars at Duke University that finds that the rapid growth of charter schools across North Carolina has led to a growing segregation by race.

helen-ladd_1Dr. Helen Ladd, one of the co-authors of the study, discussed the findings and implications last weekend in a radio interview with NC Policy Watch’s Chris Fitzsimon. Click below to hear the full segment:

Schools recommended by the NC Charter Schools Advisory Board (CSAB) to receive their preliminary charter include:
1.  Cape Fear Preparatory Academy — New Hanover County
2.  Cardinal Charter Academy at Knightdale — Wake County
3.  Central Wake Charter High School — Wake County
4.  Charlotte Classical School — Mecklenburg County
5.  FernLeaf Community Charter School — Henderson County
6.  Gateway Charter Academy — Guilford County
7.  Kannapolis Charter Academy — Cabarrus County
8.  Leadership Academy for Young Women — New Hanover County
9.  Mallard Creek STEM Academy — Mecklenburg County
10.  Matthews-Mint Hill Charter Academy — Mecklenburg County
11.  Mooresville Charter Academy — Iredell County
12.  Peak Charter Academy — Wake County
13.  Pine Springs Preparatory Academy — Wake County
14.  Town Center Charter High School — Gaston County
15.  Union Day School — Union County
16.  Union Preparatory Academy at Indian Trail — Union County
17.  Unity Classical School — Mecklenburg County

There are currently 146 charter schools operating across North Carolina. The proposed charter schools being recommended by the CSAB are slated to open in the 2016-17 scholastic year.

Source: NC Charter Schools Advisory Board (CSAB)

Source: NC Charter Schools Advisory Board (CSAB)


Commentary, News

# 1 – Stop HB465/Broken Promises Tour  – Planned Parenthood, NARAL Pro-Choice NC and Progress NC Action kick off the Stop HB465 Tour with at least six opposition events planned this week. she decides

HB 465 would triple the already unnecessary waiting period, making it more difficult for women to access what is a safe and legal medical procedure. Planned Parenthood, NARAL Pro-Choice NC and Progress NC Action call this bill “government interference at its worst.” This legislation interferes with a woman’s ability to make the best health care decisions for herself and her family.

During his campaign for Governor, Pat McCrory promised that he wouldn’t sign further restrictions on abortion into law. Participants will urge Governor McCrory to publicly pledge to veto HB 465 and any other restrictions on a woman’s right to choose. Here’s the rundown of this week’s tour stops:

  • Charlotte, NC: Pearle Street Park (1100 Baxter Street), Monday, May 4th at 12:30 PM
  • Asheville, NC: Pack Square Park Amphitheater (60 Court Plaza), Monday, May 4th at 5:30 PM
  • Greensboro, NC: Old Guilford Co. Courthouse (301 W. Market Street), Wednesday, May 6th at 12:30 PM
  • Greenville, NC: Pitt Co. Courthouse (100 W. Third Street), Thursday, May 7th at 12:30 PM
  • New Bern, NC: Craven Co. Government Building (406 Craven Street), Thursday, May 7th at 4:00 PM
  • Wilmington, NC: Wilmington City Hall (102 N 3rd St), Friday, May 8th at 11:00 AM
Dorothea Dix Property and Raleigh Skyline

Dorothea Dix Property and Raleigh Skyline

# 2 Dix Park a Done Deal – Governor Pat McCrory and the N.C. Council of State are expected to  finalize on Tuesday the $52 million deal selling the Dorothea Dix campus to the City of Raleigh.  The council’s vote is the final vote needed to make the 308-acre Dix campus a destination park; legislative approval is not required.

Readers may recall state senators blocked the sale when first proposed by then Gov. Bev. Pedue, and only recently agreed to abandon a second bill they filed to delay the project.

# 3 Equality NC Lobby Day – Last year brought the freedom to marry to North Carolina, but there’s a lot of work to do before North Carolina has full LGBT equality! Equality NC’s Day of Action is all about empowering LGBT and allied North Carolinians to create positive change; meet legislators and discuss bills important to the LGBT community; and attend workshops hosted by ENC’s Electeds for Equality and fellow activists. For a schedule of events, visit:

Second chances# 4 Second Chance Lobby Day – The NC Second Chance Alliance hosts its Second Chance Lobby Day on Tuesday in support of promoting opportunities for North Carolinians with criminal records.

The Second Chance Alliance is a statewide alliance of advocacy organizations, service providers, faith-based organizations, community leaders, and directly-impacted and concerned citizens that aim to promote policies that remove barriers to productive citizenship for individuals with criminal records. The lobby day will address current legislation being considered by North Carolina lawmakers, including SB 362: Amend Certain Expunction Laws.

The Second Chance Alliance will also voice their support for a variety of specific reforms that provide genuine restorative opportunities to individuals ready and willing to move beyond their criminal records, and contribute to their families and communities, including:
•    Broader eligibility for Expungements and Certificates of Relief
•    “Ban the Box” for Public Employment
•    Raise the Age of Adult Prosecution to 18

Learn more here about the policies and bills supported by the Second Chance Alliance.

roadworries#5 Return of the Good Roads State? – Tuesday at noon members of the House Transportation Committee will discuss House Bill 927,  Reestablish NC as the “Good Roads State.” If this bill were to pass in its current form, the gas tax would drop down to 30 cents a gallon on July 1, 2015. But consumers would also notice their annual car registration fee would jump from $28 to $42. They would also see a new 6.5 percent tax on motor vehicle insurance premiums. (***Note Tuesday’s hearing is for discussion purposes only with no planned vote.)

# 6 Duke Energy Annual Shareholders Meeting – Thursday morning,  Duke Energy will have their annual shareholder meeting in uptown Charlotte. CEO Lynn Good will present plans to shareholders for the coming year as well as highlights from the past year.

NCWARN, along with its allies, are planning an outside and inside strategy to stand up for economic and environmental justice at the shareholder meeting. Specifically protesters will  call on the company to:
* Stop blocking access to solar
* Foot the bill for comprehensive coal ash clean-up

The meeting runs from 8:30 a.m. – 10:30 a.m. at the O.J. Miller Auditorium 526 S. Church St. Charlotte.

#7 Graduation Weekend – Thousands of college students across North Carolina will collect their diplomas and Graduation capscelebrate commencement weekend this Saturday and Sunday.

NC State University will hold its graduation ceremony Saturday morning at 9:00 a.m. at PNC Arena in Raleigh. National Science Foundation Director France A. Córdova will deliver the commencement address.

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill will hold its commencement on Sunday, May 10, 2015 starting at 9:00 a.m. at Kenan Stadium. Media and entertainment innovator Jason Kilar will deliver the commencement address. Kilar, who graduated from Carolina in 1993, is the co-founder and CEO of Vessel, and was previously the founding CEO of Hulu.

Duke University will hold its 2015 commencement ceremony on Sunday at 9:00 a.m. at the Durham Bulls Athletic Park. Dr. Paul Farmer, who has dedicated his life to improving health care for the world’s poorest people, will deliver the commencement address.

Congratulations to the Class of 2015!


While Governor Pat McCrory prods the federal government not to impose a 50-mile buffer when it comes to exploring for oil and gas off the Carolina coast, the Wilmington Star-News reminds its readers what’s at risk if drilling were to occur closer to our shoreline:

NCPW-CC-2015-04-07-oil-rig-flickr-tsuda-CC-BY-SA-2-0-150x150[McCrory] raises good points, and we’re aware that domestic production has helped lower gasoline prices.

But we’re skeptical that the gains of tapping those offshore reserves will be worth the risk to our water quality, the coastal tourism economy, and our area’s ability to attract affluent retirees who add more to the tax base than they require in services.

Five years ago, the BP oil well exploded in the Gulf of Mexico, spilling more than 3 million barrels of oil that polluted shores from Texas to Florida.

In looking back, Bloomberg Business said “the environmental damage has been far less than many feared.”


Kemp’s Ridley sea turtle

But wads of petroleum gunk are still found in Louisiana marshes, news reports say. Fewer Kemp’s Ridley sea turtles are nesting. Fish have skin lesions and oil in their internal organs.

Can we pin our coastal economic hopes on government oversight and responsible action by energy companies?

If so, a report by the Associated Press on another, less publicized leak in the Gulf of Mexico is troubling.

An underwater mudslide triggered by 2004’s Hurricane Ivan toppled Taylor Energy Co.’s platform and buried 28 wells under sediment about 10 miles off the Louisiana coast.

Taylor’s leak is about 20 times greater than the company reported, the Coast Guard concluded after sifting through AP’s findings.

A Florida State researcher said the sheen is a “substantial threat to the environment,” particularly birds, fish and other marine life.

So what will be done? Probably nothing.

The company says the environmental risks of trying to stop the leak outweigh the damage the oil is causing.

And the government is shielding spill-related information from the public to protect Taylor’s “trade secrets.”

In defending the proposed 50-nautical mile buffer for the Southeast – that’s 57.5 regular miles – Abigail Ross Hopper of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management said the buffer fits in with Defense Department needs, commercial fishing and environmental concerns, and would accommodate offshore wind farms.

Good fences make good neighbors. A 50-nautical-mile buffer between our beaches and oil drilling makes good policy.

You can read the full editorial here in the Star-News.