Janet Napolitano, former US homeland security secretary, urged Northeastern University’s 2014 graduating class Friday not to fear life’s “zigs and zags.”
“Beware the tyranny of the straight line,” she repeated during her keynote speech at the school’s 112th commencement inside TD Garden in Boston Friday, this spring’s first local college graduation.
Using sailboats as a metaphor, she explained to the 3,520 graduates: “Sailboats do not glide through the water in a straight line. They tack. They zig-zag from here to there. That’s how they move forward.”
When the graduates return for their 50th reunion, she said, “my hope for you is that you will look back on the decades that have passed and see the twists and turns, the tacking, that are the hallmark of a well-lived life,” said Napolitano, who became president of the University of California system in the fall.
Graduates wearing the standard black robes and mortarboards typed on smartphones, undoubtedly sending texts and tweets, and snapped photos of each other, themselves, and the packed arena. As groups of students shuffled to the stage, other Huskies batted around beach balls.
An estimated crowd of 20,000-plus — including family, faculty, and administrators — looked on, cheering frequently and waving to graduates below. Video of the event streamed on the arena’s Jumbotron.
Napolitano, the former governor and attorney general of Arizona, became the third homeland security secretary and the first woman to hold the job when President Obama appointed her in 2009. She led the Cabinet agency, which was created after 9/11, until 2013.