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WGU Commencement Address from Claire Bilby
WGU Commencement Address from Claire Bilby
Western Governors University
<p>Claire Bilby, Senior Vice President, Event Operations and Premium Services at Walt Disney World Resort, addressed graduates, their families and friends, faculty, and other supporter at WGU's Winter 2016 Commencement on Saturday, February 6, at Disney's Coronado Springs in Lake Buena Vista, Florida.</p> <p>Transcription of video:</p> <p>Dr. Robert W. Mendenhall: We're pleased to be in Orlando and being hosted by Disney today, and especially pleased to have as our commencement speaker, Claire Bilby, the Senior Vice President for Event Operations and Premium Services for the Walt Disney World Resort.</p> <p>Claire is the Senior Vice President, as I mentioned of Event Operations, but has responsibility for the Disney Institute, catering and convention services, park event operations, Disney special attractions, and other responsibilities within the Disney enterprise.</p> <p>She began her career with Disney in 1988, has held a variety of executive positions, most recently before her current position, was the Senior Vice President of Sales and Marketing for Disneyland Paris and Europe, leading all of the Disney parks and resorts' marketing efforts across Europe. She has also served as Senior Vice President and General Manager of the Disney Vacation Club.</p> <p>Among her many accomplishments she helped to launch several Disney theme parks, including Hong Kong Disneyland, Disney's MGM Studios now known as Hollywood Studios, Disneyland Paris, the Animal Kingdom, and Disneyland California Adventure. It's with great pleasure that we welcome Claire Bilby as our commencement speaker. [Applause]</p> <p>Claire Bilby: Honored faculty, esteemed and patient family members, and members of this graduating class of 2016, legend has it that Franklin Delano Roosevelt's son, James, once asked him for some advice on public speaking. He gave him three pieces of advice: Be sincere, be brief, and be seated. I attend to follow that advice today. After all, I am by no means the star of this show... you are. You have worked hard, you have sacrificed, and the people surrounding you, many of them here today, have sacrificed as well. And I am here to tell you one thing: It's worth it.</p> <p>So, before I'm seated, let me tell you why I feel this way. In 1923, two brothers from Kansas City moved west to Hollywood, and started an animation studio in their uncle's garage. Their names were Walt and Roy Disney. In 1928, they created the world's first cartoon with fully synchronized sound, starring an adorable little rascal named Mickey Mouse.</p> <p>Within a year, Mickey Mouse was the most popular cartoon character in the world. And not even the Great Depression could dim the public's appetite for Disney's cartoons. The company grew to what it is today, the world leader in family entertainment, employing 74,000 people just right here in central Florida. In fact, Walt Disney World is the largest single site employer in America.</p> <p>Now, let me share something curious with you: Neither Walt Disney nor his brother Roy had a college degree. In fact, Walt never even graduated from high school. And graduates, before your family members start giving you the stink eye, let me share with you one additional fact. Even though neither one of them ever earned a college diploma, both Walt and Roy placed a huge premium on higher education.</p> <p>Walt, who dropped out of high school to serve as an ambulance driver in World War I used his war time savings to take classes in painting and drawing once he was back at home. Later, as soon as the Mickey Mouse cartoons began to return a profit, Walt invested a considerable chunk of his revenue into art lessons for his entire animation staff. That priority came before the investment in today's Burbank Studio, and before setting money aside for creating breakthroughs such as the multi plane camera. Walt invested in knowledge, and the education of his people first.</p> <p>After all, infrastructure and technology are very important, but as Walt once said, "You can dream, create, design, and build the most beautiful, wonderful place in the world. But it requires people to make the dream a reality." And as everyone here grasps intuitively, there is no better way to invest in people than to enrich them than by furthering their education.</p> <p>Throughout their careers, and to the ends of their lives, the Disney brothers lived that philosophy. In 1955 Walt hired a professional educator to create what is known today as Disney University. It trains and edifies our cast in a wide variety of disciplines. It is broadly recognized as one of the most inspired in house training organizations in the world.</p> <p>In 1961, after the feature films and the opening of Disneyland had secured the company's success, the first priority for Walt and Roy Disney was to fund, create, and found a private university for students of the visual and performing arts. That university, the California Institute of the Arts, known today as Cal Arts, is still respected the world over for excellence in its field.</p> <p>And the tradition of educational excellence continued long after Walt and Roy passed away. For instance, 20 years ago this month, our company launched the Disney Institute, which I am privileged to have as part of my area of responsibility. The Disney Institute teaches organizations around the world how to emulate Disney's methods of leadership, employee engagement, and guest service. My point here is, that even though Disney was founded by a couple of guys who didn't have lot of education themselves, they recognized, and the company that they found continues to recognize that an educated workforce is absolutely necessary for a business to succeed.</p> <p>Disney is not alone in that assessment. In most companies today, a degree is the price of entry to be considered for a leadership position. Part of that reason for this of course is the subject matter expertise. It takes knowledge to communicate effectively with your colleagues, and to serve those whom our businesses serve.</p> <p>But another part, and sometimes I would say the larger part is the tenacity required to desire, work toward, and obtain a university education. The diploma you receive today is proof that you have the ability to conceive a long term goal, navigate a complex path to achieve it, and succeed in bringing it to reality what was only an idea years before.</p> <p>It is proof that you have what Walt Disney would've once referred to as "moxie." And every leader and educator here would know as "vision." No matter what field you're in or what field you're entering, vision is a requirement for long term success. So the degree you receive today can make you more valuable to the business you're in, or the business you will be joining. And when I say "valuable" I'm not speaking philosophically.</p> <p>Two years ago a Washington think tank known as the Economic Policy Institute analyzed Bureau of Labor Statistics to determine the dollar and cents value of a college education. They found on average, in the early 1980s, a college graduate made 64 percent more than those without a degree working in a similar field. By the time of the millennium the wage premium had risen to 85 percent. As of 2009, it was 89 percent. And in 2014 college graduates were earning on average 98 percent more than non graduates in similar roles. That was two years ago. So today I would not be surprised if the premium was a hundred percent. Double the day for doing what every graduate here today has had the vision to do. So family, faculty members, please let's give these superstars a big hand. [Applause]</p> <p>Now I know you have all heard the phrase "a win/win." Well graduates of 2016, what you accomplished today is a win/win/win. It is a victory for the businesses you serve, for the people who love you, and of course it's a memorable victory for you. And I want to tell you something more. We here at Disney are proud beyond words that Western Governors University has chosen us to hold the commencement here on property.</p> <p>And here at Disney, we have a phrase that we use to describe this place that you may have seen on TV recently. The phrase is: "Unforgettable happens here." Well, ladies and gentlemen, what you've accomplished today, you give entirely new meaning to that phrase, and I hope you will never forget this day.</p> <p>I trust you will always remember the honor you have gained for yourselves and your families through this achievement. And to the words of congratulations you're going to hear today, please let me add 74,000 more. I speak for every Disney cast member here in Florida when I say, "What you have accomplished is remarkable. It is commendable, and you have every right to be proud. You rock!" [Applause]</p> <p>So, be sincere, be brief, be seated. I assure you have been sincere. Every word you have heard over the last five minutes, comes, I guarantee you, from the heart. I trust that I've been brief although I know minutes seems like hours when you're waiting to cross this stage, and receive that validation of your achievement. I decided when I was invited to speak I would spend fewer than ten minutes at this lectern looks like I've been successful and met that goal, and some. So now I will be seated. So congratulations one and all.</p>
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