Gary and Kay Clarke and Kay's sister, Lin Weaver, right, watch for the Clarkes' son, political science graduate Todd Clarke. PHOTOS BY RON MEDVESCEK / ARIZONA DAILY STAR

UA alumna and NBC News reporter Savannah Guthrie shared some of what she called "unconventional wisdom" with a capacity crowd of more than 5,000 graduates and their families Saturday at the University of Arizona's spring commencement ceremony at McKale Center.

Guthrie, an NBC White House correspondent who will soon take over hosting duties for the third hour of NBC's "Today Show," kicked off the ceremony by snapping a picture of the class of 2011 from her podium.

"You look so good in your caps and gowns. I'm going to take a picture real quick," she said.

"Yep. I'm gonna tweet it," she added.

While Guthrie was for the most part buoyant, she took a moment to recall that the last time she was at McKale Center, it was to cover President Obama's speech to the nation following the Jan. 8 shootings that killed six Tucsonans and left U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and others seriously wounded.

"I hope your closeness to this unbelievable tragedy somehow brought you closer," she said. "But today, McKale is a joyous place again."

The heart of Guthrie's address centered around four points of "unconventional advice" for life post-graduation.

First point: Be afraid. Knowing it's possible to fail pushes you to accomplish more.

"A little bit of fear is good for you, for the simple reason that it leads to over-preparation," she said.

Second: Believe you might succeed more wildly than you ever imagined.

"We think small to avoid bigger failures," Guthrie said. "Don't settle."

Third: Seek out uncomfortable situations.

"Sometimes that big leap is going to give you airsickness," said Guthrie, who recalled turning down a prestigious clerking position after law school for an uncertain return to television news.

Fourth: Slow down. Success doesn't come all at once.

Guthrie talked about reporting for a small-town television station and how every journalist was looking for the perfect résumé-booster - an "escape tape" - to get them to a bigger city.

What she said she didn't realize was that every day she spent in the trenches, shooting her own film and writing her own scripts, she was preparing herself for success down the road.

"I'm glad the first politician's staffer to chew me out was a local politician and not the White House," she said.

"So, be afraid, uncomfortable, unrealistic and slow. There, I send you out into the world," Guthrie said, with one last pointer - call your parents once in a while.

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"We think small to avoid bigger failures. Don't settle."

Savannah Guthrie

Speaker at University of Arizona graduation ceremony