Lindsey Wilson College Commencement Speech
Dec. 12, 2015
Thank you Dr. Luckey. To you, your board members, faculty, staff and honored guests….and most especially, graduates and their families…. It’s truly an honor to be here for your 102nd commencement ceremony. And … It’s always a pleasure to visit this part of the state and your beautiful campus.
To the graduates, I want to say I know how proud you and your families must be today. I recall well my own college graduations and my son’s. Getting to this point takes a great deal of sacrifice and hard work.
I commend you for taking this journey to earn a degree and improve your life. It’s always gratifying to see people pursue their dreams.
And … each of you has your own set of dreams and aspirations. Each of you has chosen his or her own path to get to this point… however smooth or bumpy it might have been.
You come from all walks of life… many of you have overcome obstacles… your goals vary… but tonight you are unified and share one distinct commonality … being called a college graduate.
You may be the first in your family to graduate from college, and I know many of you began your higher ed journey at the Kentucky Community and Technical College System. If you’re a former KCTCS student, would you please stand?
I’m happy to see so many of you started at KCTCS and are now proud graduates of Lindsey Wilson College. Congratulations on your accomplishments!
The partnership KCTCS has with Lindsey Wilson helps students transfer credits smoothly and even provides scholarships for some. All of us at KCTCS appreciate this relationship, and I know our students do, too.
Before all of you graduates head out to change the world, there are a couple of points I want to make that may serve you well in the future.
I want to talk to you about being open to new ideas …and being bold enough to go after them.
As you leave college life at Lindsey Wilson behind, you face new adventures, new challenges and new frontiers… maybe ones you’ve never yet considered.
Now it’s time to think about what comes next…And this is what I want to focus on for the next few minutes.
Just because you’ve completed this part of your journey, doesn’t mean the journey has ended.
There’s much more to learn and do. Many frontiers to explore.
In today’s fast paced, ever changing world, those who are not open to lifelong learning and new frontiers are quickly left behind.
Exploring new frontiers is certainly not a new idea. The curious, the motivated and the ambitious have always done it. Now it’s your turn.
In thinking about the future, there are always things we can learn from the past. Looking back to 1960… which I know sounds like the Dark Ages to you… prolific words were spoken by a young man that bear repeating.
It was in his acceptance speech at the 1960 Democratic National Convention that John F. Kennedy talked about what he saw as America’s New Frontier.
He described it not as a set of promises, but a set of challenges.
I think that same idea can apply to each of you today. You came to Lindsey Wilson College for the promise of an education … and the challenge was completing your degree. Your new challenge will be what to do with your education.
In his speech, Kennedy said,
“The New Frontier is here whether we seek it or not.
Beyond that frontier are uncharted areas of science and space, unsolved problems of peace and war, unconquered problems of ignorance and prejudice, unanswered questions of poverty and surplus.
It would be easier to shrink back from that frontier, to look to the safe mediocrity of the past, to be lulled by good intentions and high rhetoric…
But I believe the times demand new invention, innovation, imagination, decision.
I am asking each of you to be new pioneers on that new frontier.”
Even though those words were spoken more than five decades ago, they still apply to our world and the many challenges we face today.
We still await great discoveries in science, medicine and technology that you could be a part of.
We still have unsolved problems of peace and war, and everywhere we look there are unconquered problems of ignorance, prejudice and poverty.
You and your classmates are the future of Kentucky … the United States … and the world. My generation is looking to you to help conquer these frontiers … and some we don’t even know about yet.
You can be part of positive change… or as President Kennedy said you can look to the safe mediocrity of the past.
To move forward, start by looking for the change you want to see. Be a positive example, speak up and stand up for what is right.
I know many of you have faced any number of challenges not only to get to college, but also to stay in college and graduate. And you will face more challenges ahead.
You’ll have to decide how you will face them and conquer them. But you have to ask yourself: what does entering the next frontier mean to you?
This is not something you can Google or find on social media … or ask you mom.
This is something within you. Focus on what interests you … what you’re passionate about … and the unmet needs you see that you can help change.
It may be furthering an interest you have now, or it could take you in a new direction.
Life is all about choices… and we all make good ones and bad ones. But don’t let the bad ones hold you back.
If you don’t experience failure at some point, you don’t learn… so don’t be afraid to fail.
You never want to look back, as so many people have, and wonder what could have been because they were afraid to try. Or because they gave up.
Do you know that before the first Harry Potter novel was published, author J.K. Rowling’s manuscript was rejected by 12 publishers? And yet, it became a huge commercial success because she believed in it, and she never gave up. She admits to feeling like a failure, but she didn’t let it stop her.
Ms. Rowling said: “It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all ― in which case, you fail by default.”
Let’s face it, failure is a temporary condition… and something that most people face at some point. You can’t let fear hold you back.
So, now I’ll ask you: What new frontiers, what new challenges, what new dreams are you ready to pursue?
What will you do to continue to improve your life?
What will you do to improve your community and your world?
Those are big questions that you probably can’t answer today, nor should you on this day of celebration! But they are questions I hope you’ll ask yourself as you move forward in life.
In closing, I’ll say one last thing before the celebrations begin … College is something you do for a short time … a blip on the radar screen of life. Today, you’re starting a new chapter in your life. Make it the best part yet!
My advice to you is this:
Be bold. Be confident. Be persistent.
And never give up on your dreams!
I wish each of you continued success … and for the courage to forge your own new frontier… but most importantly, to never stop learning.
Thank you very much.