Commencement Speech

I am standing on the equator.  It's 1986.  Everything I know is behind our Jeep.  What lies ahead is a complete mystery - the dense jungle of Ecuador.  I check the sun.  Directly overhead.  No help. I look down and tap my fingers on the lens of my compass.  Sure hope this thing works on the equator.  I thought hard about my Physics class here at Bay.  I took a bearing and forged ahead.  Fortunately, it was the right direction.  I am here today to talk about Finding yours.

I am extraordinarily proud to have been deemed this year's Bay College Alumnus of the Year!  It is certainly a highlight of my career.  But being asked to speak to you today is an even greater honor.

Think about it.  I am giving you your final lecture.  Your last step before receiving your diploma.  Donald Trump would tell you - in negotiating - you position yourself for the final argument.  It's critical to be the last on the mind.

Unfortunately, I can't recall who gave our commencement speech 30 years ago.  But I do remember that, like you today, I wanted that piece of parchment in my hand, the door behind me and the world before me.  You may not remember me in 30 years, but I urge you to remember my words.

Ask your parents or family-members what they remember of their graduation day.  I have one distinct memory from mine.  I have recounted the memory to others many times.  A man approached me in the hall after the ceremony.  He looked me in the eye and offered one bit of advice, "The next 20 years are going to go by a lot faster than the first ones".  I didn't realize at the time but that old man knew what he was talking about.

I've been wondering about what message I could give you in the hallway that would stick with you for 30 years.  I have looked back and reviewed my resume after graduating from Bay.  I had a personal reference from a man of great character.  It was from Mr. Buckbee, I was 20 years old when he gave me the reference.  From that point to today, I realized the individuals that have made the greatest impression on me were individuals of admirable character.  We have been very blessed here at Bay to be surrounded by individuals of great character.  There is a saying "you are who you associate with."

Your instructors here at Bay have acted as your compass to prepare you to go out on your own and take the next steps.  I guarantee that you will have times to consider your lessons here at Bay and will wish that you had paid more attention.  Some years ago I traveled through South America.  We were in Ecuador with only a compass for direction.  There were no street signs.  We would get to an intersecton or a fork in the road and pull out the compass, take the bearing and go forward.  We came to a hillside and all I could think about was my physics class here at Bay.  You see, we were about to enter the jungle, unguided but with my compass.  The problem was that we were exactly on the equator.  I wasn't totally convinced that a compass worked exactly on the equator (it does, north is still north and south is south).  There is a sense of fear when you get turned around in a boat out on the bay or in a swamp north of Danfort.  I can't describe the feeling of being turned around in the Amazon Jungle.

Today you enter a world much different than my fellow classmates entered.  I am not sure Karl Linderoff has ever seen a Radio Shack trs80 other than perhaps in a photo.  That was our computer of the day.  A book recently shared with Dr. Allkins called The World is Flat gives example upon example of the competition that your generation will face, not only locally but world-wide.  X-rays being read in India over the Internet while we sleep.  Accounting firms sending tax work overseas to be processed by accountants trained here in the states at a fraction of the wages.

Today that piece of paper becomes your compass.  The paths of the Amazon have changed, and you need to find your way.  In today's world I urge you to act.  Don't procrastinate.  Don't end up someday wishing you had done this or that.  If an opportunity presents itself act on it.  I mentioned earlier about drawing from past teachings to make decisions.  About checking your compass for the right direction.  The answers aren't always there much of the time.  You need to learn to make decisions from within.  Your compass is always right here (tapping heart).  But make decisions based on what you think, feel and know is right.

I am a John Wayne fan.  He is my generation's Vin Diesel or Russell Crowe.  In the movie Chisum, the "Duke" tells his daughters that life isn't about accumulating land and cattle but rather that life is a Journey.  And to you I say it is not about fancy cars or acquisitions of property, but life is about the Journey.  It's about walking into new classrooms with strangers.  It's getting ready for your third interview.  It's waiting for the doctor to tell you if it's a boy or a girl and that everyone is all right.  It is standing on the equator unsure if your compass is going to point you in the right direction.
On my fridge is a magnet that states "Life is short, take the scenic route."  I can't urge you enough to follow this.
Leave here today, check your compass and make your life a Journey!
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