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CNN Chief Congressional Correspondent Manu Raju Tells Univ. of Wisconsin–Madison Graduates to Take Risks

CNN Chief Congressional Correspondent Manu Raju Tells Univ. of Wisconsin–Madison Graduates to Take Risks

  • Addressing the winter commencement at his alma mater, the Indian American, “a proud son of immigrant parents,” drew upon his own experiences to stress the importance of learning from rejections and failures.

CNN Chief Congressional Correspondent Manu Raju delivered the winter commencement address at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, his alma mater, Dec. 19. Speaking to 1,200 graduates and their families, the Indian American talked about the importance of taking risks.

Tracing his journey from a student at Bascom Hill (the main quadrangle that forms the symbolic core of the University of Wisconsin–Madison campus), to a reporter on Capitol Hill, Raju, “a proud son of immigrant parents,” said he “credits the lessons gleaned from my upbringing and my years here in Madison, as paramount in achieving my goals.” He noted that “this unique journey to this rostrum before a crowd of thousands of people began in my dad’s modest village roughly 15,000 miles from Madison in a village in India.”

Raju got his start in journalism as a student reporter for the Badger Herald, also worked for the student radio station WSUM. He graduated from UW-Madison in 2002 with a bachelor’s degree in marketing. He was raised in suburban Chicago. In a 2018 blog on the university’s alumni association, Raju said the “University of Wisconsin is not just my alma mater, it’s part of my identity.” His Twitter profile describes him as “Wisconsin Badger for life.”

He drew upon his own experiences and told the graduating class that “mere passion alone is not enough to realize ambitions; one’s drive must also be accompanied by a great degree of risk.” He spoke of his parents whose “passion to pursue academic opportunities available only on the other side of the world required a daunting departure away from a large family and loss of close friends.”Adding that he is “a beneficiary of such boldness,” he said he feels “especially grateful for the risks they took as I consider how it helped to lead me to someone essential in my life, my wife Archana, as well as our twins, Sonia and Sanjay.”

Giving an example of the way Badgers stick around for fifth quarter festivities regardless of the outcome of a game, Raju gave his own example to tell the students the importance of learning from rejections and failures and never giving up. “It’s a tradition that offers a telling window into how Badgers approach adversity on our field in Madison and how you ought to approach it in your respective fields.” And while “your job rejections or career complications may require you to change your route, these difficulties must never test you to abandon your destination, these difficulties must never tempt you to abandon your purpose,” he told the crowd. “I know it takes a great deal of courage to view our mishaps as bellows that can nourish rather than extinguish the embers of our ambition.”

A prominent presence on the cable network, the Indian American has been covering Capitol Hill, congressional races and the presidential campaigns for the past several years. Before joining CNN, Raju was a senior congressional reporter at Politico, and before that, he covered the Senate leadership for The Hill newspaper. Raju got his start in Washington as an associate editor and reporter at Inside Washington Publishers, where he covered federal environmental policy and later reported for Congressional Quarterly, writing about energy and environmental issues.

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He has won multiple journalism awards for his reporting on the major battles consuming Washington and his coverage of campaign politics. In 2012, Raju was part of a team of four reporters who won the White House Correspondents Association’s prestigious Merriman Smith award for presidential reporting under deadline pressure for their coverage of the debt ceiling crisis. In 2015, Raju also was awarded first prize by the Society of Professional Journalists in D.C. for beat coverage of the 2014 midterm elections, and a Folio: Eddie Award for a feature profile on Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.).

Raju hails from a family of writers, including his late grandfather, Gopalakrishna Adiga, a poet in the Kannada language whose works are widely studied in India today.

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