Steven Van Zandt Urges Rutgers Graduating Class To Aspire To ‘Greatness’

PISCATAWAY, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) — Musician and actor Steven Van Zandt gave members of the Rutgers University class of 2017 a pep talk during their commencement ceremony Sunday.

Van Zandt addressed the graduating college seniors at the High Point Solutions Stadium on the school’s Busch Campus in Piscataway. He urged the students to aspire to greatness, but not to stress themselves out.

“While you’re in the learning process, and you think you’re being somehow inadequate; not up to the task, then you are not measuring correctly. You cannot be inadequate while you are developing. Give yourself a chance,” he said.

Van Zandt emphasized that greatness takes time and effort to achieve.

“Greatness isn’t born. It’s developed. Greatness is a decision you make,” he said. “You make that decision every single day, through everything you do, no matter how small. It’s a habit like anything else – are you being casual, are you distracted, or are you doing it right, 100 percent?”

He said further that society no longer encourages excellence, and the graduates will have to go above and beyond.

“Our contemporary society has forgotten what greatness is because it has no time for it. Nobody expects to experience greatness. We might not even recognize it even if we saw it. The reason why greatness is scarce is because development is scarce,” he said. “Development takes time. Don’t let the desperate panic of mediocrity that is all around you uncomfortably hurry your development process.”

Van Zandt is both for being a longtime member of Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band and for his acting work in “The Sopranos.” He received an honorary doctor of fine arts degree.

Harvey J. Makadon, an LGBTQ and HIV health care advocate and professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, received an honorary doctor of science degree at the ceremony.

University officials say an estimated 17,729 graduates earned degrees from Rutgers this year. But it wasn’t immediately known how many took part in the commencement.

The graduates included about 11,420 who received baccalaureate degrees, 4,555 who got master’s degrees and 1,750 who earned doctorates.

(© Copyright 2017 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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