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Savannah's message to Georgetown Law grads in commencement address: 'Don't play it safe'

The TODAY anchor returned to her alma mater to tell the Class of 2023 that "anything meaningful" lies "on the other side of a big risk."

Two decades after celebrating her own graduation from Georgetown Law School, Savannah Guthrie returned to the school with words of wisdom for the next generation.

The TODAY anchor made an emotional return to her alma mater in Washington, D.C., over the weekend to deliver the commencement speech for the Class of 2023.

Savannah recounted her own journey to Georgetown while imparting the lessons she learned along the way. She earned an undergraduate degree in journalism from the University of Arizona in 1993 and embarked on a career in media, but then she decided to switch gears and go to law school. She graduated from Georgetown in 2002.

"I worked in local television news, rising from market to bigger market with my reporter’s notebook and helmet hair and red blazer‚ when I decided to blow it all up and go to law school," she said in her speech. "Lesson one: High school slackers can turn it around. Lesson two: Don’t play it safe."

Savannah shared how much taking that risk changed her life. She ended up working for a law firm and then becoming a correspondent on high-profile legal cases for CourtTV. That job led her to a position with NBC News.

"Maybe law school was a big gamble for you, as it was for me," she said. "Or maybe, it was your safety net. Maybe it was your way of avoiding the scarier path. Whatever the case, I’m telling you, anything interesting you want to do, anything meaningful you want to accomplish, it is waiting for you, it is possible for you, but it is on the other side of a big risk‚ on the other side of a big bet.

"No, I’m not talking about crypto," she joked. "A bet on yourself, real skin in the game. It might work out, it might not. But the riskier step will be not to try."

She imagined what she would've told a young Savannah Guthrie if she could go back in time to her law school days.

"If you do see my old self walking around somewhere today, this was what I was thinking you could tell her: Don’t worry so much," she said. "Don’t sweat every tiny thing like it’s the ultimate end-all, be-all thing.

"Tell her: It’s good to have a plan but it’s also good to take it, rip it up and do something wild and daring, even if it feels like you’re taking everything you’ve worked so hard for and lighting it on fire."

Savannah Guthrie
Savannah celebrated her own graduation from Georgetown Law School in 2002.TODAY

Savannah then dropped a Taylor Swift reference to keep it current for the Class of 2023.

"Tell her, 'It’s me, hi, I’m the problem it’s me,'" she said.

It wasn't just Savannah's speech that made her return to Georgetown memorable. She also reunited with some old law school friends.

"She would get up at four in the morning in law school," her friend Lindsay said. "I mean, you really did this whole waking up early thing, like not just the TODAY show thing."

"We were all pushing ourselves as hard as we could push, and we all found out what we could do," Savannah remembered. "And I think that’s the value of doing something like going to law school. That’s what I’m going to try to tell the students today. Push yourself, stretch yourself, find out who you are. This is the only way, you have to do it by doing the hard things."

Savannah was welcomed back by William Treanor, the dean of Georgetown Law, as well as Frances DeLaurentis, one of her former professors.

"So it was a class of 125 people, and I thought, 'I want to call on someone on Day One, but I don’t want to intimidate them too much,'" DeLaurentis recalled. "So I cold called on (Savannah) in the middle. She was in the middle of the room in shock that I called on her, but she was a great student."

Twenty-plus years after she was that nervous student on her first day, Savannah savored sending the next generation of graduates out into the world with words of encouragement.

"I'm proud of you, graduates," she told the crowd. "I'm honored to be with you. Because I was here once, I know exactly what it took for you to get to this moment. I'm looking at every one of you, marveling, and cheering you on into your brave, wild and wonderful future."