Commencement Address

Assumption College



President Plough, Trustees, Faculty, Family, Friends and last but not least the class of 2002, I thank you for the opportunity to address you today.  I know there are lots of people here today but my message goes to the students…my heart to yours.


I have had an amazing career so far and have visited many countries and met with some incredible individuals, but never has any thing been more meaningful to me than to be here today.


I also want to thank Raphel for that wonderful introduction.  We had a great talk last Saturday on the phone.  She pointed out I graduated in 1980.  I did not think that was that long ago until she told me that was the year she was born!



I then felt old and wonderered what we could ever have in common.  In 1980 when most of you were born, your parents were holding you in their arms and saying to themselves I just can’t wait for the day you grow up. 


In 1980, I was 22 and my parents would look at me and say, “I can’t wait for the day you grow up.”  So I guess even then we had something in common.


We will soon have something else in common, and that is we will all be Assumption graduates.  A distinction to be proud and honored to have.


I want to share with you in a very short time some of my thoughts for you and challenge you as you embark on some new endeavors.


At graduation commencements you pretty much hear the same old thing.  It is the obligation of the commencement speaker to give you advice for the future…it is kind of like a rule.


So let me do that and get it out of the way.


1.       Be an active member in your community

2.       Be charitable

3.       Be a life long learner

4.       Be a good family member

5.       Be honest

6.       Be trustwworthy

7.       Be a good listener

8.       Be kind to your neighbors

9.       Be tolerant of people who are different from you

10.   Be a hard worker



Okay, that is done.


It is all sound advice and it is advice you will here at graduations all over the country.


But I want to share with you five other pieces of advise that I wish I heard at my graduation ceremony and I’m not sure you will hear at many graduations.



1. Take chances


That’s right live on the edge.


This world is not going to get any better with a bunch of fence sitters.  The older I get the more I realize how very important it is to try new things and push the envelope even further. 


When you are trying to figure out what to do and this nagging little person is sitting on your shoulder telling you not to take a chance…knock him off and just do it!


Successful people in this world are not afraid to push the envelope and take chances.  All successful people have a spirit of adventure that is contageous and ignites all that are around them.


An old friend once told me God gave me two important parts of the body.  One is to think with and the other to sit with.  And life has one important rule…Heads you win and tails you lose!


(second piece of advice)


2. Dream


I’m not talking about day dreaming in history class.  I am talking about dreaming about your future.


Set your goals high and work toward them with passion and conviction.


Do you know why it is so important to dream?!


Because, dreams do come true. 


Twenty-two years ago when I was sitting where you were, never in my wildest dreams did I think I would be asked to come back and do a commencement address. 


The truth is, at that time I was thanking my lucky stars that I was getting a diploma…the other thing I was thinking was when is that commencement speaker going to be done…



(piece of advice #3)


­3.  Take Action and Be Heard


Although it is important to dream, dreamers are a dime a dozen.  Stand up for a cause---don’t sit idley by and watch the world pass you by.  Let people know who you are and what you are about.


Fifteen years ago, when I went on this crusade about student aspirations people were telling me I was wastting my time, no one cares about this issue, and no one will listen. 


Well I guess I showed them and don’t they wish they were on the Today Show with Katie Couric.


Never put yourself in a position where you are saying I wish I tried that, or I wish I did that, or I wish I could start over.


Have the confidence to take action by exploring options and taking advantage of opportunities




4.  Have fun


I’m sure for some that will not be a hard stretch.  But for others you may need to be reminded.  The bottom line is when people have fun they are happy…this world needs happier people in it.


People do things they like doing doing.  So the challenge here is simple find things you like to do and do them. 


•Do not get yourself a job that you do not enjoy. 


•Do not get married to someone that does not make you laugh. 


•And do not hang around people that do nothing but complain.


One of the greatest compliments I have ever received was from the Dhali Lama.  I was working with him for a few days and when we were leaving he hugged me and said, “You make me laugh and I will carry your smile with me always.”





(Last but not least)


5.  Believe in Yourself


It is hard to do anything if you believe before hand that you cannot do it.  It is up to you to make sure you are moving forward.


Yes, it is nice knowing you have friends and family by your side.  I am one of the very lucky ones because I have a family that believes in me, supports me, hugs me when I need one and kicks me in the butt when I need that to. 


I have been so blessed having a supportive family.  As a matter of fact, my parents are here today.  I think they are here because they didn’t believe I graduated from here twenty-two years ago. 


But regardless of the support you will get from family and friends it is ultimately up to you to believe in yourself.


You must believe in your own ability.


You must believe that you are full of potential.


You must believe that you have the power to make a differnece in this world.




In all my travels I have found that this world needs people who believe they can make a difference.


The world needs leaders


The world needs people with a vision


The world needs people that care


The world needs the kind of people Assumption College graduates.


As you leave Assumption College and enter a world full of new endeavors, your experiences from here, like mine, will grow stronger, your friendships more secure, and your memories more meaningful.


You have so much going for you.  Your accomplishments, your friends, your family, and the ability to say you are an Assumption graduate.


Along with an Assumption diploma comes with it some responsibilities.  The first is answer the phone when the alumni office calls looking for a doanation.



The second responsibility and the most important one is the understanding that we are responsible not only for ourselves, but for others in this world as well



We are responsible for the people who are all dressed up, makes lots of money, and eat in fancy restaurants.  We are also responsible for those that have dirty and torn clothes, little or no money, and are always hungry.


We are responsible for the people who always seem to do the right thing, are popular in the community, and say things we like to hear.  We are also responsible for those that find themselves in tough situations, do not know many people, and say things we find unpleasant.



We are responsible for people who always greet us with a warm smile and a hug.  We are also responsible for those who can’t make eye contact, and are afraid to show affection.


We are responsible for people who will run on their own and those that need to be carried.


For those that will never give up and those that will never get a second chance.


We are responsible for people that dream about the future and those that have only nightmares in the present.


For those that are easy to love and support and those that are afraid to ask for help.




We are responsible as Assumption College graduates for others as well as ourselves.


You have proven yourself here at Assumption College with the support, guidance and leadership of some of the finest people you will ever know.  It’s your time to provide leadership for others.  It’s now your time to change the world.


As you leave Assumption with your wealth of experiences and accomplishments I ask that you remember one more thing…


You must believe and never forget that wonderful surprises are just waiting happen and all your hopes and dreams for yourself, your family, and the world you touch are within your reach.





I congratulate each and every one of you. 


You need to know I have never been prouder to call myself an Assumption graduate as I am today.


Thank you and God speed…