JEFF CIRILLO/THE HOYA BuzzFeed president Greg Coleman encouraged conviction and self-accountability in his commencement address to 2017 MSB graduates.
JEFF CIRILLO/THE HOYA BuzzFeed president Greg Coleman encouraged MSB graduates to find the courage of their convictions in his 2017 commencement address.

BuzzFeed president Greg Coleman (GSB ’76) advised McDonough School of Business graduates to be courageous in their convictions and to act out of sincere generosity in his commencement address to the Class of 2017 on Saturday.

Coleman, an alumnus of the business school, said making decisions with conviction helps deflect criticism and ensures that your actions reflect your beliefs.

“There are going to be some times and things that you believe in that are unpopular, and you’re going to be called on to defend that choice,” Coleman said. “You’ve got to put your adult pants on, trust your instincts and think it through. Know what you stand for. At the end of the day, the most important person you’re going to answer to is you.”

As an example of this decisive leadership, Coleman cited BuzzFeed News division’s controversial decision to publish a 35-page dossier written by former MI6 officer Christopher Steele containing unverified and explosive allegations related to President Donald Trump and his alleged ties to Russia.

Though other news outlets had been in possession of the dossier for months prior, they had largely declined to report on any of its unconfirmed claims. After CNN and others reported that then-President Barack Obama and Trump had been briefed on its contents, BuzzFeed published the dossier and soon met significant blowback.

“Immediately, the criticism began falling like hail,” Coleman said. “We were accused of shoddy reporting by fellow members of the press, for being sensationalist, for using unverified salacious claims to boost the clicks to our site. President Trump himself even weighed in from his press conference the next day, calling BuzzFeed a ‘failing pile of garbage.’”

In spite of this response, Coleman said BuzzFeed news editor Ben Smith made the appropriate decision based on his belief that releasing the document upheld the news media’s commitment to transparency.

“He made a really tough call. You’re going to have to make tough calls,” Coleman said. “And I’m proud of the courage and thought process that it took for him to do it.”

Acting for the good of others and “spreading good karma,” Coleman said, is more personally fulfilling than any financial success.

“Be one of the good people. We who have the privilege of a Georgetown education have so much to give back. Be generous with your time and talent; don’t just go out and try to make money,” Coleman said. “People never forget kindness.”

“At the end of all of your days, the souls that you’ve touched, the lives that you’ve changed, those generous acts will bring you more peace than any material success that you can imagine.”

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