The Commencement Address

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The Commencement Address. No college invited me to give a commencement address. I decided I’d give one anyway.

“Good afternoon grads. I’m glad you invited me to a college where amazingly none of the graduates have any student loan debt.

Someone told me if I started off with a joke, more people would listen to me.

I’ll bet almost all of you grads got up this morning and said to yourself this is a great day, I’m graduating from college.

What will happen to you as you go through life? Will you get up and say it’s a great day every day? I doubt it. But your attitude at the beginning of the day determines what kind of day you will have on that day.

Maybe you have a great job. Maybe you have a lousy job. A boring job. But what you make of it will be what it is, and for those around you. That’s right, it’s not just you who’s affected by you, but your colleagues, the people your company does business with, your friends you speak to later that day, your family when you get home after work.

Attitude, that’s what I’m talking about, and that’s strictly up to you. One of a few individual traits that is in your sole possession to determine. Think about that.

I don’t want to stand up here and lecture you for my entire speech. I’m going to circulate among you grads, and talk to you. If you want to talk to me, raise your hand.”

“Yes sir, what do you have to say?”

“What if I’m talking to someone, and I don’t agree with their philosophy, their political views?”

“Well, Mr. Grad, you can get into an argument, but, believe me, life’s too short for that, and very unpleasant. There will be many things you have in common, things you agree on. Talk about those, and you will become friends.”

“Yes ma’am.”

“My mother died of cancer while I’ve been in college.”

“But you finished college. Why?”

“That’s what my mother wanted me to do.”

“Then your mother’s spirit lives within you?”

“Yes it does.”

It will always be there. At times she will give you directions. You’ll follow them, and then say why did I do that? Your mother, that’s why. Never let anyone tell you, she’s not there. She is.”

Yes sir, Mr. Grad.”

“When I started college, I thought I could change the world. Now I’m convinced I can’t?”

“Very few people can ever change the world, but you can have an effect on what is important to you, the people around you. Don’t think you are the only one who knows anything. The best conversationist is the one who listens to other people, to their ideas. Even if you don’t agree with them, there is always a positive way to be negative about what you say. Never forget that—there is always a positive way to be negative.”?

“Yes ma’am.”

“Do you consider yourself to be successful?”

“Well, Miss Grad, that is a tough question. What is success? A lot of money? Possibly. Does success mean you’re happy, your life is good? I’ve known people who had money, who were not happy, and their life was not good. Why do you think that is? They seemed to have everything, yet they were still looking for something. What were they looking for? I don’t think they knew. They just thought there was something else out there for them.

I’ve seen people who made a decent living, and were happy every day. Why? They were thankful for what they had, not material things, but what life had given them—a wonderful family, a loving husband or wife, children to be proud of, a job that meant something to them, friends who like them, greeting people they didn’t know with a smile, and those people smiling at other people because someone had been kind to them.”

I think success is making the most of what life gives you, and looking back from time to time to realize that. Miss Grad, I’m not going to put you on the spot right now, but I want you to promise me in ten years you will sit down at your computer or laptop, and tell me why you have been successful.”

Yes, sir, Mr. Grad.”

“I think attitude is bunch of bull. Hard work gets you there.”

“Mr. Grad, I think you will be fired before you have a chance to work hard.”

“Yes ma’am.”

“Have you ever had setbacks in life?”

“Everybody does. You worked hard to get an “A” in one of your college courses, and you got a “B”. You get out in the business world, and you don’t get that promotion, or some project doesn’t work out as you thought it would, or the boss decides his son will be your boss.”

Ladies and gentlemen of the audience, and grads of 2015, I wish to thank you for inviting me to talk to you today. As you leave today, I only ask that you pass through the building to your left, and see a picture of the person who holds the record for having been a student at this college the longest. A record I do think will stand forever.”

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