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Norah O'Donnell gives Georgetown University students advice in commencement speech: "Listening is what we need more than ever"

Norah O'Donnell sits down with Pope Francis
Pope Francis speaks to Norah O'Donnell about Ukraine, church scandals, migrant crisis 01:03

"CBS Evening News" anchor and managing editor Norah O'Donnell returned to her alma mater, Georgetown University, on Thursday to address the School of Continuing Studies class of 2024, giving students some pieces of advice that have served her well in her career and personal life.

In a roughly 20-minute speech, O'Donnell urged students to soak up the moment and use the values and knowledge they've acquired to lead a life of purpose.

"The quality of your life is built on the quality of your relationships," O'Donnell, who received a Bachelor of Arts in philosophy and a Master of Arts in liberal studies from Georgetown University, told students. "That's it. That's my thesis for a well-lived life."

Words of wisdom from mom

O'Donnell spoke about lessons she's learned from various relationships, including one important piece of advice she received from her mom: "Be a good listener." 

O'Donnell said that guidance has been pivotal, especially in her role as a journalist as she interviews people across the globe.

"Listening is what we need more than ever today. Hearing the ideas and perspectives of someone we may not agree with," said O'Donnell. She added, "By listening, we learn we're all more alike than we are different"

"CBS Evening News" anchor and managing editor Norah O'Donnell speaks at Georgetown University. Georgetown University

"Lesson No. 1"

As a college freshman in 1991, O'Donnell said she was intimidated and afraid of failure as she stepped on campus as a 17-year-old "with big hair from Texas." But now she realizes that mindset helped lead to her accomplishments. 

"Here's lesson No. 1: Fear and self-doubt will be your constant companion. And that may sound daunting, but the key is: turn that fear into fuel and that doubt into determination," said O'Donnell, urging students to lean on loved ones for support. 

Interviewing Pope Francis

Pope Francis to sit down with 60 Minutes 01:02

It took over a decade of writing letters and making phone calls to land an interview with Pope Francis, O'Donnell told the graduating class. O'Donnell's historic interview with Francis from Rome will air on 60 Minutes at 7 p.m. ET on Sunday, May 19. You can catch more of the interview in an hour-long primetime special airing only on CBS and streaming on Paramount+ on Monday, May 20 at 10 p.m. ET.

"We never quit. We never gave up. And this I know is true: Persistence is the heartbeat of success," said O'Donnell.

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