In her first public comments since she was dismissed five days ago as executive editor of the New York Times, Jill Abramson told graduates at Wake Forest University on Monday that, like them, "I’m a little scared - and a little excited.’’
Abramson, embroiled in a controversy over pay equity and gender equality following her removal as the paper’s top editor, did not address those issues. But she did say, "Sure, losing a job you love hurts.’’
Calling the theme of her commencement speech "resilience,’’ Abramson told 1,800 graduates and about three dozen media members: "You know the sting of losing. When that happens, show what you are made of.’’
She added: "I’m talking to anyone who has been dumped.’’
"What’s next for me?’’ she asked. "I don’t know. So I’m in exactly the same boat as many of you.’’
Abramson, who wore a black graduation gown and blue running shoes, referred several times to the "media circus’’ that has followed her since her dismissal. She said her only reluctance of her speech was that the graduates’ achievements would be overshadowed by her appearance.
"I think the only real news here today is your graduation from this great university,’’ she told the graduates.
"I’m impressed that your achievements have attracted so much media attention – as well they should,’’ Abramson said, eliciting a round of laughter.
Abramson, who received an honorary degree, said she was asked by a Wake Forest student Sunday evening whether she intended to remove the New York Times "T" tattooed on her back.
"Not a chance!’’ she said to a rousing ovation.
"It was the honor of my life to lead the newsroom,’’ she said.