AMHERST -- CNN news anchor Wolf Blitzer looked out at hundreds of Niagara University graduates in purple gowns this afternoon and ticked off the problems facing the country.
Oil seeping into the Gulf of Mexico. Threats of terrorism. Unemployment. Increased tensions on the Korean peninsula. Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Despite all that, Blitzer said, he remains optimistic about the future.
"If we survived the Civil War, the Great Depression, World War II, the nuclear fears of the Cold War, we will survive these current crises, as well," Blitzer said. "And remember this: In the past, we not only survived, we thrived. Our country emerged stronger and smarter following each crisis, and we will again."
Blitzer told more than 700 undergraduates awaiting their degrees that when he looked into the crowd his "faith in the future of this country is restored."
"You may be surprised to hear that I'm still optimistic, in part because I see graduates like you, ready to take that plunge and work hard and do the right thing," Blitzer said. "Multiply what is happening here with the hundreds of thousands of graduates around the country, all eager, hard working and ready to make a contribution."
Blitzer, who was raised in Buffalo and Kenmore, said he inherited his "optimistic nature" from his parents, who he said remained positive "despite some very, very difficult experiences in their own lives."
"They came to Buffalo as immigrants who struggled to make a living and raise two kids," Blitzer said. "But they did just fine thanks to a lot of hard work, strong values, a ton of love, a welcoming, warm community, a strong religious faith and some luck, as well."
He encouraged the graduates to capitalize on their own luck.
"Here's some advice," Blitzer said. "If you get a lucky break, don't coast with it. Don't waste or misuse it. Grab it, and make the most of it."
The CNN news anchor received an honorary degree during the Niagara University commencement along with former Buffalo Bills head coach and general manager Marv Levy; Diocese of Hamilton, Ont., Bishop Anthony F. Tonnos; and author and economist Gordon Weil.
Levy urged the graduates to view the challenges ahead as fun, rather than stress.
"I'll tell you what I said to our players the first time I walked in the room," said Levy, who led the Bills to four Super Bowl appearances. "What it takes to succeed is simple, but it isn't easy -- hard work, preparation."
See a portion of Blitzer's commencement address in this video: