Kennedy Tells Class of 2013 Adaptability is Key to Success
Kennedy Tells Class of 2013 Adaptability is Key to Success

by Dave Cranshaw
UNH Today Editor

In his Commencement address, Ted Kennedy Jr., a healthcare attorney and advocate for people with disabilities, told graduates that being able to overcome adversity will be the key to their success.

“Change and unpredictably present rare opportunities to learn about yourself,” he told more than 700 members of the Class of 2013 during the morning ceremony. “Possessing adaptability is just as important, if not more so, than raw intellect. It is only perfected when people are repeatedly faced with unexpected circumstances."

Ted Kennedy Jr.

Kennedy was speaking from experience. When he was 12, he was diagnosed with bone cancer, which led to the amputation of his right leg below the knee.

“I remember how shocked and horrified I was,” he said. “I felt my life was over and I would no longer be able to do the things I love to do.”

Years later, he said, he realized that his experience battling cancer and learning to live with and accept his disability were the defining moments of his life.

“My struggles became a transformational experience for the better and shaped who I am today,” Kennedy said. “It has enabled me to put the stresses and problems of everyday life into proper perceptive, and it has opened my eyes to the difficult circumstances that other families face and made me realize how fortunate I really am.”

Kennedy, the president and co-founder of the Marwood Group, a healthcare-focused financial services and consulting firm with offices in New York, Washington, D.C. and London, has served as a board member of the American Association of People with Disabilities, the country's largest disability civil rights and public policy organization.

Kennedy implored the graduates to look beyond the work place to find a cause they are passionate about.

“Today, people are focusing more and more on what it takes to get a good job and less and less about other aspects of life where true success and fulfillment are ultimately attained,” he said. “Don’t make the mistake of defining yourself exclusively by what you choose to do for a living or by how much money you earn. 

“When all is said and done, what really creates self-worth and self-value, what really defines our character and what we are ultimately most proud of is what we have done for others and the relationships we have cultivated,” he said.

One of the most emotional moments of the ceremony occurred when Courtney Cusson’s brother Joe, a lance corporal in the Marines, surprised her on stage to present her degree. He has been stationed in Japan for the past year.

“I was so full of emotions that I couldn’t hold it in and cried the whole way off the stage,” said Cusson, who earned a bachelor's degree in legal studies. “My brother is a big part of my life, and to have someone you love so much show up unexpected cannot be explained in words.”

In her remarks, Alexandra Hart, president of the Class of 2013, told her fellow graduates that they have the power to change the world.

“Our generation has open minds on what people can do, who they can love and who they can fight for,” she said. “Remember what we learned here at UNH both inside and outside the classroom. We are a community, and there are always people to help, people to represent and people who want their voices heard.”

View photos from the ceremony,

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