Former New York Times executive editor speaks at Wake Forest graduation

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — The first female executive editor of The New York Times, fired last week after three years on the job, approached the only thing on her slate with a smile on her face.

Jill Abramson kept her appointment and delivered the commencement speech at Wake Forest University Monday.

In a clear sign of how the speech was going to go she started out her remarks with a big wave to the crowd.

“I’m impressed that your achievements have attracted so much media attention,” Abramson told the crowd.

In reality, the media was waiting to hear the first public comments from the woman at the center of controversy. Many media outlets have pounced on Abramson’s firing and called it unfair because she questioned how much she was getting paid compared to the man that preceded her.

Her former bosses have since said that Abramson was fired because of her management style and not because of the questions she raised about pay.

Instead of attacking, Abramson used the podium to inspire graduates.

“One of them asked me are you going to get that Times ‘T’ you have tattooed on your back removed? Not a chance,” said Abramson.

Her stories focused on finding resiliency both in the pursuit of journalism and in dealing with tragedy.

Abramson also talked about being reminded of that virtue in the days after her ousting by sharing a conversation she and her sister had about their late father.

“It meant more to our father to see us deal with a setback and try to bounce back than handle our successes — ‘Show what you are made of,’ he would say,” said Abramson.

The audience lauded Abramson for taking the high road and setting a good example for graduating students.

“Without struggle there’s no progress and I think we can learn a lot from Jill’s story about bouncing back and being resilient and being comfortable with ambiguity,” said Aaron Colston, a class of 2014 graduate.

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