Advice

Hoda Kotb: ‘Have the Courage to Ask’

May 17, 2016

Watch Hoda Kotb's commencement speech at Tulane University

Hoda Kotb, a news anchor on the TODAY Show, does not want recent graduates to fear the job search.

“If you do not have a job, do not worry,” she said at the beginning of her Tulane University commencement speech. “Do not worry. When I graduated college, I did not have a job, but I had a plan. I had one job interview an hour away from my house at a television station in Richmond. And I was going to get that job.”

Kotb did not get that job, nor did she get many jobs for which she interviewed. She drove around the country for days and got rejected from every television station she applied at. Finally, she got a position in Greenville, Miss., after a news director gave her a chance. “You don’t need everyone to like you,” Kotb said she learned from the experience. “You just need one.”

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She also told the story of how she got her first big break in Greenville. Kotb went on air after a colleague called in sick but bombed the segment. She thought she was going to be fired, but her boss gave her another chance—and that time, she didn’t blow it. “Do not forget the people who helped you,” she told Tulane graduates. She is still in touch with her boss from Greenville today.

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Kotb went on to tell the story of how, at the height of her career, she was diagnosed with breast cancer. After successful surgery, Kotb realized that, “Life has margins, and it’s to be valued and not wasted.” A diligent worker, Kotb always waited to be noticed in the office. After her diagnosis, she worked up the courage to ask for an open position on the TODAY Show—which helped her get her current job.

Read more 2016 commencement speeches:

Anne-Marie Slaughter: ‘Care Is as Important as Career’

Barack Obama: ‘Passion Is Vital, But You’ve Got to Have a Strategy’

Condoleezza Rice to Grads: ‘Don’t Let Anyone Else Define Your Passion’

Cory Booker to Grads: ‘Tell Your Truth’

Darren Walker to Grads: ‘Stand For Something’

Earl Lewis: ‘Never Confuse The Attainement of an Education with What It Means to Be Educated’

Eboo Patel to Wake Forest Grads: ‘The Only Shame Is in Stagnation’

J.K. Simmons to Grads: ‘Live in the Moment’

Jane Goodall to Grads: ‘Remember to Live to Your True Human Potential’

Jill Bolte Taylor: ‘We Have the Power to Choose Who We Want to Be’

Lin-Manuel Miranda to Grads: ‘Your Stories Are Essential’

Madeleine Albright: ‘Everyone Must Participate in Solving Shared Problems’

Michael Bloomberg: ‘An Open Mind Is the Most Valuable Asset You Can Possess’

Michelle Obama to Grads: ‘Excellence Is the Most Powerful Answer You Can Give’

Obama to Grads: Building Walls Is ‘A Betrayal of Who We Are’

Russell Wilson: ‘Go Make It Happen’

Sheryl Sandberg: ‘Finding Gratitude and Appreciation Is Key to Resilience’

Vivek Murthy: ‘Live a Connected Life’

William Foege to Grads: ‘Every Day We Edit Our Obituaries’