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Bloomberg Tells OU Graduates To Take Risks, Rely On Others

NORMAN, Okla. (AP) _ Often quoting Oklahoma icon Will Rogers, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg told University of Oklahoma graduates on Friday that they should not be afraid to take risks or rely on others as they venture into their post-college lives.

A storm about two hours before the ceremony's scheduled starting time briefly threatened to cause the festivities to be moved indoors from the Gaylord Family-Oklahoma Memorial Stadium, but skies eventually cleared before the ceremony started _ nearly an hour late.

During his 18-minute speech, Bloomberg made sure to work in not only a handful of mentions of Rogers _ a famed Oklahoma humorist during the 1920s and 1930s _ but also included a mention of Adrian Peterson, a star running back for the Sooners' football team the last three seasons who last month became a first-round draft choice of the NFL's Minnesota Vikings.

Bloomberg also gained favor with the crowd of about 20,000 with another line, noting at one point during his tenure as mayor of the nation's largest city, ``I was even less popular _ if you can believe it _ than the referees after the OU-Oregon football game.''

During that game last Sept. 16, acknowledged blown calls on a critical play late in the game cost the Sooners a win.

Bloomberg joked that he was only the third choice to deliver the address at OU's 115th commencement ceremony, ``right after Adrian Peterson and Sanjaya,'' although he mispronounced the ``American Idol'' participant's name.

``But the real reason I got the job? I begged for it. Where else could I see O'Connell's before it moves,'' he asked, mentioning a popular restaurant near the stadium that soon will be forced to move, ironically because the university purchased the land on which the restaurant sits.

Much of Bloomberg's speech focused on principles he said he adapted from author Robert Fulghum's book, ``All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten.''

Bloomberg told graduates to remember in particular five of those principles _ be willing to take risks, don't go it alone, respect others, invest in the future and give it to others straight _ and stick to the facts _ when making an argument.

Bloomberg liberally used Rogers quotes while making his points, including, ``Even if you're on the right track, you'll get run over if you just sit there'' and ``Never miss a good chance to shut up.''

He said his favorite Rogers quote was about Washington politicians: ``When Congress is in session, it feels the same as when a baby gets hold of a hammer.''

Bloomberg said that persistence should be a way of life.

``It's a tough world out there, but I have no doubt that your amazing spirit and the education you received at this incredible institution are going to help you achieve great things,'' Bloomberg said. ``Don't despair if your career path doesn't follow a straight line. There will be ups and downs and sideways.''

University officials said that OU expected to confer 4,267 bachelor's degrees, 1,574 master's degrees, 189 doctoral degrees and 692 professional degrees this year.

Bloomberg was one of six people to be presented by OU President David Boren with an honorary doctoral degree during the ceremony.

Along with Bloomberg, the other recipients of honorary degrees were James C. Day, the former chief executive officer, president and chairman of the board of Noble Corp.; Oklahoma City civic leaders Josephine W. Freede and Mary D. Nichols; Steven E. Moore, the chairman of the board and chief executive officer of OG&E Energy Corp.; and Marilyn Horne, an award-wining opera singer.

Before Bloomberg spoke, Boren told graduates they had made OU a better place, ``a place where we value and respect each other; a place where public discourse is not marked by the hurling of emotionally charged insults, but by civility, understanding and compassion; a place where we understand that how we treat each other will help shape the society as a whole.''

Earlier Friday, Bloomberg, who became New York's mayor shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, visited the Oklahoma City National Memorial, the site _ about 25 miles from OU's Norman campus _ where 168 people died on April 19, 1995, when the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building was bombed.

Bloomberg noted his visit during his commencement speech, saying it reminded him of ``the special strengths and resilience of Oklahomans.''
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