"What's next for me? I don't know," Abramson said. "So I'm in exactly the same boat as many of you. And like you, I'm a little scared, but also excited."
In her first public comments since her unceremonious ouster at the Times, Abramson spoke extensively of her firing — although she never elaborated on the reasons for her dismissal. She began the speech with a coy reference to the national media's presence at the ceremony in Winston-Salem, N.C.
"I think the only real news here today is your graduation from this great university," Abramson said.
Abramson revealed in the speech that law professor Anita Hill, who accused Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas of sexual harassment, sent her an encouraging note last week following her firing.
Abramson and Jane Mayer authored a book on Thomas's confirmation hearings in 1991, detailing how many witnesses who backed Hill's account weren't allowed to testify.
Abramson also told the graduates that she has no intention to remove the tattoo of the New York Times "T" on her back.
"Not a chance," she said.