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COMMENCEMENT AT UNK
– First of all I am honored to be selected to be your commencement speaker and humbled to receive the honorary degree.
– Speaking of graduation speeches I know something about. Some of you in the audience remember the former Dean of School of Business,
Floyd Krubeck. I recall him telling me about the strangest graduation he ever attended. The graduating class totaled two, a young man and a young lady; after graduation the entire congregation adjourned and reconvened across the street, at the local Church where the two graduates were married!
– I probably have attended 100+ commencements in my time, and gave more than a few myself. I often conducted a survey of those on the platform by asking:. Do you remember who gave your graduation speech and what they talked about? Typical answer is “I don’t remember!” So far I have only found one person who remembered both!
– Yet I can think of one unforgettable graduation speech that I bet most of you remember or heard of; that was Winston Churchill’s graduation speech given at Westminster College in Mo in 1946 when he gave his famous “Iron Curtain” speech regarding the then Soviet Russia at the onset of the Cold War. Now that was some commencement speech!
– My goal today is to present a short commencement speech that fits somewhere between “I don’t remember” and Winston Churchill’s memorable “Iron Curtain” address. .
2. Title “On the magnetism of mediocrity”
A. George Washington: A Man to Consider, …
Let me start off with some observations on one of our greatest Presidents, George Washington. I teach a class on America’s Greatest President’s and have come to admire greatly our first President. Here go into background and personality traits of Washington: lots of rough edges; his lack of educ; frontier beginnings; surveyor; knew West and Indians; his young personality; his recognition of his worts and his goals in life! He wanted to be a Virgina gentleman prominent land owner and Roman like statesman, the model of success at the time. Look at him! Laws of Civility, etc.. Bottom line here: GW is quite a model: identified his goals early on; took stock of his strengths and weaknesses; and willed himself thereafter!
Talk about being all that you can be… GW wrote the text book!
B.. On the importance of education in USA and what one does with it.
– I assume that almost all of not all here today have discovered the secret for success in America. Education! By and large the benefits that exist in our society, and there are many, go to those with the most education and to those who learn how to apply their education in working through life’s challenges.
– Now listen carefully to what I have to say here, because it is what I have learned, and my bet it is also what your parents have learned through
Their life’s experience. Somehow George Washington knew what I am going to tell you without hearing my graduation speech!
— With your education, when you get a job and show up for work every day you place yourself in the top 50% of all workers!
–If you actually do what you are hired to do, you soar ahead of 80% of all workers. Imagine, I am saying you have bested 8 out of 10!.
–If you decide to do more that what is expected of you, in other words if you have a sense of vision and responsibility, and do what NEEDS to be done, over and above what you are hired to do, well then you soar into the top 10% of all workers!
– Now if what I say is true, and I believe it with all my soul, then there is
A special beauty here because who makes the decision as to what tier of
Workers you wish to belong? II IS YOU! The choice young men and young women is yours! To be as good as half of all workers in USA = just show up for your job on a regular basis; To out perform 8 of 10, actually do what you are hired to do! To be in the top: bring vision and willingness to do what is needed! Key = it is you who place yourself in these categories!
– Look at what George Washington did, he remade himself, used the experiences of his life and established goals for himself, and compared his proress with only his goals– no one else’s! What GW did was to place himself in the top 10% by shaping his life, his goals, around his life’s experience, and focused on attaining these goals.
I remind you here, it is you who decides where to place yourself, will it be in the bottom 50% or the top 20 or top 10%. You decide! Let GW be your example!
C. On the notion of a magnetism and mediocrity. A
NOTE OF CAUTION AND WARNING
– Should you decide, as did GW, to do what is necessary for success in your chosen field, that is to place yourself in the top 10 %, you must quickly recognize that this kind of commitment will cause you plenty of trouble!
– The main trouble will come from others – others who have not made nor intend on making such a commitment to excellence. These folks, I call them the “levellers,” will try to bring you down to their level. The top 10%ers make the majority of workers stick out! The pressure coming from the majority, ie, the levellers, is what I label the “magnetism of mediocrity!” Watch out for the levellers! Don’t let others call your shots re your career!
– Because the work ethic is a powerful force in our society, who works harder than Americans, there is a powerful magnetic like pull towards the center, or mediocrity in American Society. You will have to learn early on to focus on your standards of performance and ethics and make that commitment to do what needs to be done. Again, like GW! And you must ignore comparing your work with others, for it will only have a leveling effect on your performance! Set your standards high and focus on your work to achieve your goals according to your standards, no one else’s!. Remember: there are more “levellers” in the world than there are “encouragers.”
– Your future must be built on the foundation of your high standards of excellence and ethical performance. Don’t be afraid to fail and to try different things. Imagine what our world would be like if the following gave into the levelers or to temporary setbacks! One can learn as much from failure as from succeeding! Imagine Washington’s dream and the later reality of where he ended up! Washington for a time wanted to become a military officer, and the first time he led an independent army he was captured by the French. Look at the following list of dreamers!
ME = I absolutely failed at my first job of selling adding machines in down town Chicago!
CARUSO = was once told he could not sing!
EDISON = failed third grade and he was told he did not know anything!
Werner Van Braun = who built the rockets that put people on the moon, he also flunked algebra!
WINSTON CHURCHILL = flunked 6th grade
WALT DISNEY = was fired from his job on a newspaper because he did not have any good ideas! And the list goes on…
A. Well graduates, like GW, you have to work out your value system and your own standards and ethics, and then focus on them! You do so in a far tougher environment than did your parents or me! Committ yourself now to high personal standards of morality and ethics, just as did GW and then live a life dedicated to achieving these standards! It is up to you, YOU CAN WILL your life’s direction!
B. Remember you reside in a great land full of opportunity, where the word “failure” should not be in your vocabulary. Recognize graduates, that there will never be another time in your life when you will find so many people so eager to work with you! Take advantage of this… Pick your coaches carefully! No one succeeds by themselves. Success must be shared, else what is it?
C.. In my career I have taught a bit of Russian History, let me end my remarks with a lovely little Russian proverb that goes like this: LIVE AND SCRATCH. BECAUSE WHEN YOU ARE DEAD THE ITCHING WILL STOP.
God Bless and Good Fortune!